Cannabis News NORML - It's Time for a Change!
  It's Time To End This Modern Prohibition
Posted by CN Staff on November 01, 2009 at 04:18:42 PT
By Cynthia Tucker 
Source: Appeal-Democrat 

justice USA -- Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon used the unfortunate phrase "War on Drugs," launching a misguided crusade that has encouraged street violence, eaten away at state budgets and packed our prisons with nonviolent offenders.

The nation's punitive approach to drugs has turned us into a penal colony. We lock up more of our citizens per capita than brutal dictators like Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro.

There's an old saying about seeing the opportunity in a crisis. Perhaps the multiple crises caused by the Great Recession —which has bled state and local treasuries and swelled the federal deficit — will prompt lawmakers to end this futile era of prohibition, which has been costly far beyond the money spent.

Much of the social cost has been borne by black men, who use illegal drugs at rates about equal to whites but are nearly 12 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug convictions as adult white men, according to a Human Rights Watch report released last year. That's because lazy tactics encourage local police officers to focus on penny-ante street dealers to plump up their arrest records.

That practice can have tragic consequences, as it did in 2006, when Atlanta police fraudulently targeted the home of an innocent elderly woman, Kathryn Johnston, and shot her dead. More often, those tactics yield less dramatic but equally tragic results: Prison has disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent black men, ripping them from their families and neighborhoods, rendering them unemployable and, therefore, unmarriageable.

(Any offender, black, white or brown, who murders, rapes or maims deserves to stay under lock-and-key. But the streets are not made safer when we put nonviolent offenders in prison for selling or possessing small quantities of illegal drugs.)

If you prefer a cool-headed focus on finances, though, that, too, shows wasted resources. Counting local, state and federal spending, the nation fights this losing war at an annual cost of more than $40 billion. Attorney General Eric Holder implicitly acknowledged those costs when he announced recently that the feds, with "limited resources," would no longer punish users of medical marijuana, as long as they follow state laws.

That was a perfectly sensible move, though a modest one. Holder followed up with highly publicized raids in several U.S. cities, including greater Atlanta, on a Mexican drug cartel. The message? The Obama administration may not call it a war, but they will employ the same tactics to halt the savagery of drug thugs.

Yet, the violence associated with the drug trade is fueled by the illegality of the product, just as it was during Prohibition. Al Capone wreaked havoc in Chicago, all the while making millions (even way back then) from the sale of illegal alcohol. When the 18th Amendment was repealed, the violence dropped off precipitously. If customers can buy their intoxicant legally, gangsters have little reason to get in the business.

Most lawmakers are too cautious to advocate de-criminalizing all narcotics, and that's probably just as well. Methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine are highly addictive substances that should be regarded with due caution. But there is every reason for local and federal law enforcement authorities to target only big-time dealers, measured not by ounces or bags but monetary value. Anybody caught with less than a thousand dollars worth of coke is not even a court jester, much less a drug kingpin.

California, meanwhile — so often the cutting edge — is considering legalizing marijuana outright and taxing its sale. If the state succeeds — if it can find a new revenue stream from legal marijuana sales without obvious collateral damage — other states will certainly want to do the same. This era of prohibition could end one state at a time.

Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Her column appears Sundays.

Source: Appeal-Democrat (CA)
Author: Cynthia Tucker
Published: November 1, 2009
Copyright: 2009 Freedom Communications
URL: http://drugsense.org/url/5jJ7JgN6
Website: http://www.appeal-democrat.com/
Contact: http://drugsense.org/url/EHLAyrsa

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Comment #21 posted by FoM on November 02, 2009 at 18:07:46 PT
charmed quark
Thank you. I have it posted now.

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Comment #20 posted by charmed quark on November 02, 2009 at 17:43:30 PT
Slate: The End of Prohibition
http://www.slate.com/id/2234017/?from=rss

"Within 10 years, it seems a reasonable guess that Americans will travel freely to Cuba, that all states will recognize gay unions, and that few will retain criminal penalties for marijuana use by individuals. Whether or not Democrats retain control of Congress, whether or not Obama is re-elected, and whether they happen sooner or later than expected, these reforms are inevitable—not because politics has changed but because society has."

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Comment #19 posted by FoM on November 02, 2009 at 05:53:10 PT
Dagman11
Change is coming. It will happen. It will take time to get all states to understand that cannabis isn't a bad thing. We have to see serious changes happen in the red states and then I believe it could happen fairly quickly.

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Comment #18 posted by MikeC on November 01, 2009 at 17:09:26 PT
Dagman11...
From a recent interview:

George Will says "we are probably in the process now of legalizing marijuana"

http://current.com/items/91290779_george-will-us-probably-in-the-process-of-legalizing-marijuana.htm

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Comment #17 posted by runruff on November 01, 2009 at 16:49:32 PT
"everything will become [more] centralized."
I meant to say localized.

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Comment #16 posted by FoM on November 01, 2009 at 16:43:02 PT
Dagman11
I think some articles are trying to lead us in that direction but I haven't heard anyone in power say anything except what the Obama Administration has said about medical marijuana. What I mean is some of it is wishful thinking rather then factual I believe. The polls haven't turned in our favor yet. We haven't even hit 50% but we will in a few more years I think.

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Comment #15 posted by runruff on November 01, 2009 at 16:16:17 PT
Kapt,
Some would say I'm a dreamer, that I don't understand what I am talking about, the enormity of global and national economics, something over my head?

I was explaining to my wife just today how the full legalization utilization of cannabis/hemp will create, over time, a complete redistribution of wealth and then of course a redistribution of power would inevitably follow. I predict that everything will become [more] centralized.

I understand this. The powers that be understand this better than anyone which is why they fight tooth and nail to maintain a prohibition on their own demise.

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Comment #14 posted by Dagman11 on November 01, 2009 at 16:05:23 PT
Question
I read a quote that I found very interesting. Someone said, "The US is in the process of legalizing marijuana". Do you agree? Has the gradual process of repealing marijuana prohibition begun? Thanks for your insight in advance.

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Comment #13 posted by FoM on November 01, 2009 at 13:56:02 PT
charmed quark
You're welcome. I don't like Christie but I do like Corzine. I'll keep my fingers crossed that Corzine wins.

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Comment #12 posted by charmed quark on November 01, 2009 at 13:42:27 PT
Thanks, FoM
Corzine and Christie are in a statistical dead heat, so it's anybody's guess who will win.

Corzine, of course, is very supportive of the proposed law.

Christie has said he will support medical cannabis if more restrictions are put on it. It's already extremely restricted in the proposed legislation. I don't see how it could be restricted anymore and still benefit anybody.

The bill is likely to be signed into law before the new governor takes office. But an unsupportive governor may make it harder to get the system moving.

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Comment #11 posted by charmed quark on November 01, 2009 at 13:37:52 PT
Then vs. now
Actually, cannabis was not as demonized back around 1970 as it was until recently. So there was less need for education.

Many, many people were seeing their children caught up in the justice system for marijuana, so they wanted the laws changed.

Although back then, except in some states like Texas and Oklahoma, the penalties were not very severe for possession or growing small amounts.

Most people considered it relatively harmless and many areas had essentially decriminalized it. I know where I lived, in a Southern state, that if you got caught with a "lid" it was a $100 fine. Big industry in some counties, catching hippies with dope.

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Comment #10 posted by FoM on November 01, 2009 at 13:36:16 PT
charmed quark
If any Republican wins over Obama we could go back to where we were before Obama but Obama is very popular and it will be hard to get anyone good enough in the Republican ranks to beat him luckily. I hope Corzine wins in your state since he is for MMJ.

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Comment #9 posted by MikeC on November 01, 2009 at 13:26:51 PT
charmed quark...
"BUT - I well remember the climate before Nixon took office"

Big difference however in public opinion on marijuana now versus then. The people of this country have been educated on the facts surrounding marijuana and are demanding change. The media is on board as are many, many politicians.

I look to the future in anticipation of freedom!!!

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Comment #8 posted by charmed quark on November 01, 2009 at 12:34:21 PT
Turning tide
I agree that the tide is strongly turning against cannabis prohibition. So much so that, in plans we are putting together for medical cannabis in my state, I am cautioning that we shouldn't expect current conditions to last more than 3 years. I expect after that we will have some sort of legalization and this will impact how we go about doing medical cannabis.

BUT - I well remember the climate before Nixon took office. Newspapers were calling for a regulated cannabis market. We all thought it would be legalized in a few years.

We all know how that turned out. At the peak, cannabis was somehow conflated with crack cocaine ( which was conflated with all that is evil to suppress poor blacks).

So while I fully expect the push for at least decriminalization to continue, and suspect most states will consider legalization, if someone like Huckabee wins the next Presidential election, all bets are off.

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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on November 01, 2009 at 10:04:05 PT:

RunRuff, the fact is, so do our opponents
And they read here religiously, in fact. But, despite Sun T'zu's admonition to 'know your enemy', they still don't fully comprehend what motivates us, because they, themselves, cannot conceive of what 'personal sovereignty' means.

The idea of 'self regulation', even though many of them practice it themselves to a degree, they can't understand that that's what we also seek.

And then, there are the authoritarians. The people who become apoplectic if they tell you to put the fork on the left side of the dinner plate and you put it on the right. The type who think you're 'defying' them, when in fact you never granted them power over you to begin with. Home-grown tin-pot dictators seeking adoring and pliable subjects, when we insist upon being citizens.

These will be the last types we will have to deal with once the laws change, for people like that have had their way for so long, they think it is equivalent to the old 'divine right of kings'. They'll be hurting a-plenty when those imaginary crowns they think they're entitled to wear get knocked off their heads come re-legalization.

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Comment #6 posted by Hope on November 01, 2009 at 09:55:21 PT
Ms. Cynthia Tucker
Extraordinarily well done. Pulitzer quality.

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Comment #5 posted by runruff on November 01, 2009 at 09:22:16 PT
Smart girl!
It looks like Ms. Tucker reads C/News!

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Comment #4 posted by John Tyler on November 01, 2009 at 07:52:55 PT
agree
Something big is going on when a big time newspaper, with an award-winning writer, in Georgia no less, comes out with an article like this. It reminds me of when the media turned against the Vietnam War, now they are turning against the Drug War.

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Comment #3 posted by FoM on November 01, 2009 at 07:33:56 PT
kaptinemo
It really is happening.

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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on November 01, 2009 at 07:22:33 PT:

The gauntlet's been thrown down!
It's happening. It's finally happening. The media has shifted away from the 'titter factor' in covering matters involving cannabis prohibition, and is beginning to take the subject as seriously as it has deserved to be taken, all along.

And, as was predicted here, ten years ago, it's because the economic situation in this country can no longer support this patently insane prohibition.

It was predicted here ten years ago that when times got so tight that the economic system was too severely strained from all the huge budgets, trade deficits, military adventurism, etc., that the media would begin to state what anyone with eyes and three brain cells to click together could see.

And when that happens, while the electorate suffers from a lack of the money (for now-desperately-needed social welfare programs) that's been thrown down the black hole of the DrugWar, the circumstances will arise so that the media will feel emboldened to do what it has always feared doing before, and that's challenge the basic premises of the DrugWar.

The above article is one such challenge, and more will be heard, until the long-obstructed public debate as to the necessity for a DrugWar takes place. And on that day, the DrugWar will die. It may take a year or two, but die it will. A death that can't come soon enough.

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Comment #1 posted by rancher on November 01, 2009 at 06:19:37 PT:

Our time is coming
Its exciting that there are so many editorials calling for legalization. The tide is turning!

[ Post Comment ]

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