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Cities should give up pot-law fight

My libertarian side says it’s OK if someone wants to smoke marijuana in the sanctity of their own home, without bothering others.

My pragmatic side says efforts to fight implementation of the voter-approved legalization of marijuana are a waste of time.

Either way, municipalities should stop looking for ways to circumvent the new law and find ways to implement it successfully.

Let me start by saying that I don’t smoke marijuana — never have, never will. That said, I won’t be pushing my choice on other residents who enjoy lighting up in the privacy of their own home.

Unfortunately, community leaders in Omak, Oroville, Brewster and Bridgeport are tacking differently, and trying to force their own marijuana morality on others.

Let’s talk about three problems with that attitude:

A majority of voters statewide do not share that moral opinion.

In fact, 55.7 percent of voters statewide approved Initiative 502, which legalized the production, processing and retail sale of limited quantities of marijuana in Washington state.

Some did so because they don’t believe marijuana is a dangerous drug. And others voted for the law because they didn’t want the government intrusion in their homes.

I guess it’s fair to say 55.7 percent of voters disagree with the moral prohibitions of pot-related business ventures.

Allowing municipalities to opt out of a state law will create something akin to having “dry” communities.

Consider alcohol — many states have laws allowing municipalities to prohibit liquor sales. Those that do not allow for liquor sales are considered “dry.”

As a young editor, I lived in Ohio, a state allowing municipal bans on liquor sales. One county between my office and in Decatur, Ind., and my home in Rockford, Ohio, was dry.

That didn’t keep alcohol out of the hands of motorists. And it didn’t keep booze from flowing.

All it accomplished was to discourage business, lose sales tax revenue and jobs, and encourage those who imbibed to drive over the county line. Neighboring counties — both in Indiana and Ohio — took advantage of that attempt to legislate liquor morality by allowing drive-through and other liquor stores to open nearby.

Residents of the “dry” county crossed the border to purchase alcohol. Many decided to sit, drink and then drive home. That prompted law enforcement agencies to monitor major roads in and out of that county for drunken drivers.

I’ll bet the same thing happens here if municipal leaders are allowed to continue to thumb their noses at the law and legislate their marijuana morality .

Instead of having users drive over the city limit to buy marijuana, I’d rather they buy it as close to their home as possible. There’ll be a smaller chance youth will be exposed to it. There’ll also be a smaller chance I’ll encounter an impaired driver.

As far as legal costs go, I can’t even begin to guess how much tax money ultimately will be wasted defending marijuana bans in state court, which is charged first and foremost with upholding state law.

I’d rather see our cities spend those dollars on educating children about the dangers of marijuana. I’d also like to see the legal marijuana businesses become contributing taxpayers and employers.

Since legal marijuana business is here to stay, our community leaders should be coming up with ways to make it work for us, rather than fight a losing battle on moral high ground.

Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via e-mail at rharnack@omakchronicle.com.

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