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Opening Arguments

Pot head

Voter approval of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington probably isn't quite the tipping point some people are claiming it is. Two states isn't even a regional trend, let alone a national one. These remarks by Indiana's State Police chief are more significant:

State police Superintendent Paul Whitesell told members of the State Budget Committee on Tuesday that he's followed the issue during his 40-year law enforcement career and believes "it is here, it's going to stay." He cited voter-passed measures in Colorado and Washington that allow adults to have small amounts of marijuana as evidence of a national shift on the issue.

"My thought is, toward the zenith of my career, it is here, it's going to stay," Whitesell told the panel. "That's an awful lot of victimization that goes with it.

"If it were up to me I do believe I would legalize it and tax it, particularly in sight of the fact that several other states have now come to that part of their legal system as well."

A State Police spokesman was quick to walk back Whitesell's remarks, saying the superintendent   "rendered a philosophical opinion," not an official one. Well, hell, that's an obvious point. Police don't really have "official" opinions about laws except to acknowledge their duty to enforce them, whatever opinion they have of them.

But Whitesell's "philosophical" opinion that marijuana "is here, it's going to stay" is an important point. The law needn't and shouldn't follow public opinion, but there is great risk when it gets too far ahead of public opinion. Prohibition should have taught us that if nothing else. The difference is that in banning alcohol, the government was trying to take away something the majority of people were already usued to. The question is whether we've reached the point where a majority accept the use of marijuana.

Not sure, but I don't think so, not quite yet. But we're getting close -- only two states for recreational use, but a lot more than that have approved marijuana for medical use. And Whitesell isn't the only police official to have endorsed the idea of decriminalization.