Op-ed ignores the role of policymakers

In the last week’s issue of the Record, I was dismayed to see my friend Mo Zhu assign such unilateral blame to American marijuana culture for international drug violence and exhibit such tunnel-vision against the larger issues (“The Truth about 4/20,” April 22, 2009). Nowhere does his op-ed indict the parties who are truly responsible for the violence stemming from pot’s illegality: policy makers and we who elect them.

Having never touched the drug myself, I nonetheless feel that our national marijuana policy does more harm than good. I believe that legalizing it and taxing its sale and importation would cripple the drug cartels which Zhu describes. It would far diminish the volume of the drug trade, and in the long run, that would give cartels less incentive to murder for market share. Legalization would also free a budget-strapped Drug Enforcement Administration to combat the hard drugs that are the real problem.

Legalizing marijuana is the wiser policy choice, even beyond transforming a source of violence into a revenue stream. Marijuana has less capacity to ruin lives than many legal commodities, and the harmful effects of its overuse are far outweighed by the honesty and trust that legalization would restore to this country. Legal marijuana would allow for more honest communication between a government and the citizens with whom it is losing touch.

Zhu points his finger at smokers of pot without mentioning the blame carried by the public’s irrational fears and bias. This reinforces our societal labeling of anyone who smokes pot as a wrongdoer. This is no way to view our friends, who are not responsible for stupid laws. People who smoke weed, recreationally or more frequently, have made a choice. I respect their choice because these people are living as they see best, without regard to a law they believe is wrong. This is called civil disobedience, and as our high school English teachers have taught us, it deserves our respect and consideration.

We continue to sideline this issue, and we continue to be ruled by the opinions of well-intentioned political and religious leaders of all persuasions who think that society knows what is best for individuals. Meanwhile, the unnecessary violence persists along the Mexican border and on the streets of our cities. It is not, as Zhu claims, “our drug consumption habits” that “have implications well beyond the horizon,” but rather our poor policies stemming from misunderstanding.

Stephen Webster ’11