Marijuana bust

File photo of marijuana plants.

A U.S. senator once said that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor asked it to do so.

This statement, made in jest, illustrates the enormous power and discretion that prosecutors wield in our criminal justice system. For proof, look no further than Missouri in the days following voter approval of medical marijuana.

The prosecutor in Jackson County said she would no longer file charges in cases involving marijuana possession. The decision effectively decriminalizes pot in much of Kansas City, even though the ballot measure only applied to marijuana used for certain medical purposes.

Prosecutors in Buchanan County and other parts of Northwest Missouri will continue to file criminal charges for marijuana possession, which remains illegal under Missouri law.

We believe it’s the correct decision to treat recreational use of marijuana as a crime in Missouri, until the General Assembly or voters in this state decide otherwise.

In fact, we would go further and say Missouri voters shouldn’t fall for the mirage of legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Voters and lawmakers should remain skeptical of the claims of Big Marijuana, which skillfully capitalizes on public fatigue over the war on drugs while feeding the consequence-free narrative of marijuana usage.

The only problem is nothing is free, not even a ham sandwich. Supporters of legal marijuana exaggerate the benefits and overlook the drawbacks, which remain significant.

In states like Colorado, where pot is legal, possession arrests have gone down but the black market is surging as illegal growers look to avoid complex dispensary laws and ship their product to other states.

Missourians should be dubious about claims that marijuana tax revenue brings a significant benefit to schools. More than two decades ago, the casino industry made similar promises.

Just ask St. Joseph’s new superintendent how all that gambling money is working out for the district. In many cases, money from riverboat casinos merely replaced the state’s general revenue for schools, meaning public education saw little net gains.

In Colorado, marijuana tax revenue accounts for less than 2 percent of that state’s education budget. “The only thing marijuana brought to school is marijuana,” said one educator in Colorado.

Views of marijuana have evolved, but the drug still occupies a nebulous middle ground in public opinion. Yes, marijuana users aren’t hardened criminals, but employers still balk at hiring them and studies point to an uptick in auto accidents in state that legalized. Be honest, do you want your daughter dating a regular pot smoker?

The Latin motto on the state seal doesn’t translate into, “if it feels good, do it.”

Missourians said yes to medical marijuana. They should stop right there.