Last Sunday, during a pre-session panel discussion, three Kansas lawmakers were asked if they would consider legalizing marijuana this year.
They said no. The audience — and a certain well-known reporter moderating the discussion — giggled.
For them, though, and for me, legal pot may soon seem less of a joke.
It’s actually an increasingly serious political topic. And it affects all of us — from cancer patients fighting nausea to worried (and sometimes hypocritical) parents to kids facing tougher choices about the latest high.
Limited recreational marijuana is now available in Colorado, as you probably know. The new Colorado law has dominated cable TV news.
But other states are taking a hard look at the idea. It’s possible Missouri voters will soon be asked to put pot on the 2014 ballot, contemplating measures embedding legal weed in the state’s constitution.
Politico says Alaska, California and Oregon may consider similar proposals. So might Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Maryland.
Significantly, the push for pot isn’t coming just from latter-day hippies and bleary-eyed snack food hounds. Instead, the robust libertarian wing of the Republican Party is engaging on the topic, lending a tea party sheen to the effort.
It’s caused some squirming among more traditional conservatives. They buy the small-government, freedom-of-choice argument, but their longstanding moral opposition to legal drugs often produces a twisted “yes but” response to the legalization crowd.
In many states, though, that answer is less and less convincing. As a purely rhetorical matter, it is
difficult to argue against weed while supporting the state-taxed and state-regulated sales of beer, wine and liquor, not to mention tobacco.
In our area, the chances of overturning marijuana laws by legislative action seem remote, for now. It’s a tough vote for a politician in an election year.
But change is coming, just the same. Like the dispute over same sex marriage, the public’s attitudes about legal pot appear to be outpacing the views of the legislators they elect.
“We’ve had 80-plus years of failed policy, billions of dollars wasted and untold numbers of lives ruined in the name of controlling a substance that is no more harmful (and probably less so) than alcohol,” one emailer wrote this week. “The Colorado approach is a sane, sustainable policy option.”
State lawmakers will be getting more letters like that, from clear-eyed voters.