It’s High Time That Marijuana Laws Be Liberalized

It’s High Time That Marijuana Laws Be Liberalized
Posted by CN Staff on July 27, 2005 at 06:47:15 PT
By Allen F. St. Pierre and Paul Armentano 
Source: Minnesota Daily 
USA -- Twenty-nine-year-old Scott Bryant had just settled down to watch TV with his 7-year-old son on the night of April 17, 1995, when 13 Wisconsin sheriff’s deputies burst through his front door looking for marijuana. Bryant, who was unarmed, was shot and killed as his young son helplessly looked on. Police seized less than 3 grams of marijuana in the no-knock raid. On review, the county district attorney ruled that the shooting was “not in any way justified.” Bryant was a victim — not of marijuana, but of marijuana prohibition.
During the last decade, more than 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, more than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. As in the case of Bryant, nearly 90 percent of these arrests were for the simple possession of marijuana for personal use, not for cultivation or sale. Annually, state and local justice costs for marijuana arrests are now estimated to be $7.6 billion, approximately $10,400 per arrest. However, despite this massive expenditure and the threat of arrest, approximately 80 million Americans, including former President Bill Clinton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, self-identify as having used marijuana. Nearly 15 million Americans admit to being current users of cannabis. It is time for the United States’ marijuana laws to reflect this reality, not deny it. While most of the world has liberalized their marijuana laws, reflecting the values and mores of their citizens, other than state-based efforts to pass laws that protect medical marijuana patients, in the United States, marijuana prohibition is unfortunately favored by elected officials rather than legally controlling and taxing marijuana products. Most of the government agencies, private corporations and some people who publicly support arresting marijuana consumers and benefit from the United States’ misguided marijuana prohibition are: law enforcement (i.e., Drug Enforcement Administration) and so-called anti-drug governmental agencies (i.e., Office of National Drug Control and Policy), private anti-drug groups (i.e., Drug Free America Foundation), drug testing companies; and alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies that do not want to compete with legal and taxed marijuana. Critics of liberalizing the United States’ marijuana laws argue that marijuana isn’t a “harmless” substance. They’re correct; marijuana isn’t harmless. In fact, no substance is, including those that are legal. However, as acknowledged by a study that appears in the current issue of the journal Current Opinion in Pharmacology, “Overall, by comparison with other drugs used mainly for ‘recreational’ purposes, cannabis (is) rated to be a relatively safe drug.” Indeed, by far the greatest danger to health posed by the adult use of cannabis stems from a criminal arrest and incarceration. Further, what possible rationale can be put forward by today’s policy makers that allows for the sale and taxation of alcohol and tobacco products by state and federal governments, while at the same time prohibiting the responsible use of cannabis by adults — even for sick and dying medical patients? A drug like tobacco is widely acknowledged by the government and general public as an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Consequently, there has been nearly a 50 percent reduction of smoking in the United States since 1970. This important change in the public’s choice of lifestyles was brought about by credible and verifiable public-education campaigns, noncriminal sanctions and pragmatic taxation schemes — not taxpayer-funded DARE-like programs in the public schools, Partnership for a Drug Free America propaganda polluting modern advertising or demonizing the users, sellers and growers of tobacco. Speaking before Congress on the 40th anniversary of marijuana prohibition, Aug. 2, 1977, former President Jimmy Carter stated, “Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.” More than 25 years later, the time has come to heed his advice and to stop arresting the millions of otherwise law-abiding adults who use marijuana. Note: Unfortuantely, elected officials do not favor legally controlling and taxing marijuana products. Allen F. St. Pierre is executive director and Paul Armentano is senior policy analyst for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Source: Minnesota Daily (MN Edu)Author: Allen F. St. Pierre and Paul Armentano Published: July 27, 2005Copyright: 2005 Minnesota DailyContact: letters mndaily.comWebsite: http://www.mndaily.comNORML -- Cannabis Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #15 posted by Dan B on July 28, 2005 at 12:15:22 PT
A Few Comments
Comment #13 is completely correct when it identifies the United States government as being tyrannical, and I especially appreciate that statement when applied to the United States' current war on cannabis partakers. The Lew Rockwell link posted in comment #13 is interesting for several reasons. First, it was published January 19, 2001, actually before the beginning of the current Bush administration, so what it says about liberals, and specifically about Ted Kennedy, can now be applied to any number of ultra-conservative whackos currently running this country into the ground, from the President to the Senate to the House of Representatives, to the Supreme Court. Case in point: It speaks of Clinton having sent cruise missiles to three different countries in order to deflect media attention from his impeachment trial. Frankly, this is an extremely simplified description of what Clinton did and why (he was fighting Bin Laden, one might recall, but tragically missed his mark). Today we know that the current president and members of his administration lied to Congress, to the United Nations, and to the American people about their justification for going to war in Iraq (WMDs, yellow cake uranium)--a war that resulted in the deaths of somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians, another 1700+ American soldiers, and hundreds of soldiers from other countries, not to mention the maiming of thousands of American soldiers and who-knows-how-many Iraqis. And they did it not to deflect attention from scandal, but to bilk Americans out of billions of dollars ($9 billion are currently "missing" from Iraq) and to set up a system in the Middle East that would be a boon to American oil interests. THAT is tyranny. I agree that disarming the American people (e.g., taking their guns away) is also tyrannical, and few will dispute the fact that our current tax system is tyrannical. But I find it strange that Mr. Rockwell selects the EPA as his target when discussing seizure of personal property, but he makes no mention of the drug war provisions for confiscation of personal property even when no crime has been committed. Seems to me that the drug war is responsible for far more death, far more confiscation of property, and far more destruction of American freedom than anything the EPA has dished out since its inception. All this to say that Lew Rockwell had some points back in January 2001, but we should really examine the issues as they exist today. One thing is certain: corruption has been and continues to be a major component in American politics. That corruption has been around since long before Clinton came to power (most would say at least since World War II, and many would argue that American politics has always been corrupt, though perhaps not of the magnitude that we are seeing today). Certainly, the war on drug users is one of the best examples we have of American political corruption, and that war is mainly the fault of conservatives (with few exceptions), with some liberal collaborators going along for the big bucks (Joe Biden comes to mind). Fro Lew Rockwell to make a one-sided argument about liberals supporting tyranny on the day before an ultra-conservative president is about to take office, with conservatives controlling both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, is about as useful as peeing on a forest fire.Dan B
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by unkat27 on July 28, 2005 at 07:05:05 PT
Re: Meth vs. Mj
I don't know whether this is a conscious intent or not, but meth users are 10 times more likely to commit violence and crimes than cannabis users. As such, they are giving the law business. Maybe that's what they like about meth users, they have more fun with them. Just a thought.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by runruff on July 27, 2005 at 22:24:46 PT:
Enamoured not!
I am open to the fact that corruption is prevalent in both parties in the whith house. It's more like , my crook not your crook. From which crooks hand are you eating? That would be your favorite. I wish we had a big congressonal and a big senatorial broom with which we could do a clean 
sweep both of houses every ten years or so. There is something wrong with any one who would rather spend their lives in this political cesspool than to live a normal happy life with their families, homes, gardens, professions.
Instead of playing head games, brown nosing people they don't really like, power brokering, high stress, high profile,
greatly hated by some, kissed up to by others but never really loved. Not really. Pretend respect. Kaniving, back stabbing, plotting, decieving. What a life style. What kind of person would want it. I could see a real dedicated individual agreeing to serve some time there in the service of their country but to crave it? To want it for a life style, I would say there is something fundamentaly wrong with such a person and should be the last of choices 
to be there. Here is a page of interest you might like to look over. It says a lot.Good evening to all and to all a good night.Namaste
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by mayan on July 27, 2005 at 18:25:26 PT
Qui Bono?
Most of the government agencies, private corporations and some people who publicly support arresting marijuana consumers and benefit from the United States’ misguided marijuana prohibition are: law enforcement (i.e., Drug Enforcement Administration) and so-called anti-drug governmental agencies (i.e., Office of National Drug Control and Policy), private anti-drug groups (i.e., Drug Free America Foundation), drug testing companies; and alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies that do not want to compete with legal and taxed marijuana.Let's not forget the industries which oppose industrial hemp! If the bans on medicinal and recreational cannabis were lifted there would then be no excuse for the fascists to ban industrial hemp. The public is finally connecting the dots and following the money! Qui Bono?THE WAY OUT... C-SPAN to Air Nafeez Ahmed's DC Emergency Truth Convergence 9/11 Presention on July 30, 31 & August 1!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by Hope on July 27, 2005 at 12:50:35 PT
comment 2
It's about money. It's about scrambling for money. It's about stirring up money.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by Hope on July 27, 2005 at 12:39:25 PT're right about that, too.
comment 6
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by FoM on July 27, 2005 at 11:56:56 PT
Glad you liked it.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by b4daylight on July 27, 2005 at 11:00:15 PT
Nice Fom
Congress Grows Impatient with ONDCPSo do I........I think we can see the corelation this way....If alcohol use was illegal it would be our biggest drug problem because more people use it 79 million.They know the can not say cannabis is more dangerous than meth so the say it is the most abused, therfore it is needs all this attention. To be perfectlly honest the government does this elsewhere reacting or overreacting we have seen several examples in the past five years. It is up to the people to demand better and more efficent public service. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by Nick Thimmesch on July 27, 2005 at 10:08:21 PT
BTW: One more thing...
...our pal James Senslessbunny & his staffer are in a bit of an ethics pickle because of the following:Sensenbrenner Aide Quits in ControversyWith Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) facing criticism and ethics questions for pressuring a federal appellate court to increase a defendant's sentence, a congressional aide closely tied to the controversy has been dismissed.Jay Apperson, chief counsel of the Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, was the staff aide who brought the case to Sensenbrenner's attention, and he has publicly defended Sensenbrenner's unusual intervention.Apperson abruptly left the subcommittee last week. A spokesman for Sensenbrenner, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, did not return calls seeking comment.But a Capitol Hill official familiar with the matter said Apperson's departure "had everything to do" with his role in the controversy, in which Sensenbrenner directly contacted the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago to demand an increased sentence for a drug courier.Sensenbrenner could face a complaint before the House ethics committee because House rules prohibit communicating privately with judges on legal matters. In addition, general rules of litigation prohibit contacting judges on a case without notifying all parties, which Sensenbrenner did not.Makes one wonder: have James and/or Jay ever tried to get an increased sentence for a rapist in their district?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by Nick Thimmesch on July 27, 2005 at 10:03:09 PT
Not to get off topic...
...but this was yet another great oped by NORML's ace writers Allen St. Pierre and Paul Armentano: good job guys!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by FoM on July 27, 2005 at 09:58:11 PT
Good afternoon to you! Your greeting is so pleasant for me to read. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Taylor121 on July 27, 2005 at 09:56:48 PT
Even Prohibitionists are like EHHHHH?
The ONDCP is lying to their own supporters and I don't think they are liking it. Welcome to the club boys. The Bush Admin focuses on marijuana for the #s game like Pete said in a previous article. The truth is coming out.More teens are in treatment for marijuana admissions. I'm one of them. You know why? I was arrested. If I wanted to go to jail, I could have refused to go to treatment. That would have been interesting to end up in jail for 6 months over not going to treatment. This debate is so stupid. We won the intellectual war a long time ago. Now all that is left is the politics, and that's the hardest part.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by runruff on July 27, 2005 at 09:50:20 PT:
Unenforceable law.
I once heard somewhere in social science class in college I think
and while reading somewhere that if 10% of society refuses to obey a law that law is unenforceable. Think of the police state that would need to be created to police 10% of the population along with wise and needed enforceable laws. Say the Feds arrested every cannabis user in America. Even if this were possible which it is not It take roughly one hundred people to police, procecute and encarcerate an individual. Including administrative, medical providers,
food providers, guards, clothes, furniture, Prisions ect.By their figures and I know their are many more, 15 million people using cannabis. 15 milliom x 100 the math just doesn't work not to mention in a "republic" where individual rights are suppose to be protected. The laws against hemp/cannabis simply do not merrit the seal of common scense. Which is why these laws are so obviosly purverseGood morning all.Namaste
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 27, 2005 at 09:14:17 PT
Congress Grows Impatient with ONDCP
July 27, 2005 
Key members of Congress are expressing frustration over a perceived lack of leadership from the drug czar's office and are demanding that the White House do more to fight the spread of methamphetamine, the Oregonian reported July 27.Under the Bush administration, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has made marijuana use its top concern. But legislative leaders like Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) say that the agency has been slow to address the explosion of meth use across the country."This committee is trying desperately to say, 'Lead! You're the executive branch,'" said Souder, who chairs the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee.At a hearing this week, Souder and others on the subcommittee said that ONDCP should ditch its current anti-drug strategy in favor of emergency action against meth. "It's the most dangerous drug in America, and we want ONDCP to acknowledge it," said Souder.Deputy Drug Czar Scott Burns said the agency would do more to battle meth nationally. "I'll deliver the message, congressman," Burns said. "I hear you loud and clear."ONDCP officials took flack for recent comments where they defended the agency's focus on marijuana over meth. "The meth issue is totally out of hand," said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). "We need a plan. I don't hear anything that sounds like a plan. This needs to be done on an emergency, expedited basis."Added Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.): "Meth is the biggest threat to the United States, maybe even including al-Qaida."Still, Burns continued to press the case for focusing on marijuana, saying more teens are in treatment for marijuana use than any other drug. He also said that police in the Northeast -- who he said are primarily concerned with heroin use -- "would laugh if we told them there was a meth epidemic."
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by PainWithNoInsurance on July 27, 2005 at 08:40:41 PT
This is gangster policing
Wisconsin sheriff’s deputies should be brought up on murder charges because they have an obligation to follow procedures for busts and just breaking down doors without knocking is probably in violation of those procedures. Is it really worth harrasing and killing citizens for a damn 5 or 6 personal joints. They seem to have too much money to spend on marijuana enforcement----idiots.  
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment