SANBORN: Marijuana laws waste resources
Michael Sanborn Journal columnist Comments
Republican In Name Only. R.I.N.O. That is what people on the radical religious right call people, who may well have excellent Republican credentials but don’t agree with all of the socially conservative doctrine, begun years ago when political consultants convinced candidate Ronald Reagan to promise the religious right anything just to get them out of their pews and into the voting booth.
Today, any Republican who dares to stray from the religious right on any issue is doomed to be hounded by a relative few in the party.
I happen to think Republicans have a better chance of moving this country out of the mess Republicans and Democrats made together. But Republicans must lead with their brains. Find waste and crush it.
Example: I am a Republican. I do not smoke pot. I do not suggest anyone should begin smoking pot. But I agree with those who think it should be decriminalized.
I recently had a conversation with marijuana activist Bob Newland. Yes, Newland has run for nearly every office in the state. Yes, Newland has tried for years to soften marijuana laws, including two unsuccessful efforts to convince voters to legalize medical marijuana.
What many probably don’t know about Newland is that he is extremely conservative with a strong libertarian bent. If all you know about him is what you have read, you don’t know a very bright — while arguably self-destructive — South Dakota citizen.
That said, Newland, along with SoDakNORML, is sending letters to South Dakota legislators and candidates urging them to repeal SDCL 22-42-6, which outlines the offense of possessing marijuana and the associated penalties.
I probably know what you’re thinking. Consider this statistic obtained by SoDakNORML from the Unified Justice System: Since 1998, 82,402 people in South Dakota have been charged with marijuana possession — 10 percent of our population.
Do you know anyone — a friend or relative — who has used, or currently uses marijuana? Most of us do. I know some here in South Dakota and they include doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, local celebrities and plain folks.
But Newland is not asking to repeal laws regarding pot distribution or driving under the influence of controlled substances. Of course, legalizing marijuana distribution may be considered if this effort succeeds.
We pride ourselves on being eager to keep government out of our business and on being fiscally conservative. So why are we wasting law enforcement and judicial system time and money on people who possess something our neighbors probably possess, and who do us no harm?
Use alcohol laws as a model. Distribute to a minor, go to jail. That said, what kind of dent could we make in the 82,402 figure? (That number only represents those who were caught and arrested.) What kind of money could we save? What if people harmlessly using marijuana were simply allowed to do so without interference?
I agree with my conservative hero, William F. Buckley Jr.: This war on our neighbors is an epic waste. I personally know Republican legislators, prosecutors, cops and judges who agree — but not on the record. Elected officials fear repercussions — from the extreme religious right — for doing what they know is right.
So, go ahead. Call me a R.I.N.O. for wanting stop government waste. Courageous legislators (statesmen) would repeal SDCL 22-42-6.
Michael Sanborn lives in Rapid City. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org