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Detroit Ponders Marijuana Legalization

And it's about time...

Supporters of the proposal say it would free police to go after violent criminals, ease jail crowding and even encourage a safe alternative to alcohol. Some criminal justice and medical experts dispute those ideas."Our feeling is, how do we put an end to the drug war? This would be a step," said attorney and medical marijuana user Matthew Abel, 51, of Detroit.

"Once I explain this to people, they're in agreement with it, overwhelmingly," Stanley said, as he sat last month at a card table inside Farmer John's Market on Detroit's east side. A U.S. Army veteran, Stanley said he quit using marijuana "when I left Vietnam" in 1970, "but I think it should be legal."

State Rep. LaMar Lemmons, a Democrat from Detroit, said he helped write the new proposal. "I'd like our police to concentrate on violent crimes," Lemmons said.

Former state Rep. Leon Drolet of Macomb Township calls himself "a very proud Libertarian Republican" who favors legalization."We all make decisions about our health, whether it's drinking alcohol or having a slice of cake. There's lots of things people choose to do because they feel, in some way, it enhances their quality of life," he said.

Lawyers. Soldiers. Liberals. Libertarians. The voices calling for a reasonable approach to drug use in and around Detroit continue to diversify, continue to grow, continue to echo a national conversation that's growing ever louder. It's time for new thinking in regards to drug use in this country. It's time to put legalization squarely on the table.

Oh, and you can add cops to that growing list of those favoring an end to drug prohibition, too. Shortly after my piece the other day about the slaying of veteran Detroit police officer Brian Huff, who died rushing into a suspected drug den, I heard from Tom Angell, a spokesman for LEAP, an organization of law enforcement officers opposed to the current drug policies. Seems there are plenty of police officers, sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officials who also believe that chasing these would-be Pablo Escobars is just as futile as it was to chase liquor bootleggers during the reign of the Volstead Act.

Like the courageous Officer Huff, these are the men and women we ask to serve on the frontlines of this insane and unwinnable "drug war," and a growing number of them are tired of trying to fight with guns a problem that would be much better handled through legalization, taxation and control...just like alcohol.

Funny thing is, I've also talked about the possibility of drug legalization with a few dudes who (ahem, allegedly) sell dope. And almost to a man, they're against it and for one reason only: They stand to lose a lot of money. Fear of death or arrest often doesn't seem to faze some of these guys. But the thought of going broke? Well, that's what, literally, keeps them up at night.

And that's what legalization would mean. Just as the end of alcohol prohibition snatched billions from the hands of bootlegging networks throughout North America, so would legalization of drugs remove the sole reason for the existence of the black market that thrives in big cities and rural towns alike, that is, the cash. Yes, we will always have crime, no matter what policies we enact. But we don't need public policy that actually encourages conditions for violent markets to fester (and our prisons to needlessly swell).

Illegal business is still business. And maybe that's why you also now have businessmen, like Peter Karmanos Jr., the president and chief executive officer of Detroit-based Compuware, saying he too believes it's time to eliminate the profit motive from the illegal drug trade.

"All we have to do to make Detroit a safe place, for CNN's benefit, is just legalize drugs, or decriminalize them, and get rid of all this other nonsense around it," Karmanos said.

"I've advised  a few governors to to that, by the way. They've advised me not to say that publicly," he said.

Obviously, Karmanos is not listening. And hopefully, voters won't listen to that foolish advice either, should the legalization proposal make the ballot.

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