In 2006 and 2008, billionaire philanthropist George Soros was the highest-profile donor to campaigns to replace George Bush’s Republican reign of error with reality-based governance.
This year, Soros is avoiding most of the partisan wrangling. But Soros is still a player in the 2010 campaign. What is he spending his money on? Marijuana. Or, to be more precise, on the fight to decriminalize the recreational use and small-scale cultivation of marijuana. Soros has contributed $1 million to the campaign to pass California’s Proposition 19, which would lift the penalties for possession and use of small amounts of weed. The initiative campaign faces an uphill fight—if polls are to be believed. But Soros is investing in an idea: that it is time to begin dialing down America’s failed drug war.
Here is the wise argument Soros made in an opinion piece published October 26 in the Wall Street Journal: "Why I Support Legal Marijuana We should invest in effective education rather than ineffective arrest and incarceration"
Our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good.
The criminalization of marijuana did not prevent marijuana from becoming the most widely used illegal substance in the United States and many other countries. But it did result in extensive costs and negative consequences.
Law enforcement agencies today spend many billions of taxpayer dollars annually trying to enforce this unenforceable prohibition. The roughly 750,000 arrests they make each year for possession of small amounts of marijuana represent more than 40% of all drug arrests.
Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually. It also would reduce the crime, violence and corruption associated with drug markets, and the violations of civil liberties and human rights that occur when large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are subject to arrest. Police could focus on serious crime instead.
The racial inequities that are part and parcel of marijuana enforcement policies cannot be ignored. African-Americans are no more likely than other Americans to use marijuana but they are three, five or even 10 times more likely—depending on the city—to be arrested for possessing marijuana. I agree with Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, when she says that being caught up in the criminal justice system does more harm to young people than marijuana itself. Giving millions of young Americans a permanent drug arrest record that may follow them for life serves no one’s interests.