The day is coming when marijuana will be sold legally in Mississippi under rules similar to those in place for whiskey, wine and beer.
Don't freak out. Workplace rules will remain. A stoned school teacher or truck driver or retail clerk will still be as vulnerable to being fired as a drunk teacher, trucker or clerk. But 30 states and the District of Columbia have now legalized pot in one form or another, and Mississippi will eventually join them.
The twin rationales will be pretty much as in the 1960s when Mississippi adopted “local option” laws to allow voters in cities and counties to decide whether to permit sales of intoxicating beverages. First, there's the very libertarian (very Mississippi) belief that people should be as free as possible to make their own choices. Second, there's a double whammy when it comes to the money part - revenue from taxes and an iffy possibility of savings on incarceration.
It may come as a surprise to people that Mississippi was second only to Alaska in “decriminalizing” marijuana in the 1970s. Yes, possession of large amounts or sale of any amount remains a penitentiary offense. But for the past 40 years or so getting caught with a personal stash has been on legal par or slightly less serious than a DUI.
In recent months, leaders in two cities - Jackson and McComb - have indicated petty pot-puffers don't pose a problem. It would, of course, be meaningless for any city to pass ordinances lightening up on lighting up. Existing state laws would remain in effect. (The cities could tell police to look the other way, of course, just as federal officials have chosen not to enforce federal anti-pot laws in the eight states and the District of Columbia where recreational use of marijuana is now legal.)
The counterpoint to legalization is that it's government's job to protect the citizenry from harm. Let's be clear, though. It is error - extreme error - to think of government in that regard. After all, tobacco is harmful and is a profit center for the state. Alcohol abuse destroys individuals and families and drunk drivers kill the innocent, but whiskey, beer and wine provide key revenue streams for state and local operations. Gambling? It's entertainment at one level, life-altering at another - yet legislators this summer are salivating over how to spend the gusher of cash they hope will flow from sports wagering that debuted at Mississippi casinos this month.
More of this on this post.
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