Take note, ineffective, hand-wringing California editorial boards. This is how it's done:
The question for voters is not whether marijuana is good. It is whether prohibition is good. It is whether the people who use marijuana shall be subject to arrest, and whether the people who supply them shall be sent to prison. The question is whether the war on marijuana is worth what it costs.
Initiative 502 says no.
If marijuana killed people, or if smoking it made people commit violence and mayhem, prohibition might be worth all its bad effects. But marijuana does not kill people; there is no lethal dose. Marijuana befuddles the mind and stimulates the appetite, but it does not make people commit arson and brigandage.
Some people abuse it, just as with alcohol, but cannabis is less of a social problem than liquor, wine and beer. And society manages those as legal, commercial products.
When pot legalization hit the ballot in 2010 in California, allegedly liberal newspaper editorial boards ran screaming into their local police chiefs' offices and hid under the desks until those bad, bad marijuana junkies went away. Statism trumped civil liberties at California's news outlets (Cities would be able to set their own guidelines? What the hell is this – Somalia?). None of the major dailies endorsed it.
Bonus points to The Seattle Times for also directly addressing the panicked "What about the children?" fearmongering (and also for having an awesome graphic of George Washington toking):
Parents may ask whether I-502 will make marijuana more available to their teenage children. The answer is to compare marijuana with beer. For teenagers, both are illegal — and available. But which is more easily available, the one that is banned or the one that is regulated? For more than 40 years, the one more easily available to teenagers has been the one that is banned.
Marijuana prohibition does not work. The better policy is to legalize it, license it, regulate it and tax it.
The Times editorial board supports Initiative 502 as a big step in that direction.
Unfortunately, The News Tribune in Tacoma has bought into the fears of juvenile use and rejected the initiative solely for that reason. However, the Olympian, serving the state's capital city, has also endorsed the initiative, saying, "[I]t's naive to think juveniles don't already have complete and unfettered access."
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.