Legalizing pot not right move for Washington

While we see merit in eliminating profit for criminals, giving marijuana the stamp of approval is not going to better society.

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The proposed initiative to legalize marijuana in Washington state has some very high profile, mainstream backers -- former U.S. Attorney John McKay, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, travel writer and TV personality Rick Steves and The Seattle Times Editorial Board.

Their overriding reason for supporting the legalization of pot is because its prohibition has been a failure. Forcing the sale of marijuana underground has served to make selling dope hugely profitable for criminal gangs, land otherwise law-abiding Americans in prison and fuel a blood bath in Mexico. This is not a new argument for legalizing marijuana, nor is it a bad argument.

However, legalization is not the answer as it will create new problems and exacerbate old ones. Let's start slower with something such as reasonably regulating marijuana for medical use.

Under the proposed initiative, distribution of marijuana to adults 21 and over would be through state-licensed marijuana stores. The production and distribution would be regulated by the state Liquor Control Board. The initiative would limit personal possession to one ounce of marijuana and it would remain a crime for those without state licenses to grow or deliver even a small amount of pot.

But if marijuana were essentially given the legal status of beer and wine, it's use would increase dramatically. Once the stigma of being "illegal" is gone, folks in big cities, suburbia and small towns are going to fire up a joint as easily as cracking open a Budweiser.

What kind of message does this send to their children or their children's friends?

Giving the stamp of approval to pot smoking -- seeing mom and dad hitting the bong before dinner -- is going to result in more teenagers (or younger) smoking pot. It's our guess this is going to send more than a few down the wrong path.

The difference is that drinking one beer doesn't get most people high while even a little marijuana does. Let's face it, the intent of smoking pot is to get loaded to some degree.

Now, we concede a great many people can do this in their homes without hurting anyone else. And if we could be sure that is all that would occur we might be on board with legalizing pot.

But we know that won't be the case.

Beyond the potential danger of having more impaired drivers on the road, we also have concerns that some people will get carried away with smoking pot, lose their motivation and harm their careers -- and their families.

Now, to be clear, we are not playing the hysteria card. We aren't saying kids are all going to become drug addicts or that marijuana is a sure path to heroin.

Still, it's not good for young, growing minds nor is it going to make them better students, better athletes or more productive members of society.

Ultimately, even though we see a benefit of cutting criminals out of the pot business, we believe giving marijuana the stamp of approval will not improve Washington state.

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