Supporters see momentum in marijuana legalization efforts

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Nov. 6 may be known as the day where President Barack Obama was re-elected or it may be also known as the day gay marriage took bigger steps in states like Maine, Washington, Maryland, and Minnesota.

However, the day also lead to victories in two states for one other group: those who support the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana.

Colorado and Washington voters agreed to legalize and regulate the drug on Election Day. Obviously, those two states are far from South Carolina.

But what about efforts to legalize marijuana in South Carolina? Enter Wayne Borders and NORML -- the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.

The last time South Carolina took up a bill to legalize the drug, it died in committee in 2007.

"It's one of those things where if you give people the information so they understand the effects, and make it so that it's unavailable to children, what you actually do is make it safer for the population in general," said Borders.

Borders is selling the same argument heard in Colorado and Washington --- that legalizing, regulating, and taxing would save billions in the War on Drugs and generate a ton of tax revenue.

It's a point economists like University of South Carolina professor Dr. William Hauk agree with -- taxing a market that already exists while removing the danger associated with an illegal black market.

"If you legalized it, brought it out into the open, some of those downsides would go away," said Hauk. "But again, does it draw more people to consumption than would be otherwise? We can't be quite sure."

Cecily Watkins is with the Lexington Richland Drug Abuse Commission she says the dangers and potential damage to children far outweigh any financial benefit.

"Legalization sends the message that it's not harmful, and when there's the perception something isn't harmful we see an increase in use, abuse, and even addiction," said Watkins.

As the country watches Colorado and Washington, Borders pushes ahead.

"Now is the time for us to get this taken care of and get it out of the way," said Borders.

Borders is headed to the Southeastern regional NORML conference this weekend to get more ideas of steps he can take in the Palmetto State.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.