Legalizing Marijuana in the Carolinas is a issue of fairness, not morality

Legalizing Marijuana in the Carolinas is a issue of fairness, not morality

While recently walking the streets of New York City, I couldn’t help but think about Julian Betton of Myrtle Beach.

In 2015, Betton allegedly sold two small quantities of marijuana to an informant. For that, a drug enforcement unit barged into his home and unleashed dozens of bullets, several of which hit him. The officers then falsely claimed Betton had fired the first shot – an investigation showed he had not fired at all – and lied about having knocked before entering his apartment. Years later, Betton received a multi-million-dollar settlement, though he was paralyzed for life.

It was the first thing I thought of as my wife and I saw “Weed World” as we walked to Times Square, a shop in the middle of the most famous city in the world offering a variety of marijuana choices that included something called “Cannatonic.” We saw about a half dozen such shops with names such as “Indoor Cannabis” and “CBD Boutique.” It was jarring. The thing that convinced a gaggle of police officers in the Myrtle Beach area to nearly kill a man was being sold over the counter to any eligible adult who wanted to partake.

I know New York isn’t alone in its embrace of legal marijuana sales. It’s becoming a big business, generating maybe $32 billion in sales last year, which is projected to increase to $72 billion by 2030. More than three dozen states, D.C. and four U.S. territories have approved of some form of marijuana, either solely for medical purposes or recreational use for adults. And I know the debate over the stuff isn’t new and that activists believed the federal government would stop treating those shop owners like illegal drug traffickers after Joe Biden won the presidency. That hasn’t happened, which is why it remains difficult to turn a profit even as overall revenue is growing exponentially.

Though I’ve never smoked the stuff and don’t plan to start anytime soon, I agree with marijuana legalization. I’ve mostly stayed away from alcohol as well, given what I saw drug and alcohol abuse do to people I love. But just as it was foolish to make the sale of alcohol illegal, it was just as unwise to push weed sales underground, a decision built upon bigotry and political opportunism that fueled a violent drug war that did not serve this country well. Too much blood has been shed by cops charged with curtailing marijuana distribution and by rival gangs and dealers. The war on drugs has been one of the most disastrous policies in U.S. history.

Most of the country has come to that realization, with nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults saying marijuana should be legal for recreational and medical use with another 30 percent approving of medical marijuana. And yet, South Carolina and North Carolina are among the handful of states where weed remains illegal. There’s no good reason for that to remain the case, or for the federal government to continue treating it like an illegal narcotic despite Joe Biden’s decisions to sign medical marijuana research legislation and pardon prisoners in the federal system with simple possession charges.

It’s more than an issue of fairness and shouldn’t be seen as a morality struggle. My personal reasons for abstaining will not be undermined by legalization. The current state of affairs is simply nonsensical. Those partaking of the drug in the Carolinas should not have to fear being paralyzed for life by armed agents of the state enforcing an untenable mandate while New Yorkers with an entrepreneurial spirit try to establish profitable businesses selling the stuff.

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