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Fireworks offer bit of insight into legalizing marijuana
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Get ready for a taste of Kabul at night.

For the next week or so you’ll be serenaded with rogue fireworks bursting in air.

It is more than irritating given the fact Manteca allows safe and sane fireworks sales and discharge for a full 168 hours from noon today until midnight on Monday.

Critics of the 2006 Manteca City Council decision to allow non-profits to sell fireworks said something like this would happen. There were right - to a degree.

While there hasn’t been a big bump in fireworks-related fires and injuries, there has been an uptick in illegal fireworks. The skies over East Manteca in the Cowell School have lit up like the Fourth of July for the past several years as June comes to a close from someone launching aerial fireworks. That’s just one example.

The big difference today as opposed to 10 years ago is the city isn’t making criminals out of people who use safe and sane fireworks.

Manteca’s fireworks experience provides some lessons to those who embrace the outright legalization of drugs such as marijuana that they contend are essentially the “safe and sane” version of controlled substances.

Legalizing marijuana will not result in a drop-off in the use of more dangerous drugs such as meth. It might even increase their consumption. That would mean the attendant impacts such as health care costs and putting strains on the safety net when drug use diverts needed money from food and such will go up somewhat. It also would likely mean they’d be an increase in property crime as more people finance their habit.

As for marijuana itself, about the only benefit to society that can be measured for sure would be the fact it would stop making a criminal out of people who might otherwise be law-abiding citizens. It would free up law enforcement resources to try to keep more dangerous drugs in check.

There are other issues with marijuana that can’t be ignored that are in the same category as alcohol abuse. If they were treated the same as alcohol, it means those who use them would be subject to a wide variety of penalties much like those who abuse alcohol. If you test positive for marijuana at work an employer should have the absolute right to terminate you without penalty just like if it were alcohol. Sorry, but there can be no margins for being a “little buzzed.”

Having said that, technology can be developed that distinguishes between marijuana being in your system for 30 days versus two days.

If you are under the influence while driving you get the full treatment as if you were consuming alcohol when you were tested.

Adults who supply marijuana to anyone under 21 should be subjected to the same criminal prosecution and fines - as well as liability - as someone who serves or sells alcohol to a minor. And if someone is high, relaxed or whatever when they cause an accident after someone gave them more marijuana when they were already under the influence, then they can be sued for damages by victims.

As for arguments that making all controlled substances legal will somehow lower the price and reduce crime, good luck proving that one.

Do you think if those shooting off illegal fireworks spending $100 to buy four mortar-style rockets would still get only four if the price was cut to $50? The odds are they’d still spend $100 and have double the thrill.

Human nature being what it is it would probably work the same in most cases with the hardcore drugs.

Prohibition per se rarely works nor does lifting prohibition cure you of your ills. If you doubt that just consider what has happened in this country since alcohol was again made legal. A lot of the crime generated by criminal gangs has gone to the wayside but alcohol-related deaths from intoxicated driving and domestic violence induced by alcohol abuse haven’t exactly retreated. Nor have health-related issues that cost society tons of money.

Legalizing isn’t a panacea whether it is with safe and sane fireworks or marijuana.

In both cases they do end the criminalization of behavior that has relatively low risk compared to the more potent abuse of hardcore illegal fireworks and hardcore illegal drugs.