Once again, legislators are pondering whether to legalize medicinal marijuana to relieve pain, nausea and other miseries of sick West Virginians. We hope this humane effort finally passes, simply because it's merciful. Further, it could provide additional state revenue.
Gradually, Americans are becoming tolerant of pot, which is no more harmful than beer or whisky, which are legal -- and is much less harmful than tobacco, also legal.
Back in 1969, a whopping 84 percent of Americans opposed legalization of pot. But this year, a Pew survey found that 52 percent now want marijuana to be legal. The same poll found that three-fourths think police efforts to exterminate pot cost more than they're worth.
Last fall, voters in Colorado and Washington state chose to legalize pot for recreational use. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have approved medical use of the pain-soothing substance -- and New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, just signed a law approving edible pot to treat sick children. The U.S. Justice Department says it won't interfere with those state laws.
At a Phoenix town hall assembly, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was asked about drugs, and he replied: "Maybe we should legalize. We're certainly moving that way as far as marijuana is concerned. I support the will of the people."
Clearly, the U.S. cultural tide is flowing toward acceptance of a factual reality of modern life. The federal drug czar's website says: "Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with nearly 17 million Americans age 12 and older reporting past-month use."
The "war on drugs" has been largely a failure -- just as Prohibition of alcohol was in the 1920s. The chief result has been cramming U.S. prisons with harmless offenders, disproportionately black.
District of Columbia councilman David Grosso is introducing a bill to legalize recreational pot in the nation's capital, and to license its sale and collect taxes on it. "If we're going to have alcohol legal in this country, I don't see any reason why we couldn't have marijuana legal," he said. Most D.C. council members are expected to support his plan.
The American Civil Liberties Union says blacks are nearly four times more likely to be charged with pot possession, compared to whites with the same level of usage. Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project says:
"By arresting people for something that is safer than alcohol, you are slapping them with a criminal record ... which is related to cycles of poverty."
Each summer, West Virginia troopers in helicopters destroy multitudes of mountaintop pot patches. If those fields were legalized, they might become the Mountain State's most valuable agricultural crop and produce welcome new tax revenue.
America's morals evolve, year after year, decade after decade. Snowballing acceptance of gays is a clear phenomenon. So is rising tolerance for premarital sex, birth control, cohabitation, alcohol, gambling, racial intermarriage, Sunday work and a slew of other former no-nos. So is public tolerance for marijuana.As the culture changes, it's time for politicians to catch up.