Legalize pot? Think long and hard first

The issue of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is coming up again in Minnesota. On Sunday St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin and a commissioner on the Global Commission for Drug Policy, held a hearing to discuss Minnesota’s drug laws and the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana in Minnesota.

Branson believes that U.S. drug laws are broken, that we have lost the war on drugs. Certainly there is much to complain about with current drug policy – enforcement is a seemingly endless game of whack-a-mole, with new dealers and suppliers popping up as soon as one is arrested, with prisons and jails filling up, with new synthetic drugs popping up faster than they can be outlawed.

But before we throw in the towel, take a long, hard look at what we would be doing. Talk to chemical dependency experts and counselors, to law enforcement, before deciding to legalize marijuana.

Minnesota is taking a different approach to drug enforcement with drug courts, which aim to help drug users with intensive probation and counseling rather than jail terms. This is a promising approach that shouldn’t be abandoned.

Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana in their most recent elections. Let’s see what happens there before we blindly follow their lead.

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