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Point/Counterpoint: Legalization of marijuana

Aug 10, 2014 | by Lynn Powell

Last month, the New York Times called for the legalization of marijuana, saying it was time a 40-year-old ban be lifted on a substance the Times described as less harmful that alcohol.

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Last month, the New York Times called for the legalization of marijuana, saying it was time a 40-year-old ban be lifted on a substance the Times described as less harmful that alcohol.

The debate over legalization of pot is far from simple, engendering strong reactions from all sides. The law enforcement community largely rejects legalization, arguing that decriminalization will open the floodgates on distribution and use and that marijuana is far from benign. Health experts are divided on the long-term effects of pot, especially on teenagers.

Other argue that there's a desperate need to reform marijuana laws, which discriminate against people of color, particularly young black men. These laws, they argue, often are harsh in proportion to the conduct alleged, and have saddled generations of young people with criminal records and kept others in prison for long sentences  at a high cost to taxpayers.

According to Times' figures, in 2012, there were 656,000 arrests for marijuana possession compared with 256,000 arrests for heroin, cocaine and other drugs.

Yet another group argues that medicinal marijuana, used to treat several health conditions, should be legalized nationally.

Both Colorado and Washington recently have legalized medicinal and recreational use of cannabis, a policy shift that remains in the experimental stages. 

We asked Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris and longtime criminal defense attorney Paul Brunton to weigh in with their opinions on the decriminalization of marijuana. Both are experts on our state's marijuana laws and how those laws impact Oklahomans.

Let us know your thoughts on the issue as well. Do you favor or oppose lifting a ban and why?