This special edition of the Politics Hour combined local and national politics live from Slim's Diner in Petworth, Northwest D.C.
The President and Speaker of the House meet to try to find a way to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’. Conflicts in Egypt and Syria continue to roil. The Redskin fans savor a heart-stopping win against the Ravens, but worry about the health of rookie phenom quarterback RGIII. It’s Your Turn to discuss the local and global headlines.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Your Turn. 800-433-8850. We already have a number of people on the line who'd like to continue the conversation about the war on drugs, so we'll start talking about that. But if you have comments about the fiscal cliff, the woman shot on a bus in Southeast while carrying her child or anything else, 800-433-8850. We go to Steven in Washington, D.C. Steven, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEVENHey, Kojo, a big fan. My question is for the listeners over here is what type of regulations will they start to do with driving under the influence for all these other types of drugs? Are there going to be any new regulations for driving under the influence of marijuana? I will be taking my call off the air.
NNAMDIWell, in both Washington and Colorado, there will be penalties if you're caught driving under the influence. Exactly how they will measure being under the influence is something I don't quite understand because it's my understanding that marijuana stays in one's system for quite a period of time and can be measured up to about a month out. So I don't know how they'll be able to. Maybe they have the kind of equipment that can indicate how recently a person has been using marijuana.
NNAMDIBut it's definitely a part of the law that you are not allowed to drive under the influence, and I think they say within one hour of using marijuana you're not supposed to drive. But we will see how that rolls out. I think there are a lot of people all over the country who will be looking to see what rolls out in Colorado and Washington before making any moves of their own. We move on to Zach in Bethesda, Md. Zach, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ZACHHey. How are you doing, Kojo?
ZACHThank you. I just wanted to make a point, and I'll take the answer off the air. But as far as regulating and punishing, especially marijuana-related crimes, like minor possession and things like that, why don't we have more of a system where community service is a punishment, where we actually get a productive result out of punishments for these nonviolent crimes and really save our resources for punishing the violent offenders and higher-level drug dealers?
ZACH'Cause currently we're spending tons of money on our prison system, which is, you know, obviously, very inefficient. And it just seems like we have a better alternative to get more out of punishments that we deem necessary by leaning them towards community service and other productive measures. Thank you.
NNAMDIWell, interestingly enough, it seems as if police chiefs, like the former police chief in Baltimore, have been kind of leading the way on this by telling their officers, you don't really pursue people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. You check on people who have previous gun violations, and you go after those people as a way of dealing with violence. But there are still a lot of jurisdictions around the country that call for jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
NNAMDII was reading -- well, that's not happening in Montgomery County, for instance, anymore that -- for small amounts. It's not considered that serious in offense, and there is no jail time. But I suspect that around the country that jurisdictions will be looking at that option, especially given the racial disparities in people who are being arrested and the amount of people who are spending time in jail for these nonviolent offenses. But here we go now to Chris in Leesburg, Va. Chris, your turn.
CHRISHi, Kojo. How are you doing? I'm a big fan of the show. I just wanted to bring up the topic again of the stand of the Mexican government accusing California of a double standard when it reality it seems like this is a very large export market for the state of Mexico. And you can look it as it's coming through a list of channels or it's coming directly into the government itself as an income, but it is bringing money to Mexico, which Mexico desperately needs.
CHRISAnd so for California to legalize, you therefore remove that market and the ability to send funds down to Mexico. While at the same time, if you do legalize in California and remove that market, you then take away some income for the drug traffickers and cartels in Mexico that the government is so desperately fighting. So I'm curious...
NNAMDIWell, Ben writes at some length about that in his article. And what he's saying is that you have to understand that the drug cartels -- and I guess in this way it can be compared to organized crime in this country doing prohibition -- that these are -- this is organized crime and its focus on the drug trade does not necessarily mean that if the drug trade goes away, that these institutions will not be able to continue to exist on profit. It will simply find other areas in which to direct their organized crime.
NNAMDIYou will remember that when alcohol was legalized in this country, prohibition and other -- I mean, prostitution and other kinds of drugs was where organized crime directed its attention. So they're saying don't look at the cartels as being involved only because of the drug trafficking. The cartels are involved because they are professional criminal organizations.
CHRISThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIChris, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Lance in Chantilly, Va. Lance, your turn.
LANCEOh, thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to say that it's curious this is a commercial industry that produces a commercial product, but it's a dangerous commercial product in our laws. I mean, we're fighting this war as about as tepidly as we possibly could. We know how to destroy industries that create dangerous commercial products.
LANCEYou allow the wounded customer to sue for product liability. But by criminalizing the conduct of the customer, we're making it impossible for them to sue for the defection of their health, their life from cocaine or heroin. The reasons why we won't go down this route, of course, is that alcohol and tobacco are also dangerous recreational drugs, commercial drugs, that you don't -- they don't want to see that methodology applied.
NNAMDIWell, there are people who say that by shifting in the way that Colorado and Washington have done, we are going to be looking at this more and more as a health-related issue. And, therefore, there is likely to be more research done on the effects of marijuana on health in the same way that research on the effects of tobacco on health was done.
NNAMDISo if there are people who are selling this product who have that research available to them but are hiding that research from the public, as in the case of the tobacco industry, then we may see similar results. But we haven't even gone halfway towards that path as yet. But the orientation after this in states like California and Washington is going to look at it more as a health issue than as a criminal justice issue. Lance, thank you for your call. Here is Ann in Alexandria, Va. Ann, your turn.
ANNHi. Thank you for taking my call. I would like your panel and you to address the idea of -- we're talking about marijuana as a gateway drug or whatever, but it seems to me that the effect of marijuana is so much milder, the ability to stop when you had enough, very opposite from the addicting and terrible effects that alcohol can have.
NNAMDIAllow me to interrupt you for a second because I was commenting earlier that in today's edition of The Washington Post in both of the advice columns that people are seeking advice because they are either married to or the child of somebody who they say is addicted to marijuana.
ANNIn my -- well, albeit limited experience, but among peers at various stages in life, it seems that people get in terrible trouble because they can't stop drinking. They crossed the line, and they get drunk, they drive, they, you know, they -- terrible consequences. And I've never known that to happen with marijuana. People said, oh, they left. They go to the movies. They come down, and then they go and do something else.
NNAMDIYeah. Somebody is making the point that there are very few or no recorded deaths from marijuana addiction that we know of.
ANNUh-huh, uh-huh. And the other part of my question is the economics both of treating alcohol problems, addictions, accidents, et cetera, as opposed to marijuana, and the tax question. Have we talked about that? How -- what a tax boon it would be to be able to tax this drug? And I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you.
NNAMDIThey're expecting $560,000 million a year in taxes in Washington State, it is my understanding. We will have to see how that goes. But as we said earlier, Washington and Colorado are probably be going to be under observation from people in states around the nation to see how things unfold there and to see how the federal government, which is obviously in some very, well, swimming in very tricky waters both internationally and nationally at this point, tries to maneuver during the situation.
NNAMDIBut thanks to all of those of you who called. This was Your Turn. We'll be revisiting that segment again soon. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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