Marijuana Laws Have To Change

Marijuana Laws Have To Change
Posted by CN Staff on July 31, 2007 at 11:23:56 PT
By Gerald Ensley, Democrat Senior Writer
Source: Tallahassee Democrat 
USA -- The insanity continues.Last week, law-enforcement officials busted two local marijuana-growing operations. They arrested two men growing more than 80 plants in the Apalachicola National Forest and one man growing more than 730 in Gadsden County. The cops were just doing their job, enforcing the law. But that's the problem: We continue to ban marijuana even as people continue to smoke it.
Surveys show that 28 million Americans smoked pot last year - and as many as 47 percent of all Americans have smoked it at some point.Yet 800,000 people were arrested last year on marijuana offenses, almost 90 percent of them for simple possession.The marijuana laws have to change."We've got to deal with the issue that we do not want to treat otherwise law-abiding citizens as criminals," said Keith Stroup. "We need to regulate, tax and control marijuana just as we've done with alcohol."Stroup, 63, is the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He founded the Washington, D.C., organization in 1970, was its longtime executive director and now is its general counsel.NORML has chapters in almost every state, including seven in Florida. It has been joined in its national lobbying efforts by the 12-year-old Marijuana Policy Project. This fall, NORML and the project expect to get a bill introduced to decriminalize pot. Stroup said it will be the first one introduced in Congress since 1984.It's a bill that needs to be passed. Marijuana prohibition hasn't worked. And it's blatantly unfair in a nation that allows adults legal access to alcohol and tobacco.Studies repeatedly show marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Only 10 percent of marijuana smokers develop a dependency on their drug of choice, compared with 15 percent of alcohol users and 32 percent of cigarette users. No one dies of a marijuana overdose. But 50,000 people die of alcohol poisoning and 400,000 people die from the effects of cigarettes every year.Just as damning is the cost of enforcing marijuana laws. Local law enforcement spent more than two months on last week's busts. A Harvard University economist has calculated the national cost of law enforcement and lost tax revenue on marijuana at $14 billion a year."Simply put, it is a misallocation of resources," said Tallahassee attorney Allen Turnage, legal director of Florida NORML. "We are taking a genuinely harmless activity and throwing thousands of police hours at it. In the meantime, robbers and burglars are less likely to get caught because the cops are distracted by this high headline activity."The public agrees marijuana prohibition is misdirected. Recent polls show 80 percent of people support medical marijuana use and 76 percent support the decriminalization of recreational use."When we started, no more than 25 percent of Americans supported the belief that we ought to stop arresting people (for pot)," Stroup said. "Now three out of four Americans believe a pot smoker should not be treated like a criminal. That's a heck of a step forward."The problem has been translating that public support into public policy. Twelve states have decriminalized possession of pot. Eleven of them levy a $100 fine; Alaska charges no fine at all. Yet 38 states - including Florida - and the federal government still make possession of marijuana a criminal offense.The ultimate goal, Stroup said, remains legalization, including the right to grow marijuana just as Americans are allowed to brew their own beer. But persuading Congress to decriminalize possession is a good start."Politicians tend to run scared; they're afraid to appear soft on drugs, which they think will get them defeated," Stroup said. "Yet what the polls show is if they speak out, the public is going to be behind them."In some ways, Stroup said, medical marijuana has been a distraction. Twelve states allow marijuana to be prescribed by a doctor to treat the pain of several diseases and conditions (though the federal government has tried to thwart those efforts by continuing to prosecute providers and users of medical marijuana).But medical marijuana users account for only 1 million of the current 28 million marijuana smokers. Stroup said pro-marijuana forces have to shift the debate off medical marijuana."Until the mid-1990s, we didn't win a single political fight. Then the medical marijuana issue surfaced and gave us something positive to rally around," Stroup said. "But now, let's get back to the big picture: those 800,000 arrests every year."It falls on those of us who oppose the marijuana prohibition to take an active role.Money is good. NORML and Marijuana Policy Project budgets depend on donations, often of the $10 and $20 variety. Writing letters to Congress is good (go online to for more information).But the most powerful tool is the ballot box. Stroup said voters have to demand that candidates support marijuana reform - and vote against those who don't."Those of us who smoke have to take the pledge to never vote again for anyone who treats us like criminals," Stroup said. "There won't be many (pro-reform) candidates in the first cycle of elections. But in a couple of cycles, that 47 percent and 28 million will be one powerful voting bloc."Of course, that was the optimism that Stroup had when he founded NORML in 1970 - and thought it would take only 10 or 12 years to effect national legalization. Yet he and others remain optimistic."We're seeing changes all the time; medical marijuana is an example of that," said Dan Bernath, the Marijuana Policy Project's assistant director of communications. "People are starting to see the nonsense we have been told about these laws is not true. The more education we get, the more we have truthful conversations and the better our chances become." Source: Tallahassee Democrat (FL)Author: Gerald Ensley, Democrat Senior WriterPublished: July 31, 2007Copyright: 2007 Tallahassee DemocratContact: letters tallahassee.comWebsite: MPP NORML -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #2 posted by josephlacerenza on July 31, 2007 at 12:48:46 PT:
Is prescription drug use an epidemic?
I was watching the “Today show,” this morning. Matt Lauer mentioned that 120 million Americans are currently prescribed anti-depressants. What are we to think of these individuals persecuting others for their choice of medication? I am also talking of the people who choose to use cannabis so as to not have to use other prescription drugs. We all remember D.A.R.E., well a drug is a drug. How am I to tell my teenager don’t do DRUGS when every other commercial is for a prescription drug. I had my 11 year old ask me if he had vaginal herpes after watching a commercial on his kids T.V. show on the Disney Channel. Is this the American way?   
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Comment #1 posted by Richard Zuckerman on July 31, 2007 at 11:34:59 PT:
The Mayor of the Town of Morristown, New Jersey, Donald Cresitelli, made a public appearance a few days ago for support of his plan of federal government deputizing the local police departments to enforce the federal immigration laws, e.g., 8 U.S.C. Sections 1324, 1325, and 1326, prohibiting entering this country without permission. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen opposed the Hinchey Amendment to the Department of Justice funding Bill. I guess he is more interested in busting "Marijuana" users than catching illegal immigrants,,,,!!! Richard Paul Zuckerman,
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