By Maxwell Inskeep
Travel author and internationalist Rick Steves is not pro-marijuana, but is anti-prohibition.
“I’m not promoting marijuana…” said Steves. “I am promoting harm reduction and taking crime out of the equation.”
Steves spoke to an audience of around 450 at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Wednesday night. Part of the 75th Forum events, Steves discussed how the United States’ laws and ways of handling marijuana aren’t helping the country, only hurting it.
Meanwhile there are millions of dollars being spent assuring that this drug is illegal, when in fact, it could be raising money for the states and the country entirely.
“I-502 keeps marijuana illegal for those under 21,” Steves said. “It comes with strict DUI provisions. And it calls for taxes and regulations on the legal sale of marijuana.”
Referring to Washington State, Steves looks at I-502 as a way to improve the state and the country’s safety amongst its citizens, while keeping it out of the hands of those 21 and under. I-502 is very strict and ensures that a recreational user based society, is regulated.
“Like the laws that criminalized alcohol back in the 1930s,” Steves said. “Our current laws against marijuana use are causing more harm to our society than the drug itself.”
Similar to the prohibition law in the 1930s, Steves insinuates how the entirety of illegalization has placed detrimental effects on our society. People are being incarcerated at alarming rates over small possession charge and there are people profiting off that.
The P.P.P., otherwise known as the “Pot Prohibition Profiteers,” make money through the illegalization of marijuana and continually become richer and richer.
Steves introduced a common counterpoint that he faces many times when he speaks to the public, which he of course has a rebuttal.
“Well, more people are going to smoke it, if you legalize it,” said Steves. “No. People are already smoking pot. These laws will always legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for those over 21 years of age.”
If you look at Colorado, a state that has allowed marijuana to be legal, both recreationally and medicinally since 2014, they are making millions of dollars through the regulations and taxes of the drug. People were genuinely concerned about how it would affect the teenage population. Well, teen usage has not gone up. In fact, the only thing increasing is the state’s tax revenue.
“Colorado is also saving money by having law enforcement focus on real crimes, rather than bust teens with marijuana,” said Steves. “It’s just pragmatic harm reduction. There is also less access to it, because similar to alcohol, you must have a card to purchase marijuana and nobody wants to lose their license.”
It is very important in protecting the accessibility of marijuana. Which is why Colorado has had success with this, in keeping it away from those under 21. One must possess a license, making it eligible for them to purchase the drug, just as it is for alcohol. Those 21 years of age and older, will only be allowed to purchase it.
Connor Zielinski, a student at UW-Eau Claire, attended the forum event.
“I was just really interested in seeing an outside perspective on this,” Zielinski said. “It is especially interesting how Europe is being more pragmatic about it.”
Rick Steves advocates that the way our country handles marijuana is completely obscure and that it needs to change. Too many lives are being dismantled, but with a more pragmatic approach, the United States would benefit through the legalization, regulation, and the taxing of marijuana.