Decriminalize Marijuana
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Decriminalize Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on June 07, 2009 at 05:02:57 PT
By Marie Myung-Ok Lee
Source: Los Angeles Times
USA -- I'm on the phone getting a recipe for hashish butter. Not from my dealer but from Lester Grinspoon, a physician and emeritus professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. And not for a party but for my 9-year-old son, who has autism, anxiety and digestive problems, all of which are helped by the analgesic and psychoactive properties of marijuana. I wouldn't be giving it to my child if I didn't think it was safe.
I came to marijuana while searching for a safer alternative to the powerful antipsychotic drugs, such as Risperdal, that are typically prescribed for children with autism and other behavioral disorders. There have been few studies on the long-term effects of these drugs on a growing child's brain, and in particular autism, a disorder whose biochemical mechanisms are poorly understood. But there is much documentation of the risks, which has caused the Food and Drug Administration to require the highest-level "black box" warnings of possible side effects that include permanent Parkinson's disease-like tremors, metabolic disorders and death. A panel of federal drug experts in 2008 urged physicians to use caution when prescribing these medicines to children, as they are the most susceptible to side effects.We live in Rhode Island, one of more than a dozen states -- including California -- with medical marijuana laws. That makes giving our son cannabis for a medical condition legal. But we are limited in its use. We cannot take it on a plane on a visit to his grandmother in Minnesota.Even though we are not breaking the law, I still wonder what my neighbors would think if they knew we were giving our son what most people only think of as an illegal "recreational" drug. Marijuana has always carried that illicit tang of danger -- "reefer madness" and foreign drug cartels. But in 1988, Drug Enforcement Administration Judge Francis L. Young, after two years of hearings, deemed marijuana "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. ... In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume."Beyond helping people like my son, the reasons to legalize cannabis on a federal level are manifold. Anecdotal evidence from patients already attests to its pain-relieving properties, and the benefits in quelling chemotherapy-induced nausea and wasting syndrome are well documented. Future studies may find even more important medical uses.Including marijuana in the war on drugs has only proved foolhardy -- and costly. By keeping marijuana illegal and prices high, illicit drug money from the U.S. sustains the murderous narco-traffickers in Mexico and elsewhere. In fact, after seeing how proximity to marijuana growers affected the small Mexican village of Alamos, where my husband spent much of his childhood, I was adamant about never entering into that economy of violence.Because Rhode Island has no California-like medical marijuana dispensaries, the patient must apply for a medical marijuana license and then find a way to procure the cannabis. We floundered on our own until we finally connected with a local horticultural school graduate who agreed to provide our son's organic marijuana. But given the seedy underbelly of the illegal drug trade, combined with the current economic collapse, even our grower has to be mindful of not exposing himself to robbery.Legalizing marijuana not only removes the incentives for this underground economy, it would allow for regulation and taxation of the product, just like cigarettes and alcohol. The potential for abuse is there, as it is with any substance, but toxicology studies have not even been able to establish a lethal dose at typical-use levels. In fact, in 1988, Young of the DEA further stated that "it is estimated that ... a smoker would theoretically have to consume ... nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about 15 minutes to induce a lethal response." Nor is it physically addicting, unlike your daily Starbucks, as anyone who has suffered from a caffeine withdrawal headache can attest.Although it has been demonized for years, marijuana hasn't been illegal in the U.S. for that long. The cannabis plant became criminalized on a federal level in 1937, largely because of the efforts of one man, Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the then newly formed Bureau of Narcotics, largely through sensationalistic stories of murder and mayhem conducted supposedly under the influence of cannabis. Cannabis was still listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia, or USP, until 1941 as a household drug useful for treating headaches, depression, menstrual cramps and toothaches, and drug companies worked to develop a stronger strain.In 1938, a skeptical Fiorello LaGuardia, mayor of New York, appointed a committee to conduct the first in-depth study of marijuana's actual effects. It found that, despite the government's fervent claims, marijuana did not cause insanity or act as a gateway drug. It also found no scientific reason for its criminalization. In 1972, President Nixon's Shafer Commission similarly concluded that cannabis should be re-legalized.Both recommendations were ignored, and since then billions of dollars have been spent enforcing the ban. Public policy analyst Jon Gettman, author of the 2007 report, "Lost Revenues and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws," estimated marijuana-related annual costs of law enforcement at $10.7 billion.I was heartened to hear California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent call for the U.S. to at least look at other nations' experiences with legalizing marijuana -- and to open a debate. And given the real security threats the nation faces, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.'s announcement that the federal government would no longer conduct raids on legal medicinal marijuana dispensaries was a prudent move. Decriminalizing marijuana is the logical next step.Marie Myung-Ok Lee teaches at Brown University and is working on a novel about medical malpractice.Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: Marie Myung-Ok LeePublished: June 7, 2009Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #9 posted by rchandar on June 07, 2009 at 18:06:25 PT:
One More Thing
Neither you nor me were there in October, 1937, when the Tax Act cleared Congress. Thing is, marijuana was criminalized simply by default: very few Americans had tried it or even knew what it was, meriting easy passage. The problem is: we have a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of good information about plant genetics, psychology and psychiatry, folk musics, cultures, and philosophies, and clinical rehabilitation patterns today. Why is it we can't make it work? Most people I come across seem like a bunch of dunderheads in a brainwashed daze, and it's easy to slip into it because of the necessary dynamic of earning a living. When we know what we know, what is it that stops us from bringing legalization to reality?--rchandar
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Comment #8 posted by rchandar on June 07, 2009 at 18:02:29 PT:
The Time Is Right
...but I doubt we should ever really try to quash tobacco and alcohol. Our goal shouldn't be to take down the Constitution and create a "marijuana republic" because the United States is simply too large a country for that to happen. We shouldn't be in the business of taking away freedoms that already exist. Though, I admit, bringing up purported "war criminals" who clearly overstepped their bounds is indeed a sweet thought.Free the Weed.--rchandar
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Comment #7 posted by rchandar on June 07, 2009 at 17:59:48 PT:
Sinsemillia Jones
It makes sense, still one of our main problems is that so many of us have so many theories of how legalization would work. Then, would we implement it federally, as a national drug control as Holland did, or through states, where different states would figure different regulations and taxation schemes. I agree, we can basically throw out the moral paradigm--lots of people who don't smoke weed are among the most licentious, corrupt, and even sinister human beings. But though we have a good leadership via NORML etc, the vast majority of pot heads garner their perspective from rock stars and entertainers, who may have active political perspectives but are usually fairly isolated critics teaching the young and old to dream, to explore, to question. Every movement against oppression faces this problem. Countries getting their independence from Europe, for example, faced off against themselves because most of the crucial time was spent in prisons protesting against injustice: as government, and as arbiters of a fair system, they found out that they simply had not resolved their own private differences of opinion. Some regions will have an economy perfectly geared to a legal system (California, New York)and commercial distribution, whereas other states--especially the South parts of the West and Midwest, simply need to reform their moral and punitive systems to honor basic human rights. The NORML conferences are a good idea, but even the Mafia would once in awhile have a "meeting" to determine the best approach. Agreement is hard to come by, but we're getting there.--rchandar
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on June 07, 2009 at 15:45:42 PT
Makes you wonder about aliens, doesn't it?"And, it should be added, thinks the prohibition of alcohol worked!"
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Comment #5 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on June 07, 2009 at 12:14:04 PT
One price we don't pay anymore....
...this asshole's salary -"Kevin A. Sabet worked at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Clinton and Bush administrations. He is currently a consultant in private practice."And, it should be added, thinks the prohibition of alcohol worked! At least, that is his argument.It would be nice, if all these folks like Sabet would be intellectually honest, and when they argue against legal cannabis by claiming that legal alcohol is a failure, would go ahead and advocate the re-enactment of the 18th amendment.It would seem, if they had the courage of their convictions, the prohibitionists would be advocating the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco, too.Wonder why they don't?
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Comment #4 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on June 07, 2009 at 11:13:29 PT
When all your "facts" are false assumptions..'s easy to articulate your prejudice and ignorance -"In fact, both of our two already legal drugs -- alcohol and tobacco -- offer chilling illustrations of how an open market fuels greater harms."First off, there are a whole lot more than 2 legal drugs in this country. Pharmacies and even grocery stores carry all sorts of over the counter drugs, and health stores stock all sorts of medicinal herbs.And considering that alcohol and tobacco are poisonous and cannabis isn't, perhaps a better "drug" comparison would be with the completely legal, even to children, caffeine.In fact, coffee, tea, and "soft" drinks offer a reassuring illustration of how an open market for a relatively benign and sometimes beneficial drug causes the least harm to individual users as well as society as a whole.But the author insists -"Legal alcohol serves as a good example: The $8 billion in tax revenue generated from that widely used drug does little to offset the nearly $200 billion in social costs attributed to its use."So, sounds like alcohol prohibition worked, which, of course, everyone knows it didn't. The problem is, he compares the legal tax revenue with the legal social costs, when the proper comparison would be between legal and illegal costs.So, if legal alcohol costs society $200 billion and we get $8 billion in taxes, that would be a sum total cost of $192 billion, which is just the first half of the comparison.Under alcohol prohibition, there would not only be no tax revenue, there would be substantial enforcement costs. Without regulation or revenue to prevent such, tainted alcohol, sales to children, price gauging, and mob violence would cause societal costs to increase.So, it's quite possible that in addition to losing all taxes, that alcohol prohibition would cost at least $50 billion for unsuccessful enforcement, and increase health care and social services cost to society by at least 50% to over $300 billion.So by taking the authors figures at face value, and extrapolating what he left out, alcohol prohibition would probably cost at least 350 to 400 billion dollars a year, or about twice as much as the $192 billion the author claims it costs us for legal regulation.
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Comment #3 posted by Brandon Perera on June 07, 2009 at 07:00:40 PT:
Where the crooks who can deem its lethal?
I enjoyed reading this article it is very interesting. I don't understand why people think it hurts you, I wish people would make cigarretes illegal. Maybe theres a reason why the ATF is trump over all other agencies. Because they keep the flow and money coming into the government from alcohol, tobacco, firearms. The government said that marijuana is bad for the environment when they spraying toxic chemicals over the plants by flying in aircraft. If people grew marijuana they would have more experience in growing a garden with a variety of foods. 
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Comment #2 posted by runruff on June 07, 2009 at 05:57:49 PT
The price we've paid for prohibition!
How can anyone who writes so articulately be so blind to the absolute backwardness of his own thinking?I have a sister like this!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 07, 2009 at 05:11:45 PT
Commentary: The Price We'll Pay For Legalizing Pot
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