Outside View: Let Science Decide About Pot

  Outside View: Let Science Decide About Pot

Posted by CN Staff on December 09, 2003 at 07:52:01 PT
By Paul Armentano 
Source: United Press International 

Washington -- Canadian Justice Minister Martin Cauchon's decision earlier this month to "fast-track" legislation eliminating criminal penalties for adults caught possessing small quantities of marijuana has, not surprisingly, provoked a bureaucratic outcry in the United States. "The problem is the political leadership in Canada has been utterly unable to come to grips with this," U.S. Drug Czar John Walters recently lamented in an interview. "They're talking about legalization while Rome burns."
Cut the hyperbole. First, the Canadian government is not contemplating legalizing marijuana. Rather, Canada's pending law would institute civil fines instead of criminal penalties for adults who possess less than 1/2 ounce of pot. To put this policy in its proper perspective, 12 states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon -- have adopted similar decriminalization laws. In these states adults may possess up to an ounce or more of pot (28.5 grams) without criminal penalty, and in one state -- Ohio -- adults are allowed to possess as much as 3 ounces of marijuana for their own personal use. Currently more than 30 percent of the U.S. population lives in a place where some type of marijuana decriminalization is the law. According to the federal government, this policy "has had virtually no effect on either the marijuana use or on the related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among young people." Since the 1970s, more than a dozen government-appointed committees -- in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia as well as in other countries -- have issued recommendations regarding marijuana policy. These include the Shafer Commission, appointed by former President Richard Nixon, Canada's Le Dain Commission, and Britain's Wooten Report, all of which concluded that marijuana prohibition causes far more social damage than marijuana use, and the possession of marijuana for personal use should no longer be a criminal offense. The passage of time has done little to sway the minds of these nonpartisan experts.Consider the conclusions of the Wooten Report, originally issued in 1968: "In considering the scale of penalties, our main aim, having regard to our view of the known effects of cannabis, is to remove for practical purposes, the prospect of imprisonment for possession of a small amount and to demonstrate that taking the drug in moderation is a relatively minor offense." Parallel those findings with the recent recommendations of the conservative British Police Foundation, which in a 2001 report concluded: "The law's implementation damages individuals in terms of criminal records and risks to jobs and relationships to a degree that far outweighs any harm that cannabis may be doing to a society. Prison should no longer be a penalty for possession." The millennium may be different, but their analysis remains the same.Scientific inquiries on this side of the Atlantic have yielded equally consistent results.In 1972, Nixon's handpicked Shafer Commission recommended Congress remove criminal penalties for the possession of marijuana for personal use as well as on the "casual distribution of small amounts of marijuana." Ten years later, researchers at the U.S. National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, reaffirmed that prohibition was ineffective and should be "seriously reconsidered." Most recently, a special Canadian House of Lords committee concluded, "The consequences of conviction for possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use are disproportionate to the potential harm associated with that behavior." The committee's findings inspired Canada's current decriminalization push, while at the same time evoking the sort of "sky-is-falling" rhetoric characterized by the U.S. drug czar's comments in the aforementioned interview. Of course, this is just the sort of divergent reaction one has come to expect between Canada and the United States as it pertains to marijuana policy. While the Canadian Parliament explores ways to institute a more health- and science-based approach to its drug policies -- as exemplified by its recent decisions to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana and debate the merits of decriminalization -- U.S. bureaucrats continue to perpetuate failed policies based primarily upon myths, lies and rhetoric. Debates regarding marijuana policy should not be dictated by hyperbole; especially when as in this case, the facts speak for themselves. * Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for The NORML Foundation, a legal, educational and research organization based in Washington that seeks to decriminalize marijuana use in the United States.* United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues.Newshawk: Paul Armentano - United Press InternationalAuthor: Paul ArmentanoPublished: December 02, 2003Copyright 2003 United Press InternationalWebsite: Contact: Articles -- Paul Armentano

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Comment #15 posted by Virgil on December 10, 2003 at 11:31:05 PT
Paul, put your articles up in the comments
Paul, you can put your articles up in the comments. Everybody is working on their words and their approach to explaining their approach to the blissfully ignorant. Put them up here. If you have a speaking engagement tell us about it. You never know how things might work out. You already have an offer to build a website for you. You need to get you a yahoo address for email and fill the blank in that says "email" when you fill in your comment section with username and password. There are people all over the country wanting people to speak for them. You are also a movie in the making even if it is just one that we here at Cnews are watching in our minds. A lot of accomplishment has to do with self identity. If you have done public speaking you have already told yourself that "I, Paul Peterson am a public speaker and people want and need to hear what I say."I could almost bet that Dankhank will make an appearance if you take up public speaking and distribute some CRL CD's. There are agencies that furnish public speakers to events. There is not going to be a more desirable subject than the total prohibion of cannabis. How did we ever get a total prohibition of cannabis? I mean really. How the hell did it happen that hemp could get you thrown in jail for growing it when in the time of the founders it could get you thrown in jail for not growing it. How the ef did things get so upside down?The question before us is if we want to be upside down in a world that is upside down or if we want to be like men and women before us that were upright and saw things straight. Some people pose the question that ask you to identify yourself as being for or against CP. Tonight, my friends, I would like to tell you with straight talk how someone that is upright sees it, so that you may see through my eyes, what the upside down have done to our people and our country and to the people and the other countries of the world.Let's start with the US imposed civil war in Colombia- I were getting a presentation together I would have to start with the broader implications of prohibition even if I were speaking on cannabis. Now if you were speaking on prohibition, cannabis is the shining example of failure because of its popularity, it's compliance with the do no harm principle of medicine even for recreational users (prohibition has all but forced people to smoking it as paraphanalia is illegal and costly and the price makes it unpracticle in food.)Let Jose put up your webpages and keep a presence here. We are all working on turning the world right again, and you are to important to be left out. You are to important not to be employed in the cause also, but you know how that goes. You have a story to tell and you can speak in public on a subject that people are blissfully ignorant on and where most people want change. Yesterday is shot all to hell and tomorrow may never come. Just give them hell today. Good luck Paul and there are tens of millions of people on your side and we all, the upside down included, need you to be a busy man.I do not think I have said this before so here goes - Cannabis Prohibition is senseless.
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Comment #14 posted by jose melendez on December 10, 2003 at 09:41:28 PT
Go for it paul
That invitation to host your pages on my servers remains open, sir. No me at legalize
commerce, industry, fraud
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Comment #12 posted by paulpeterson on December 10, 2003 at 08:33:34 PT

ekim & virgil
Sorry I didn't see your posts yesterday, you see, I was frantically making 22 copies of a BRIEF filed in the ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT, in appeal of the draconian 30 months SUSPENSION of my law license, merely for coming forward to discuss the ILLINOIS MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW we have had here in Illinois (720 ILCS 550, sections 1, 11 & 15). I have been to the ISC 5 times now, first, in trying to STOP FRAUD in the legal "ethical mill". You see, those goons tried to hide pivotal evidence from me (that proved that I filed mandatory ethical charges against attorneys that committed insurance fraud). You see, they had the audacity to try to allege that I had "threatened" charges (which would be a bad thing, really), where, in fact, I already had FILED those charges first (then they tried to hide the filing of the charges!). When I proved, finally, the truth, they merely changed the charge to allege that I "presented" charges with bad purpose, then absolutely argued that my INTENT was irrelevant.Of course, since I had also alleged a "mood regulating" medical necessity for cannabis, they merely opined me "delusional" because I believe in REINCARNATION (and since I readily admitted thusly that I am a "pothead", they figured they could merely discredit me and nobody would believe me, etc.So, in 2001, I came forward, got popped off, and tried at great length to get some organization to help me fund a defense. The ACLU (didn't want to help since I had this "threaten-filed charges" thingy going on). Norml didn't want to help. The MPP even sent me a letter saying DON'T EVER CONTACT US AGAIN (something about being unfocused, blah blah). I tried to contact Soros/Lewis/Sperling, nobody saw any cause to try to work in Illinois, I guess.I have repeatedly tried to get MPP & Norml to update their websites to show Illinois HAD FINE ENABLING LEGISLATION ALREADY. Steven Young even sent a letter to his local rep imploring her to "support medical marijuana" legislation, then the lady sent him a letter CONFIRMING ILLINOIS ALREADY HAS A MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW!Back to the ethical matter. I have ADD and I asked the "lawyer police" for a "job interview", since they refused, I went to the EEOC and got a "right to sue" letter in federal court. I FILED SUIT UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT against the lawyer police (and the Illinois Supreme Court).I also asked for a declaratory judgement regarding the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993" and to declare the CSA unconstitutional (Commerce Clause challenge). Since an Indiana case already confirmed the RFRA is good law in the 7th Circuit, I recently dismissed both federal claims (against the DEA & DOJ).Right now I still have a valid ADA claim under titles I & II. Present status: Yes, I ocassionally do public speaking and I write voluminous articles (nobody prints same, of course). I desperately need an expert witness to support that cannabis may be appropriate treatment for ADD or "bipolar" (the more archaic precursor to ADD diagnosis, it would seem). The obtuseness of my lone, frontal charge to the system (sort of a Don Quixote sort of thing), has convinced a lot of people that I am not worthy of attention.In 2002 I sent letters to Ashcroft & Hutchinson. Asa actually DID RESPOND TO MY DEBATE CHALLENGE, by stating he had no time when he was in town. That same day (8/15 or so) I did have a "medical marijuana" seminar at my local library (Wilmette, Illinois). I chided him for influencing the Maryland legislative vote. (Notice in 2003 he DID NOT TRY TO INTERVENE THERE and we won).Now, Wilmette, Winnetka, Kenilworth, Glenview & Evanston all are starting to "decriminalize" marijuana. My kid even got a "ticket" for a pipe, I went in and got them to drop the ticket, based upon my well-documented claims of religious privilege!I would love to be given some ability to affect change, greater than my abilities at present (without trade, practice, income, credibility, etc.). Anybody that could get me on board to help in some way would be appreciated.Last year, due to constant pressures from governmental agencies, I finally let my web site fall. Let me know what you have in mind. PAUL
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Comment #11 posted by afterburner on December 09, 2003 at 14:24:45 PT:

It's a Matter of Geography, Johnny-Boy
"The problem is the political leadership in Canada has been utterly unable to come to grips with this," U.S. Drug Czar John Walters recently lamented in an interview. "They're talking about legalization while Rome burns." Is that Rome, AL, Rome, GA, Rome, IL, Rome, IN, Rome, IA, Rome, KS, Rome, KY, Rome, LA, Rome, ME, Rome, MS, Rome, MO, Rome, NY, Rome, OH, Rome, OR, Rome, PA, Rome, SC, Rome, TN, or Rome, WI, all in the USA, Mr. Walters? There is no Rome that I know of in Canada. Duh!
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Comment #10 posted by jose melendez on December 09, 2003 at 13:17:23 PT

we don't need money
We should follow Mr. Soros' example and do a poster campaign sans graffiti, perhaps chalk . . .Regime change begins at home.
scared yet?
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Comment #9 posted by john wayne on December 09, 2003 at 13:03:51 PT

"science" is sold to the highest bidder
and that's a scientific fact.
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Comment #8 posted by ekim on December 09, 2003 at 12:59:41 PT

Study the Hemp plant they cried--no said the Law
found four hits with the name Briskin
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Comment #7 posted by ekim on December 09, 2003 at 12:45:12 PT

good one Virge
Yes PP would make a great speaker. Remember the Senator Bowls and she is around 70 years young she was the sponsor of Hemp Bills in IL.which passed both the House and Senate only to be vetoed by the Guv. Professor Dan Briskin from Univ. of Il. called for the Univerisity to be able to grow and study Hemp -- bill was faught against by Law Enforcement which said that they could not tell Hemp from Med Cannabis. Where do the people think the new jobs and products will come from. Why don't we listen when the Professors are tellen us about how this plant will solve many problems we now face. Dennis Kucinich must start talking of these new products he should talk about a new one everytime he goes into a new State. He should have a link on his web page to so everyone can see what we are missen.
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Comment #6 posted by Virgil on December 09, 2003 at 11:00:05 PT

I would like to see Paul debate
I would think that Paul Peterson would do some educating anytime he speaks or debates on the subject of Cannabis. Soros would do well to employ PP as a PP(paid professional.) From the side of the prohibitionist, I would say that PP is a dangerous man. Paul's training as a lawyer would help, but I think the sincerity of his heart and the knowledge in his mind would make him a slayer of drug warriors. Someone needs to get him a stage and make a DVD. Some organization needs to employ him full-time so that we might end this War of Insanity sooner rather than later.

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Comment #5 posted by ekim on December 09, 2003 at 10:26:25 PT

When is the debate between Walters and Soros ?????
Paul how can we get Mr. Walters to debate with Mr. Soros as Walters said he wishes to debate Soros. How can Dennis Kucinich debate this issue one guess is with Mr. Nader and Gov Gary Johnson ( Johnson has stated on C-Span that Drug War is worse thing on earth) as debate would draw a huge crowd. Speaking of Dennis what ever happen to Willie Nelson saying he would have a fundraiser for D-man.  EVENT:
Join The Alliance For a Live Web Chat
How can I get the presidential candidates to talk about drug policy reform? What's up with Rush Limbaugh? What is the status of medical marijuana legalization? What craziness is the Drug Czar up to? Could the RAVE Act be repealed any time soon?Join the country's preeminent drug policy reformers, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Alliance, and Ira Glasser, retired ACLU director and president of the Alliance, when they take your questions in a live online chat.December 9, 2003
3:00 - 4:00 pm EST 

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Comment #4 posted by FoM on December 09, 2003 at 09:52:32 PT

Thanks for the stats. It most definitely was a record! I was surprised when I saw it but happy to know that so many people care about the news but mostly the news about the Kubbys.
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Comment #3 posted by Virgil on December 09, 2003 at 09:36:11 PT

You know, Walters made sense
U.S. Drug Czar John Walters recently lamented in an interview. "They're talking about legalization while Rome burns." The domain and power of the drug Bizarre needs to be destroyed. His Rome and his Czariness/sorriness (I liked that myself)need burning. Hanging might be a better word though.Cnew had a new record on hits yesterday- 172,879.

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Comment #2 posted by FoM on December 09, 2003 at 09:16:54 PT

Hi Paul
Good to see you. I hope you have a Happy Holiday Season!
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Comment #1 posted by paulpeterson on December 09, 2003 at 09:14:09 PT

Remember the Institute of Medicine also chimed in in 1999 with "medical" potential, etc.And PLEASE recall that Illinois has had a fine medical marijuana law on the books since 1971 (made world class in 1979), with "certification" language that passes muster under the recent 9th Circuit decision (Conant v. P. Walters).Just checking in, somewhere in der faterlund.
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