- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Find a corner, pull out a joint and fasten your seat belts. The battle of the potheads is on, and from the looks of things, it’s going to be a bumpy coast-to-coast ride.

After legalizing medical marijuana, D.C. residents are entertaining the idea of decriminalizing pot, period.

Meanwhile, the first states to legalize marijuana, Colorado and Washington, are also puffing away on proposals that would tax and regulate the drug for recreational use among adults 21 and older.

Plop into a papasan chair and, as Rick James famously sang, “pass the joint.”

That seems to be what Americans are saying, according to a Gallup poll released last week that proclaims that “for the first time, Americans favor legalizing marijuana.”

A “clear majority of Americans (58 percent) say the drug should be legalized,” Gallup said. “This is in sharp contrast to the time Gallup first asked the question in 1969, when only 12 percent favored legalization.”

The smoke has certainly cleared since the 1960s, and now, with far more than a whiff of support since, the battle is among the potheads.

More than a dozen states already have marijuana decriminalization laws on the books. On the East Coast, for example, Vermont just this year adopted laws that level a $200 fine for possession up to an ounce and categorize the offense as a civil infraction. In the Southwest, Nevada has a 12-year-old law that classifies possession of up to an ounce of marijuana as a misdemeanor on first offense. Violators in Nevada also can be fined up to $600.

Indeed, the potheads are battling one another, with many pot supporters simply urging a gateway to legalization via decriminalization, as D.C. officials are planning, while others are calling for full-scale legalization and taxation.

Lawmakers and residents in the states of Colorado and Washington are seeking the latter.

In Washington, pro-pot voters have said yes to a measure that includes a taxing component, and right now they are merely debating how high taxes should be. The bottom line: The new revenue would support regulatory and enforcement affairs, as well as education.

And, quite interestingly, Grover Norquist, founding president of Americans for Tax Reform, has given his thumbs-up to taxing marijuana, telling National Journal that legalizing and taxing cannabis would not be “a tax increase.”

“It’s legalizing an activity and having the traditional tax applied to it,” Mr. Norquist said.

That, of course, is worthy of a sober debate.

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