Changing tune on pot

Changing tune on pot

May 6th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Advocates of legalizing marijuana have grown more aggressive -- and silly -- in recent years, casting their cause as a civil rights issue and ignoring the public safety questions surrounding the legal cultivation, sale and use of the drug.

But the veritable poster child for legal marijuana, the Netherlands, has just exited the poster.

The Netherlands has a reputation -- distressing or appealing, depending on your point of view -- for a freewheeling attitude toward marijuana. Dutch citizens and drug-seeking foreign tourists alike flock to absurdly misnamed "coffee shops" to get their fix.

But Holland is rethinking that approach. A number of cities have shut down the so-called "coffee shops" that are located near schools, for instance, and now a Dutch judge has upheld a law that will prohibit foreigners from buying marijuana in the country. Under the law, the shops will become clubs that can have a maximum of 2,000 members apiece -- all of whom have to be residents of the Netherlands.

Frankly, we can't see anything surprising about a country not wanting its claim to fame to be that vast numbers of people go there to get strung out.

But the more direct impetus for the restriction is the growth in "drug tourists" -- drug dealers who travel to the Netherlands from neighboring nations in order to buy marijuana in large amounts, take it back to their homelands and sell it. That has created public safety issues in cities along the Netherlands' border in particular.

Americans need not condescend to the Dutch over this issue, however. Legalization of pot in some states in our country has created problems, too -- some with tragic results.

California permits "medical marijuana" use, but so many crimes have been linked to the "legal" distribution of pot in California that nearly 200 of its cities and counties have banned pot dispensaries. Many of the allegedly benevolent dispensaries are little more than fronts for drug dealers, and a number of the customers aren't actually ill.

The Obama administration made things worse two years ago by saying it more or less wouldn't enforce federal drug laws where pot dispensaries allowed under state laws were concerned.

Now the administration is scrambling to reverse course and crack down on many of the dispensaries after rather predictable consequences resulted.

"What we are finding ... is that California's laws have been hijacked by people who are in this to get rich and don't care at all about sick people," U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag told The Associated Press.

Which is exactly what opponents of legalizing pot predicted all along.

If only the administration and lawmakers in states where marijuana now is lawful had been listening.