In the late 1990s, as a retired physician I felt compelled to counteract the disinformation spread by the government and the medical establishment alleging lack of medicinal benefits of marijuana. When the misguided, wasteful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq intervened I switched my activism into opposing those counterproductive conflicts and sidelined the drug war for the duration.
Now that we have “won” the Iraq war and soon will “win” the Afghanistan conflict, we should refocus on the failed drug war. Since 1996, 20 states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana by initiative or legislation despite the federal government’s denial of its medical usefulness. Public opinion about marijuana legalization has changed from 12 percent in 1969 to 58 percent in 2013. The annual cost of arresting and processing 700,000 otherwise mostly law-abiding users overburdens our justice system. The racial bias in enforcement creates a two-tiered system that fosters disrespect for the law. No equal justice for all. Although whites and persons of color use marijuana at similar rates, the blacks and Latinos are arrested at six times the rate for whites, contributing to the sorry statistic that one in three black youths will spend time in prison. A criminal record for even a minor drug offense can ruin the potential for a productive life. Since Washington and Colorado voters have approved recrational marijuana use to be handled just as the more dangerous drug, alcohol, it is high time to abandon the failed drug war.