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It’s time for people to see through the haze of pot

It is nice that Americans are finally seeing through the haze of pot smoke. A national Gallup poll released last week revealed that, for the first time, most people think marijuana should be legalized.

The ramifications are deep and wide:

Bill Clinton can inhale.

Celebratory fumes are blowing out the back of Willie Nelson’s tour bus.

More significantly, a nation of covert pot smokers may soon be able to come out of the closet, joining legal tokers in Colorado and Washington. A pot-legalization referendum could be on the ballot next year in California. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs decriminalization of public possession of small amounts. The Gallup numbers will only encourage state legislators to get on board.

It is high time that pot was regulated like alcohol, instead of bought and sold on the black market.

We are more than one toke over the legalization line. The poll’s pro-pot percentage was a landslide 58-to-39, a mere three years after most Americans polled were anti-legalization.

The times, they have a-changed.

From gay marriage to legalized pot, America finally is exhaling on social issues. The country’s Puritanical ethos is being chipped away like blocks off of Plymouth Rock.

It is a victory for common sense, for law and order – given the toll of drug turf wars on inner-city neighborhoods – and for taxpayers. Fees collected on legal pot sales are potentially the state’s largest new pocket-filler since Indian casinos.

Peter Christ (rhymes with wrist) is a retired Town of Tonawanda police captain and co-founder of LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He said a big problem with pot prohibition is the street mayhem it breeds.

“The violence is rooted in the underground marketplace that we created” by making pot illegal, Christ told me in a recent interview. “It’s just like the gangsters with Prohibition.”

There will be no turning back. The offspring of the Woodstock generation are leading the common-sense charge. Two of every three adults under 30 favor legalization. Whether the younger generation is more enlightened on social issues, or recognize the long-term futility of a “war” on drugs in perennially high demand, legalization is as much about pragmatism as philosophy.

As Christ put it, “There are nearly 900,000 marijuana arrests in this country every year. Marijuana use doesn’t screw up nearly as many lives as a felony conviction does.”

I am not a big fan of pot. But I know plenty of people who are, who use pot responsibly (i.e., after first checking the in-house chip supply) and who would welcome the loss of stigma and easier availability that comes with legalization.

Granted, smoking pot alters your consciousness. That’s the point of any recreational drug. But the benefits of legalization – with age and use regulations, the same as with alcohol – outweigh the drawbacks of a drug that does less harm to health and society than booze or tobacco. I have yet to see a crime report involving two stoners in a barroom brawl. Pot smokers are more likely to mellow in place than to get behind the wheel of a car.

“It is likely,” wrote the Gallup folks, “that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts.”

Some may see it as a sign of civilization’s decay. To me, it’s a bong-hit for civility.