Make no mistake: The war on pot is effectively over. A growing majority of Americans favor legalization of the stuff, almost half the states (and the District of Columbia) have medical marijuana, and Colorado's experience will pave the way for more states to follow (here's hoping Washington, whose consumer market gets cranked up in the summer, doesn't screw it up).
But where exactly will the war on pot go to die, I ask in a new Time column. My premise is that the insane actions taking place everywhere around us will finally become intolerable to citizens, cops, and lawmakers. Maybe the case of Jacob Lavoro, the 19-year-old Texas kid who faces a 99-year sentence for selling hash brownies, will do the trick. Or the recent comments by FBI James Comey about how drug testing procedures are keeping the nation from hiring the best computer geeks to protect against cyber-terrorism. To paraphrase John Kerry talking about Vietman (another doomed and destructive police action), who will be the last man to die—or waste years of his life in prison—for the mistake that is marijuana prohibition?
Look to California, which passed the nation's first medical marijuana ballot initiative way back in 1996 and saw 46.5% vote in favor of recreational pot in a 2010 proposition. In 2011, federal agents raided the operations of dispensary owner and medical grower Aaron Sandusky. This came after repeated promises by the Obama administration that it wouldn't go after medical pot providers who were operating within state law. And even though officials from the city of Upland, which had tipped off the feds, later admitted in court that Sandusky was operating properly within state law.
Sandusky refused on principle to cop a plea because he thought he was in the right. Tried in federal court, he was unable to offer a defense based on California state law, Sandusky ended up pulling a 10-year sentece. In March of this year, he lost his final appeal. If he's lucky and stays on good behavior, he'll be out in 2021. Does anyone think that pot—medical or recreational—will still be illegal by then?
As it happens, Sandusky is doing time in Texas' Big Spring Federal Correctional Institute, which is only a four-hour drive from Jacob Lavoro's hometown of Round Rock. As Lavoro ponders whatever deal prosecutors might offer him, he'd be smart to visit Sandusky and ask what life behind bars is like. Because while the war on pot is surely in its final stage, there will still be plenty of casualties before peace is declared.
I talked about this on Wednesday night on CNN's Erin Burnett Outfront. Take a look: