by Michael Bryan
Terry Goddard's measure of political courage just went up slightly in my estimation: he went on national TV and suggested that this country should look seriously at the merits of legalizing marijuana to cut off the flow of money to drug cartels fueling violence along the Mexican border and throughout Mexico.
He backfills immediately by claiming that he is not personally in favor of legalization, but only that there should be a debate. Well, is Terry going to play a role in that debate? He doesn't say.
Well, Terry, if you're listening, here's your invitation to debate the issue. Myself, or any advocate of legalization you prefer, versus you. Anytime. Anywhere. Maybe here on this blog. I will certainly post any statement or responses from you or your office. Let's have that debate.
I'd love to hear why Goddard is not personally in favor of legalization. Knowing as he does how thinly stretched our enforcement and prosecutorial resources are, how porous our border is, how much of the Mexican cartel's income stems from the illegal profits from pot (Goddard claims 70%, though how he knows that is beyond me), and given the historical lessons regarding the effects of alcohol prohibition on crime in this country and the objective scientific evidence that pot is much less harmful than legal indulgences such as tobacco and alcohol, why does Goddard oppose legalization other than mere political caution?
Right now 44% of Americans support legalization - not a majority opinion - so of course politicians are skittish about coming out for pot. But in Western states, that percentage trends up to as much as 58%. Considering the strength of Western public support and what he has seen and learned as Attoney General of Arizona, I don't understand why Goddard doesn't lead from the front rather than the rear on this issue.
With U.S. Attorney General Holder finally halting the deplorable Federal raids that had been defying state legislative action to rationalize marijuana policy in their jurisdictions, now is the perfect time for a border state like Arizona to re-examine its own policies. At the very least, perhaps we could stop treating sick people as criminals in 2010. Maybe we can even embrace some decriminalization such as that which garnered the support of 43% of voters in 2002's Prop 203, despite furious opposition from all sides of the political establishment.
If ever this nation is going to seriously reform our drug laws, it must happen now that progressive forces are in ascendancy. And it has to happen from the ground up. Eight states repealed prohibition before the ball got rolling in the Federal government. There must a groundswell that forces the risk-averse to side with reason.
Terry, you took a positive step by seving up the legalization ball. Do you have the political courage to return the ball when volleyed?