End The War on Pot

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  End The War on Pot

Posted by CN Staff on October 28, 2010 at 06:29:00 PT
By Nicholas D. Kristof 
Source: New York Times 

California -- I dropped in on a marijuana shop here that proudly boasted that it sells “31 flavors.” It also offered a loyalty program. For every 10 purchases of pot — supposedly for medical uses — you get one free packet.“There are five of these shops within a three-block radius,” explained the proprietor, Edward J. Kim. He brimmed with pride at his inventory and sounded like any small businessman as he complained about onerous government regulation. Like, well, state and federal laws.
But those burdensome regulations are already evaporating in California, where anyone who can fake a headache already can buy pot. Now there’s a significant chance that on Tuesday, California voters will choose to go further and broadly legalize marijuana.I hope so. Our nearly century-long experiment in banning marijuana has failed as abysmally as Prohibition did, and California may now be pioneering a saner approach. Sure, there are risks if California legalizes pot. But our present drug policy has three catastrophic consequences.First, it squanders billions of dollars that might be better used for education. California now spends more money on prisons than on higher education. It spends about $216,000 per year on each juvenile detainee, and just $8,000 on each child in the troubled Oakland public school system.Each year, some 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Is that really the optimal use of our police force?In contrast, legalizing and taxing marijuana would bring in substantial sums that could be used to pay for schools, libraries or early childhood education. A Harvard economist, Jeffrey A. Miron, calculates that marijuana could generate $8.7 billion in tax revenue each year if legalized nationally, while legalization would also save the same sum annually in enforcement costs.That’s a $17 billion swing in the nation’s finances — enough to send every 3- and 4-year-old in a poor family to a high-quality preschool. And that’s an investment that would improve education outcomes and reduce crime and drug use in the future — with enough left over to pay for an extensive nationwide campaign to discourage drug use.The second big problem with the drug war is that it has exacerbated poverty and devastated the family structure of African-Americans. Partly that’s because drug laws are enforced inequitably. Black and Latino men are much more likely than whites to be stopped and searched and, when drugs are found, prosecuted.Here in Los Angeles, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at seven times the rate whites are, according to a study by the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors legalization. Yet surveys consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks.Partly because of drug laws, a black man now has a one-in-three chance of serving time in prison at some point in his life, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that seeks reform in the criminal justice system. This makes it more difficult for black men to find jobs, more difficult for black women to find suitable husbands, and less common for black children to grow up in stable families with black male role models. So, sure, drugs have devastated black communities — but the remedy of criminal sentencing has made the situation worse.The third problem with our drug policy is that it creates crime and empowers gangs. “The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market,” a group of current and former police officers, judges and prosecutors wrote last month in an open letter to voters in California.I have no illusions about drugs. One of my childhood friends in Yamhill, Ore., pretty much squandered his life by dabbling with marijuana in ninth grade and then moving on to stronger stuff. And yes, there’s some risk that legalization would make such dabbling more common. But that hasn’t been a significant problem in Portugal, which decriminalized drug use in 2001.Likewise, medical marijuana laws approved in 1996 have in effect made pot accessible to any adult in California, without any large increase in usage. Special medical clinics abound where for about $45 you can see a doctor who is certain to give you the medical recommendation that you need to buy marijuana. Then you can visit Mr. Kim and choose one of his 31 varieties, topping out at a private “OG” brand that costs $75 for one-eighth of an ounce. “It’s like a fine wine, cured, aged, dried,” he boasted.Or browse the online offerings. One store advertises: “refer a friend, get free joint.” And the world hasn’t ended.One advantage of our federal system is that when we have a failed policy, we can grope for improvements by experimenting at the state level. I hope California will lead the way on Tuesday by legalizing marijuana.A version of this op-ed appeared in print on October 28, 2010, on page A33 of the New York edition.Source: New York Times (NY)Author:  Nicholas D. KristofPublished: October 28, 2010Copyright: 2010 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 

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Comment #12 posted by FoM on October 28, 2010 at 15:39:57 PT
It makes me happy too. I have always been a liberal in my thinking. People that care about progressive ideas matter to me. I didn't understand there was a difference between the party by that name and the term liberal but there is a big difference.
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Comment #11 posted by MikeC on October 28, 2010 at 15:26:53 PT
FoM/Gallup Poll...
"Liberals, 18- to 29-year-olds express the highest levels of support."This make me happy for the future of this country
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on October 28, 2010 at 14:38:12 PT
It appears to be swinging back to our side the closer we get to voting time from that poll's result.
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Comment #9 posted by dongenero on October 28, 2010 at 14:10:38 PT least
46%.....and that is only the people that will risk incriminating themselves when a stranger calls their house.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on October 28, 2010 at 12:20:33 PT

46% of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana
New High of 46% of Americans Support Legalizing MarijuanaLiberals, 18- to 29-year-olds express the highest levels of support. By Elizabeth MendesOctober 28, 2010WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While California's marijuana ballot initiative is garnering a lot of attention this election cycle, Gallup finds that nationally, a new high of 46% of Americans are in favor of legalizing use of the drug, and a new low of 50% are opposed. The increase in support this year from 44% in 2009 is not statistically significant, but is a continuation of the upward trend seen since 2000.URL:
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Comment #7 posted by dongenero on October 28, 2010 at 11:17:13 PT

Chamber of Commerce - at it again
I urge all business owners to reject the Chamber of Commerce.Prop 19 Opponents Veer Off Into Paranoia
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Comment #6 posted by museman on October 28, 2010 at 10:46:41 PT

runruff, FoM
Made me think of this; 
On That Rock
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on October 28, 2010 at 10:30:41 PT

good article
this is like a preview of E-day:
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Comment #4 posted by GentleGiant on October 28, 2010 at 07:55:38 PT:

Let's End This War!
Very well said, 'Let's End This War'. Let's get the truth out, start research that's been delayed for decades, especially in cancer, alzheimer, lou gehrig's, etc.(the tough diseases) and start the beginning to end this damn thing.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on October 28, 2010 at 07:51:46 PT

This article is for you and Museman and any other people from Oregon! Workable Dispensaries: Measure 74 Fills a GapURL:
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on October 28, 2010 at 07:49:01 PT

I love you and Linda too! You are a sweetheart.
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on October 28, 2010 at 07:47:13 PT

Like a rock!
Every day I tune in and there you are!Like a rock!I am swept away and caged for two years, when I come home there you are, like a rock!When I feel frusterated like I could explode from anger and I need a place to vent where I am welcome and understtod, there you, like a rock!I feel certain that you have earned a place in history, FoM. I know that you have made history in my book!Special thanks to you and your super-fine man, Stick!
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