Legalized Marijuana Complicates Drug War

Legalized Marijuana Complicates Drug War
Posted by CN Staff on December 08, 2008 at 06:39:40 PT
By Sam Stanton
Source: Merced Sun-Star 
Sacramento, CA -- Off the coast of Baja California, a Coast Guard cutter seized 137 bales of marijuana two weeks ago as they were being dumped by the crew of a speed boat.In San Francisco, there are more registered pot clubs than middle schools, police stations or Taco Bells, according to the federal government.
And in Sacramento, state and federal officials recently announced the eradication of 2.9 million marijuana plants being grown around California. They said it was a record haul. So, against that backdrop, how sharply does law enforcement focus on arresting marijuana users? "We don't," said Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness.For years, personal marijuana use hasn't been a priority for local law enforcement. Authorities say someone caught with a joint may face a penalty equal to a traffic citation.But battles over marijuana have never seemed hotter, and proponents of legalizing the plant say they hope the incoming Barack Obama administration will look more kindly on that notion, or at least stop federal raids of medical marijuana providers."I think we're entering a new era now, and I think we're going to see the culture is going to be changing," said Dale Gieringer, California director for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "Since the 1980s there's been a very retro social climate like the '50s, but I suspect that things are going to open up."If people take a good serious look at what the war on pot is costing, they're going to figure out it's a losing proposition for the taxpayers," Gieringer added. "It makes more sense to tax and regulate marijuana legally than it does to pay taxes to criminalize people and put them in jail." This is not a new argument, and Gieringer realizes politicians in Washington are focused more on issues such as the economy and war than on marijuana legislation.Yet there is no denying marijuana use remains a national issue. In November, voters decriminalized it in Massachusetts. And Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana, the 13th state to do so.Those votes, however, do not mean smooth sailing for proponents of decriminalized marijuana use.California has approved medical marijuana and a reduction in penalties for personal use of small amounts.But despite Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996, the federal government still considers such use illegal. Federal agents have cracked down on growers who say they are simply providing the drug for people with a certified medical need.Last month U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott announced the sentencing of two Modesto men convicted of using medical marijuana laws to conceal a major pot-selling business.One was sentenced to 20 years in prison, the other to more than 21 years for what authorities said was a business that generated more than $9 million.Last month, the California Supreme Court also restricted elements of the state's medical marijuana law with a ruling limiting who can supply marijuana to patients.That decision resulted from the case of a Santa Cruz County man charged with cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale. He came to authorities' attention after a bank teller noticed cash he was depositing smelled heavily of marijuana.According to court records, Roger Mentch told sheriff's detectives the marijuana plants they found in his house were for medical purposes, that he used the drug, and that he provided it to five other medical marijuana users.The court ruled Mentch had no right to use a defense that he was a "primary caregiver" to the five patients because his care "consisted principally of supplying marijuana and instructing on its use." The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has worked to ridicule the growth of medical marijuana in California, noting in a recent press release that there are 24 registered pot clubs in San Francisco but only 14 middle schools, 14 police stations and 18 Taco Bell franchises.Authorities say medical marijuana is often the excuse from those caught using the drug. Last month at California State University, Sacramento, a student smoking pot in his dorm room was cited, despite his claim it was medicinal. Source: Merced Sun-Star (CA)Author: Sam StantonPublished: December 8, 2008Copyright: 2008 Merced Sun-StarContact: editor mercedsun-star.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment