GW law professors support pot legalization

Two GW Law School professors have endorsed a California ballot proposition calling for the taxation and control of marijuana, similar to alcohol regulations.

Proposition 19 would allow adults over the age of 21 to cultivate and purchase up to one ounce of marijuana for consumption without criminal punishment.

The measure would grant the state and local governments the authority to tax the sale of cannabis, which could be consumed at home or in a licensed establishment.

Professors Eric Sirulnik and Paul Butler are among 67 law professors nationwide who signed an open letter of endorsement on the Yes on Prop 19 website, arguing that marijuana prohibition has proven to be an unsuccessful policy.

“As with alcohol prohibition, this approach has failed to control marijuana, and left its trade in the hands of an unregulated and increasingly violent black market,” the letter said.

The letter also said marijuana laws were “forged in racism” and their application has been disproportionately enforced against “young people of color.”

Sirulnik said he supports the legalization of marijuana for private use everywhere, and that the criminal justice system is not always the solution to a problem.

“You begin with the fact that [marijuana] has been illegal for years, and it hasn’t worked,” Sirulnik said. “A common definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

The illegal marijuana market in the U.S. provides drug cartels with 60 percent of their revenue, according to the Yes on Prop 19 website.

“If you make [marijuana] legal, and you don’t have to go to a organized crime. the value for it goes down and the economic value stays in the state,” Sirulnik said.

The proposition would also allow more funding to be directed toward arresting individuals for hate crimes and domestic violence, Sirulnik said, instead of nonviolent crimes like marijuana possession.

Sirulnik said he thinks there is a strong likelihood Proposition 19 will pass.

“I think it stands a very, very good chance and I think it’s significant because what happens in California is often a trendsetter for the country,” Sirulnik said.

Butler did not return requests for comment.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, 14 other states have followed suit. In July, medical marijuana was officially legalized in the District.

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