It's Been a War on Pot Smokers for 35 Years

  It's Been a War on Pot Smokers for 35 Years

Posted by CN Staff on March 22, 2007 at 08:56:14 PT
By Paul Armentano, AlterNet 
Source: AlterNet 

USA -- Thirty-five years ago this month, a congressionally mandated commission on U.S. drug policy did something extraordinary: They told the truth about marijuana.On March 22, 1972, the National Commission on Marihuana (sic) and Drug Abuse -- chaired by former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer -- recommended Congress amend federal law so that the use and possession of pot would no longer be a criminal offense. State legislatures, the commission added, should do likewise.
"The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use," concluded the commission, which included several conservative appointees of then President Richard Nixon. "It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior, which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance."... Therefore, the commission recommends ... [that the] possession of marihuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration, no longer be an offense."Nixon, true to his "law-and-order" roots, shelved the report -- announcing instead that when it came to weed, "We need, and I use the word 'all out war' on all fronts." For the last 35 years, that's what we've had.Consider this: Since the Shafer Commission issued its recommendations:Approximately 16.5 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana violations -- more than 80 percent of them on minor possession charges.U.S. taxpayers have spent well over $20 billion enforcing criminal marijuana laws, yet marijuana availability and use among the public remains virtually unchanged.Nearly one-quarter of a million Americans have been denied federal financial aid for secondary education because of anti-drug provisions to the Higher Education Act. Most of these applicants were convicted of minor marijuana possession offenses.Total U.S. marijuana arrests increased 165 percent during the 1990s, from 287,850 in 1991 to well over 700,000 in 2000, before reaching an all-time high of nearly 800,000 in 2005. However, according to the government's own data, this dramatic increase in the number of persons arrested for pot was not associated with any reduction in the number of new users, any reduction in marijuana potency, or any increases in the black market price of marijuana.Currently, one in eight inmates incarcerated for drug crimes is behind bars for pot, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1 billion per year. Perhaps most troubling, the factor most likely to determine whether or not these citizens serve jail time or not isn't the severity of their "crime," but rather where they live. Today there are growing regional disparities in marijuana penalties and marijuana law enforcement -- ranging from no penalty in Alaska to potential life in prison in Oklahoma. In fact, if one were to drive from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore., he or she would traverse more than a dozen jurisdictions, all with varying degrees of penalties and/or tolerance toward the possession and use of pot.Does this sound like a successful national policy?There is another approach, of course. The Shafer Commission showed the way more than three decades ago.Marijuana isn't a harmless substance, and those who argue for a change in the drug's legal status do not claim it to be. However, as noted by the commission, pot's relative risks to the user and society are arguably fewer than those of alcohol and tobacco, and they do not warrant the expenses associated with targeting, arresting and prosecuting hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.According to federal statistics, about 94 million Americans -- that's 40 percent of the U.S. population age 12 or older -- self-identify as having used cannabis at some point in their lives, and relatively few acknowledge having suffered significant deleterious health effects due to their use. America's public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals. Complete Title: It's Been an 'All Out War' on Pot Smokers for 35 YearsPaul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, D.C. Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Paul Armentano, AlterNetPublished: March 22, 2007Copyright: 2007 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:NORML Pot Prisoners Cost Americans $1 Billion a Year Billion Dollars a Year for Pot?

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Comment #8 posted by OverwhelmSam on March 22, 2007 at 12:56:06 PT
What Goes Around...
Silly moralists hypocrites, marijuana laws just hurt our Society. However, if they want to put us in jail for a "crime" that hurts no one except maybe remotely the consumer, their lives can and are being destroyed too.A multitude of politicians, law enforcement officers and school administrators have lost their careers, their liberty, their lives and the respect of the public over the same period for buying into cannabis prohibition. And for what, just to try to prevent me from smoking this joint? Whatever. I'm sure the marijuana haters think it's worth it. Click.
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Comment #7 posted by whig on March 22, 2007 at 11:40:37 PT
what works
Cannabis. Because it helps people learn compassion.
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Comment #6 posted by whig on March 22, 2007 at 11:39:51 PT
economic plan
I think what drives people to accumulate more is fear of loss and inability to produce. So we need to guarantee something to people if we want them to know they are safe, but some people don't want to help the fellow person. If you force people to give to this kind of social program then some antisocial people will get angry and violent.So we need a way to make this work voluntarily.
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Comment #5 posted by whig on March 22, 2007 at 11:37:09 PT
I realized a long time ago that a person only needs a certain amount to be comfortable. I think it's the same with a society.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 22, 2007 at 09:43:29 PT
One More Article from AlterNet
Why Having More No Longer Makes Us Happy***By Bill McKibben, Mother JonesMarch 22, 2007The formula of human well-being used to be simple: Make money, get happy. So why is the old axiom suddenly turning on us? URL:
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Comment #3 posted by goneposthole on March 22, 2007 at 09:26:51 PT

Let's talk sense
"If the Republicans stop telling lies about us, we will stop telling the truth about them." - Adlai Stevenson"Once a government resorts to terror against its own population to get what it wants, it must keep using terror against its own population to get what it wants. A government that terrorizes its own people can never stop. If such a government ever lets the fear subside and rational thought return to the populace, that government is finished."
--Michael Rivero AND... don't stop smoking cannabis. It is the only thing that makes sense.
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on March 22, 2007 at 09:24:02 PT

SDS, comment #1
I like this. I'm too young to have understood the original SDS actions at the time but, reading the article in post #1, I would say this is exactly what this country is in need of now. Go America's youth!!!Just don't forget us older folks that are on your side!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 22, 2007 at 08:59:57 PT

Off Topic
The '60s Are Gone, But One of Its Most Controversial Organizations Is Back***By Astra Taylor, AlterNet March 22, 2007Since its fiery demise in 1969, there have been various attempts to revive Students for a Democratic Society. All such efforts failed ... until recently. In April of 1965 a young man named Paul Potter took the stage at the first march on Washington against the war in Vietnam. "What kind of system is it that justifies the U.S. or any other country seizing the destinies of the Vietnamese people and using them callously for its own purpose?" he asked the crowd, before enjoining them to "name that system, describe it, analyze it, understand it, and change it."URL:
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