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Marijuana: A Pointless But Ending War
date: 21-November-2005
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Kids! Don't they understand that the drug war is creating thousands of highly paid jobs for knowledge workers such as DEA agents and prison guards? How do you think the US is now in a position to export these skills to Iraq and Cuba (not to mention some European countries). Law enforcement is the future kid. Ask you career counselor......

Back in my supermarket days as a stock boy, a coworker gave me an anecdote about how he was getting high with his friends at a deserted rail yard. Two police officers appeared suddenly, so the kids languidly tried to hide their joints behind their backs. After some half-baked attempts to lose the police, they gave up their joints. Instead of arresting them, however, the policemen stomped on their joints and simply shooed the kids away, where they would perhaps find another place to loiter and smoke up.

The actions of these police officers epitomize a quickly developing perspective toward marijuana in America. As time goes on, more and more Americans are losing their faith in the war against marijuana-for medicinal, recreational, and even financial reasons.

It's quite surprising whom you find disgruntled with prosecuting pot smokers. According to Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that seeks widespread U.S. drug policy reform, hundreds of policemen, judges, prosecutors, statisticians, and politicians believe that marijuana criminalization is a costly and foolish pursuit. A variety of political powers have been opposing strict marijuana laws for years, to the point where bipartisan support has been shown for legalization.

In the summer of 2003, around two-thirds of House Democrats and a dozen Republicans voted in favor of an amendment, cosponsored by Republican Dana Rohrabacher, to prohibit federal funding to Justice Department crackdowns on marijuana in states that had legalized it. Legalization of medical marijuana has already been approved in California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, and other states; while New York, Maryland, and others are considering the same move, often in bipartisan support.

The federal government spends at least $10-15 billion every year on fighting marijuana on the basis that it is a harmful "gateway drug" to other more harmful substances. However, there have been studies comparing the relationship of marijuana and the demand for other drugs, between marijuana decriminalized states and those with stricter punishments. These studies conclude that criminalizing marijuana has virtually no effect on the average use of other drugs, disproving the stigma that it is a "gateway drug" (check out studies conducted by Thies and Register). Other studies show that teenagers today find chronic just as accessible as it was in the '70s, when marijuana laws were at their weakest.

About 700,000 arrests are made every year for marijuana offenses, with approximately 600,000 of them for minimal possession. Seven hundred thousand amounts to more than the annual arrests made for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and all other illegal drugs combined. Millions of Americans have never committed any other crime except for marijuana possession. Roughly 100,000 Americans are behind bars tonight due to marijuana possession. Marijuana possession can take away parents from their children, deport foreign-born residents regardless of status, and bar student loans to those in need. It's no surprise then that there is such a great movement for legalization.

A 1988 administrative law judge from the Drug Enforcement Administration concluded-after witnessing extensive testimony-that "marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." Those words only begin to describe the salutary characteristics of marijuana. No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose, which can't be said of many illegal or even legal drugs. Development of lung cancer from marijuana is very rare. There are pharmaceutical products being sold today with marijuana's central ingredient, THC. The funny part is that the DEA czar claims that medical marijuana does not exist, yet the federal government is currently running a program that distributes medical marijuana for a few patients who are recognized by the court as genuinely ill. It is becoming harder and harder for opponents of marijuana legalization to disprove the therapeutic effects.

Those supporting marijuana legalization are now predicting that marijuana will follow the route of Prohibition. California and several municipalities currently regulate, distribute, and tax marijuana through clinics; and when recreational use emerges, the government will treat marijuana as it treats alcohol: tax it and incorporate minor laws on usage.

A few days ago, Denver passed a law that now allows anyone carrying an ounce or less of marijuana to be free from indictment. As the trend for decriminalization continues, American views will change on marijuana. They will see that marijuana prohibition values are worse than those held for alcohol Prohibition, and when that time comes, full legalization won't be far off.

By: Erik Copeli

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