Political tricks and marijuana legalization

I assume most states have or allow state questions, initiatives, or some such on their ballots. And I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those questions are worded like they used to be (and may still be) in Oklahoma — tricky double negatives, etc., so that even if you know where you stand on an issue, it is difficult to tell whether a “yes” vote means “yes, I want to approve this” or “yes, I don’t want to approve this.”

In Colorado, people are a bit more precise and the booklet sent to voters before an election carefully notes: “A YES vote on any ballot issue is a vote IN FAVOR OF changing current law or existing circumstances, and a NO vote on any ballot issue is a vote AGAINST changing current law or existing circumstances.” No word games to trick the voter into voting the wrong way.

You are likely aware by now that Colorado is one of the states this year that is voting on legalizing recreational marijuana (medical use is already legal here). And the ballot is very straightforward — yes, you want to legalize it or no, you don’t. So far, so good. Except that now it’s the ads that are getting tricky. There’s one that has a nice-looking, middle-aged man talking pleasantly but seriously about police wasting their time chasing down and arresting marijuana offenders when they ought to be going after real criminals, etc. But he never says let’s “legalize” marijuana. Nope. The pitch is to “regulate” marijuana.

Hmm. People opposed to pot would never vote “yes” to “legalize” it, but if they weren’t paying attention, they might very well vote “yes” to “regulate” it, thinking this would strengthen laws against it.



Categories: Law, Politics

10 replies

  1. Like you I don’t know like the trickery we are finding in our voting system. It is not enough to know how you stand, It isn’t even enough to be extremely careful and well informed. The out and out open fraud makes our political system almost pointless. This year I am left voting a straight Democratic ticket without any possibility of doing otherwise. I would vote for a Republican that I saw as fair and honest but now it’s impossible to find one sense they have taken over the internet we can’t know the truth about anyone anymore.

    The Republican party is now run by people who are not Republicans…they are Terrorists! The kind that says we don’t care that YOU PAY US to represent you we have our own agenda. We don’t care if you have a job. We don’t care if you can feed your family. We don’t care about anyone who doesn’t already have money. Dishonesty doesn’t matter, Fairness doesn’t matter. YOU DON’T Matter!

    NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES WE WILL WIN!

    My vote is my way of saying that I don’t like that way of doing business.

    • I share your frustration about what’s happened to our political system. It’s been taken over by those with money and influence (same thing). Our democracy has become a plutocracy, a system run by and for the very wealthy. And they will say and do anything to get elected and re-elected. Frankly, I don’t trust either party anymore.

  2. In Michigan, we have one of those really tricky questions. It asks if we should demand a vote whenever anyone proposes a new bridge to Canada. Trouble is, the question was sponsored by the multimillionaire who collects tolls on the only existing bridge from Detroit to Ontario. Voting yes sounds democratic. In reality, it protects a cozy monopoly that is not in the public interest.

    • Exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. When someone can’t win your vote legitimately, on the merits of the issue, they’ll try to trick you into voting for it or, if they can’t do that, in some areas they try to disenfranchise you so you can’t vote against it.

  3. I completely agree with you, PT, on this issue. I think it is like other free speech issues though. There is no way to limn a controversy without becoming a part of it, but your criticism is not only justified but part of the solution. I only wish the general public were more literate and more articulate. Until education improves, there isn’t much defense against weasel-wording of legislation.

    On the marijuana issue itself, I just want to say that I listened to an interesting hour-long NPR podcast on the subject recently (How Stuff Works) and it left me changing my opinion. I am in favor of properly-regulated legalization for medical purposes for three reasons:

    1. There is overwhelming evidence that the product is highly useful for treating a wide variety of illnesses and pain.
    2. The product is in such high demand that its delivery can not be denied, and therefore criminals will profit if government does not control and tax it. It is similar to the prohibition (of alcohol) issue.
    3. The incarceration of dealers in the product is an unnecessary and very expensive drain on the public.

    • “Weasel-wording.” I like that.

      I’m on the fence with marijuana. I agree with your points, but since we’ve legalized medical marijuana in this state, the law has been a mess. Fake IDs and prescriptions to buy pot from fly-by-night shops that may themselves be illegal fronts for selling the stuff. Licences to grow x number of plants for personal use being faked or the number of plants grown greatly exceeding the legal limit. Shops too close to schools. Different regulations in different counties. It’s been a bit of a circus. So I don’t have a lot of faith in the state’s ability to open the pot business up even more and maintain any kind of control. And of course it all violates federal law, which has contributed to some of the chaos about our “licensed” shops and which laws they have to obey.

      Personally, I just don’t like being around people who are intoxicated or impaired in any way. They are often unpleasant and a danger in public. Lastly, I worry that legalizing pot will give Colorado a negative image nationwide — not the state of clear skies and beautiful mountains and outdoor activities but the grungy, pot-infested state where all the old hippies live.

      • Good points all, PT, on the medical mary-jane issue. I do realize it isn’t a slam-dunk issue, any more than are alcohol, smoking other bad habits. There will always be a dichotomy between personal “freedom” and government laws. Just don’t forget to weigh the cost to society of all those people sitting in the slammers feeding, boarding and getting their medical care at the public trough while criminals get filthy rich. It is truly enormous. A CNBC paper put the case succinctly, so I thought I would append it. (If you find it too long, let me know and I won’t do it in the future on your blog).

        It’s time we tax and regulate marijuana. The War on Drugs is a proven failure. We have spent several decades and close to a trillion dollars trying to eliminate drugs.

        Consider these facts:

        1. The last three Presidents and half of American adults have said they have smoked marijuana.
        2. More children have tried marijuana, which is illegal, than cigarettes, which are regulated.
        3. Last year we arrested 850,000 people for marijuana, mostly for possession.
        4. So far, fourteen states have passed medical marijuana laws enabling sick people to benefit.
        5. Massachusetts, Denver, and Seattle have either successfully decriminalized, or instituted lowest priority law enforcement policies for marijuana possession.

        We learned a valuable lesson with alcohol prohibition in this country. Prohibition created black markets and violence as gangs fought to control the market. The same thing is true today. Mexican cartels make the majority of their profits distributing marijuana in 230 American cities, and the resulting violence is tragic. That’s why the presidents of many Latin American countries signed a declaration that the war on drugs needs to be ended.

        But we may be going the wrong direction. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are asking for more money for the failed Merida Initiative. Do they really believe that more helicopters for Mexico will do anything to stop the use of marijuana in this country? On top of that, the Obama Administration is overseeing armed federal raids in states where medical marijuana is legal. This needs to stop.

        If we regulate marijuana the way we do alcohol and tobacco, we can put the gangs out of business. Our courageous law enforcement officers will be free to secure public safety rather than chasing after informed adults for getting high. We can make sure our children are protected. And we can make sure that sick people get their medicine without fear.

        • What stands out to me here is the folly of legalizing marijuana in little islands, like just certain municipalities. These islands draw all kinds of people from surrounding areas where pot is still illegal. For example, the City of Denver is a relatively small part of the entire Denver metro area. Medical marijuana is legal in Denver proper but not the surrounding area. Needless to say, people outside of Denver who want pot will go to Denver to get it, legally or otherwise. Our current ballot initiative is for legalizing recreational marijuana in the state of Colorado. That would bring some uniformity in Colorado, but then you have the surrounding states where it will still be illegal. Seems to me the only logical approach is to legalize it nationally in one stroke, not create islands of easy (but still federally illegal) access.

          As for ending the so-called War on Drugs — said war is not just on marijuana. You don’t end it just because you decriminalize pot. Take pot out of the picture and you still have all the other, much more dangerous illegal drugs being trafficked.

          The alcohol and Prohibition argument has always made sense to me. I’d forgotten, and just now looked it up, that pot was legal before Nixon’s administration. (Funny that isn’t mentioned more often; this is not an attempt to decriminalize something that has until now always been illegal.) It would make sense, then, to decriminalize it and regulate it like alcohol. But it must be done nationwide, as a national law. The current patchwork approach doesn’t makes no sense to me.

        • Jim, I just realized I misspoke. Medical marijuana was legalized by the State of Colorado, not just the City of Denver. The confusion here has been that municipalities were left to create their own local ordinances, which sometimes conflicted with state law, county law, or other cities’ laws and in every case was in violation of federal law. Or something like that. It’s no wonder law enforcement here is confused — and that’s not good for anyone. It’s still an unworkable patchwork, with pot in varying amounts being legal in certain states under certain circumstances.

          I wrote a bit about it in 2010: https://piedtype.com/2010/02/16/between-a-rock-and-a-pot-place/

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke

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