Weeding Out The Facts

Weeding Out The Facts
Posted by CN Staff on April 20, 2007 at 06:34:06 PT
By Katy Bruck
Source: Daily Collegian
Massachusetts -- Believe it or not, marijuana is a commonly discussed and debated aspect of college life. The plant itself is pretty harmless, especially compared to alcohol, cigarettes or harder drugs, and it could comfort thousands of critically and chronically ill cancer and AIDS patients.Most of the problems with the marijuana decriminalization/legalization debate revolve around rhetoric. It tends to elicit skepticism particularly of the reform coalitions that are based on college campuses.
Any campaign is going to utilize rhetoric to further their cause, but an important question any young activist should ask themselves is why they feel so passionately about what they're fighting for.One might be shocked to hear this, but nearly sixty percent of young people in the United States have used marijuana at least once in their lives. This percentage seems high, considering marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance, meaning its illegality is determined by "having a high potential for abuse" and no officially recognized medicinal benefits. Of course, the legitimacy of these claims has been hotly debated. Many argue that marijuana carries distinct medicinal benefits like those mentioned above, but more importantly that legalizing it would save hundred of thousands, if not millions of dollars in policing fees. Countries like Canada and Germany are even well on their way to decriminalizing marijuana, preferring to charge minimum fines and more flexible punishment over mandatory sentencing and jail time, as in the United States. Considering how culturally prevalent marijuana is, and its comparative harmlessness, decriminalization and even legalization seem reasonable enough. After all, prohibition in the 1920s didn't work out too well, so what makes legislators think it'll work now? The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (MASS CANN) argues that "responsible adult users have a right to consume marijuana if they choose; society has the right to regulate that consumption" and that regulation should be enforced via civil penalties, similar to traffic tickets. MASS CANN is also involved in the debate over the therapeutic benefits of marijuana - a debate that is basically unanimous among most progressive medical professionals.But a major tenant of the political argument for decriminalization or legalization is the idea that hundreds of thousands of peace-loving, recreational pot-smokers are languishing in prison as the result of a possession charge. Undoubtedly, the idea of sending an 18-, or so, year-old to prison for having a small amount of marijuana seems ridiculous. Most agree. But, there are a couple of problems with the rhetoric of MASS CANN on this point in particular.First of all, statistics are not always the most reliable source of unbiased data. Numbers can be skewed just as easily as words, and in this case, it would appear that they have been (intentionally or not). When you look at the numbers out of context, it is shocking. There were literally almost two million marijuana-related arrests in 2005. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2004, 12.7 percent of all state prisoners and 12.4 percent of Federal prisoners were serving time for a marijuana-related offense. That does seem like an awful lot of people. But what the numbers don't tell you is that most of these people did not go to jail just because of a marijuana offense. Approximately 70 percent of those serving drug related sentences in state prisons are there for trafficking offenses, and over 80 percent of these had prior criminal history - not just limited to drug charges. Only 1.6 percent of the population in jail is for only marijuana-related crimes, and 0.7 percent of those for possession (of any amount) as the only charge. An even smaller percentage of those (0.3 percent) are first time offenders. It seems that these 3,600 people, out of the 1.2 million state prisoners, do not effect overcrowding and taxation as much as it would appear.Just because someone is listed as serving prison time for a marijuana-related offense, does not mean that's the primary reason they're in prison, and this is where statistics can be skewed. Just reading the numbers doesn't account for additional charges or plea bargains either, which are frequently related in cases of drug charges. The point here is that most of the pot-smokers you meet are not going to end up in prison. White, upper to middle class pot smokers are not the primary target in the War on Drugs, so far as I'm aware. Sure, plenty of money is wasted arresting and jailing people for pot. If you want to make that argument, plenty of money is wasted charging and incarcerating people on other drug charges too - not because other drugs are more enticing or harmful than weed, but because drug policy in this country does not address things like economic inequality and addiction.So the question we're left with is how many of these reform-fighters are crusading for true social and economic change, and how many are twisting rhetoric to serve the purpose of decreasing personal accountability? As citizens of this country, with so many complex and profound issues facing us, there's a responsibility to try and weed out the causes that will truly change things for the better, and the ones that serve our personal vices. Source: Massachusetts Daily Collegian (MA Edu)Author: Katy BruckPublished: Friday, April 20, 2007Copyright: 2007 Daily CollegianContact: editorial Website: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #7 posted by whig on April 20, 2007 at 19:55:05 PT
Katy Bruck - racist
"The point here is that most of the pot-smokers you meet are not going to end up in prison. White, upper to middle class pot smokers are not the primary target in the War on Drugs, so far as I'm aware."Nuff said.
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Comment #6 posted by BGreen on April 20, 2007 at 14:03:19 PT
How dare this little snot-nosed brat?
I was a responsible adult, completely able to live my life and 100% accountable for my actions when you were nothing more than a helpless, drooling, peeing and crapping infant.In the time that you've grown up, Katy Bruck, I've maintained the highest level of morality and am still completely accountable for my actions, far more so than most of the judgmental people who choose to arrest and imprison innocent people for absolutely nothing more than their association with a plant, a plant that would still exist on this earth even if humans didn't.I'm sure Katy Bruck has a great career waiting for her at FOX news because character assassination is what they also focus on when there is no truth to back up their ideology.Our platform remains the same after the 30 plus years I've been involved, but of course actually researching her story probably didn't jibe with Katy Brucks' convoluted idea of "personal accountability."The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #5 posted by Celaya on April 20, 2007 at 11:44:55 PT
Ed Rosenthal Interview
Right, Sam! The police are definitely NOT saints, these days.  The monstrous fraud of the drug war has so many consequences, we'll never unravel them all, even after it's over.The victims will never completely recover from the injustice done to them, and the police been psychologically crippled as well.We have made them the Inquisitors in this grand witch hunt, and with the latest estimates showing that 100 million Americans have smoked pot, it's no wonder they look at EVERYONE with a jaundiced, greedy eye. Now, ALL police are corrupt as a consequence of being the henchmen in this war on Americans.We used to hear police respond to criticism with, "Hey, we don't make the laws. We just enforce them." But now it is painfully obvious they pull no punches in protecting the law that is their golden goose.Ed Rosenthal has a great interview on NORML's Audio Stash for yesterday. (Thursday) discusses why so many communities were banning medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Rosenthal said it was the influence of the local criminal justice system. "It's basically a jobs issue," said Rosenthal. Then they touched on the prison interest, saying that the marijuana "convicts" not only bolster their populations, but they are their favorite because they are the best workers in prison factories.The majority of the public is now convinced there should be no marijuana arrests. But the police state exerts pressure from the shadows to protect their jobs and their best slaves.We've got to drag these leeches out of the shadows and into the light of day - and dispose of them.(You'll need to catch the interview quick, before they put today's on. Otherwise, you'll have to go to the archives to listen to it.)
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Comment #4 posted by whig on April 20, 2007 at 11:40:26 PT
Sam Adams
YouTube can be quite a tool for a social reformer with a digital camera. Gather testimony, if you can.
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Comment #3 posted by Sam Adams on April 20, 2007 at 10:35:25 PT
Prison time
Hey, we're only arresting millions of people, they don't actually rot in jail.Let's see her get arrested & see how she likes it. Let's see a cop take her weed & demand oral sex in exchange for letting her go to work on time & keep her job. Or maybe a quickie in the back of the cruiser so a welfare Mom can avoid having her kids taken away. That is what poor women in this country face every day. A friend of mine has had this happen to her and her friends in her poor town more than once. Who do you police officers are in poor towns? Saints? Priests? Mental health workers? No, they're typically the dumbest guys from the local high school football team.I'm sure Katy's Daddy would hire a rich lawyer to get this girl out of trouble in 2 seconds, she won't be down on her knees on some back road at 2 AM.That's the problem with Americans - hypocrisy. Why do you think we're CONSTANTLY bombing some poor country? Because we've never been bombed. It's that simple.
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Comment #2 posted by Celaya on April 20, 2007 at 08:26:44 PT
Personal accountability?
It's maddening and amusing to see prohibitionists try to appear objective.Prohibitionists who work so hard to diminish the reality that marijuana consumers are subject to imprisonment always give themselves away by avoiding the suffering caused by having a "criminal" conviction record, even if jailtime is not imposed.800,000 people every year are permanently marginalized from society when they are convicted for marijuana posession. Besides being ineligible for government assistance for college, this record can prevent being hired or destroy a carreer 20 years down the road. This is devastating not only to the victim of this monstrous persecution, but to his/her entire family.Additionally, having a "criminal" record puts a person in extreme danger in any future encounters with law enforcement and the judicial system. Many states that do not impose much punishment for the first marijuana arrest, will throw the book at you with a second arrest. And this doesn't apply just to succeeding marijuana arrests, but often to any further offenses.The big flag in this article was the author's bigoted perception that some marijuana reformers are trying to "decrease personal responsibility." What personal responsibility do they think marijuana consumers are shirking? Obviously, this author believes laws against marijuana have some legitamacy, or that comment would never be made.Anytime you hear someone talking about "exaggerations" being made on both sides of the marijuana issue, you know they are a prohibitionist in sheep's clothing. 
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Comment #1 posted by dongenero on April 20, 2007 at 08:22:19 PT
In the last paragraph, is she indicating that to legalize cannabis would allow people to shirk their personal accountability???I believe making cannabis available legally puts the accountability directly into the hands of the individual that chooses to use it.
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