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  Littwin: Marijuana Law Just Smoke and Mirrors
Posted by FoM on June 03, 2001 at 08:31:18 PT
By Mike Littwin 
Source: Rocky Mountain News 

medical We have embarked, boys and girls, on a new voyage into the weird and wacky world of drug laws. You don't have to inhale to appreciate this, but it couldn't hurt. You know the deal.

Under the state's medical marijuana law, which we passed as Amendment 20 last year, people with certain medical conditions now can, with a note from a doctor, legally possess small amounts of pot. But here's the catch -- call it Catch 20 -- these same people can still be arrested for buying it. It gets weirder.

They can legally grow as many as six plants, although only three flowering at any one time. Yes, really. But they can't go to, say, Smith & Hawken for the seeds. Because buying, or selling, the seeds can potentially put you in the slammer.

It is at this point that I'm reminded of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's advice to his attorney: "We can't stop here. This is bat country."

And, believe me, it has just gotten battier.

Because now the governor and attorney general, who opposed the constitutional amendment, have said they will both implement the law and also work to subvert it. Which fits exactly.

Did you see the letter campaign? The governor and attorney general warned the Colorado Medical Society that doctors could be in "peril" under federal law, presumably because filling out a state form saying a patient might be helped by using marijuana could be interpreted as prescribing drugs. In other words, we might soon see the feds scouring local golf courses for a Wednesday afternoon M.D. roundup. I want to be on that raid.

Scared? Well, if not, they also wrote the U.S. attorney asking him to prosecute drug laws "to the fullest extent of your powers," as if our burgeoning prison population suggests the DEA was composed of a bunch of slackers. The problem, of course, is that the feds go after major dealers, not the local MS cartel in search of dime bags. (By the way, can you still get a dime bag? And is Pink Floyd still available on vinyl?)

Here's what the governor et al. didn't do. And this is important. They didn't advise the local law enforcement agencies to get tough. They didn't tell the local DAs to bust the guy dying of cancer because four of his plants are flowering. They made a lot of noise, but to what end?

If all this doesn't make any sense to you, don't worry. It doesn't to anyone else either. One of the rules of law should be that something should be either legal or illegal, not both.

What the people were trying to say by passing Amendment 20 is if someone with cancer or MS or glaucoma might be helped by smoking a little grass -- and there are studies to suggest they are -- who is being hurt exactly?

What the governor is saying is entirely different. You have to understand the subtext here. Since the recent Supreme Court decision outlawing cannabis buying clubs in California, the governor has been looking for a way to use that decision to knock down Amendment 20. The lawyers, after apparently much inter-office argument, couldn't find one because the court's decision studiously avoided the subject of medical marijuana initiatives.

So, what's a governor to do?

He says he will reluctantly enact the will of the people, but we should not think that means he is any less committed to the war on drugs. No, he remains committed to filling our jails with nonviolent drug users. He remains committed to the campaign of criminalizing drug addiction that has left many of our communities devastated.

Remember bat country?

I just downloaded a speech by law professor Charles H. Whitebread. He co-authored a book called The Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge, which is a study of the tortuous history of marijuana laws.

I recommend it, if just for the laughs.

The federal government outlawed marijuana in 1937 after a congressional hearing in which marijuana was said to cause "insanity, criminality and death."

Fittingly, there would soon be trials in which murderers would be acquitted because of marijuana-insanity claims. No wonder. In a 1938 murder trial in Newark, N.J., the government's official expert witness testified that "after two puffs on a marijuana cigarette, I was turned into a bat."

Colorado was well ahead of the feds. We were among the first states to pass laws against marijuana use. These states just happened to be those where Mexican migrants came to work. In the debate at the Montana Statehouse, a legislator said: "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona."

You don't know where to begin -- with his logic or his geography. We'll try logic here.

Our new drug law, with all its inherent contradictions, may be insane. But hounding those few who might possibly benefit would be even crazier.

Mike Littwin's column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail him at:

Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News (CO)
Author: Mike Littwin
Published: June 2, 2001
Copyright: 2001 Denver Publishing Co.

Related Articles & Web Site:

Coloradans For Medical Rights

Feds: Pot Law Is State's Problem

Cloud Hangs Over Debut of Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Program Begins Today

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Comment #2 posted by dedbr on June 04, 2001 at 06:17:45 PT:

Vote him out.
Voters should be proud to get rid of the governor in Colorado.Not to bright to go against what the voters want with an election coming up,huh?

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #1 posted by Cuzn Buzz on June 03, 2001 at 09:41:26 PT
One Flew East, One flew West...
We all live in the cuckoos nest!
I laughed so hard reading this article that I knocked the cherry off my doobie!
Strange days indeed.....

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