Decriminalize Marijuana Now!
by Keiler Hook
September 23, 2002
My colleague and I were sent, by the Marijuana Policy Project of Washington D.C., to Georgia Republican Representative Jack Kingston's office to try to get a feel for his thinking about the decriminalization of medicinal marijuana, specifically in the District of Columbia.
Mr. Kingston was very charming and accommodating. He answered questions and stated his feelings about marijuana, which are similar to everyone else's in the U.S. government. One of his points was: the people in the decriminalization movement should find another name for marijuana. Marijuana is a pretty name, a very old name. Mr. Kingston, like most all of the politicians in D.C., is reactionary to this word, this plant, and this drug that has been in use for the last 3,000 years.
I pointed out to Mr. Kingston that people had been misinformed and uneducated about marijuana for a very long time. This is not the time to continue misinforming; it is time for the truth. Why can't he and the other drug warriors just admit that they have made a gross mistake about the dangers of marijuana?
Canada has just finished reporting to its government on the decriminalization of marijuana. Here is a summary of their Senate report:
”Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue," said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, who oversaw the committee's two-year inquiry. "Whether or not an individual uses marijuana should be a personal choice that is not subject to criminal penalties. We have come to the conclusion that, as a drug, it should be regulated by the state much as we do for wine and beer, hence our preference for legalization over decriminalization.”
Some of the major findings in the Senate report are:
* Marijuana is not a gateway to the use of hard drugs.
* Marijuana use does not lead to the commission of crime.
* Marijuana users are unlikely to become dependent.
* Marijuana use has little impact on driving.
* Liberalizing marijuana laws is unlikely to lead to increased marijuana use.
* Marijuana prohibition poses a greater risk to health than marijuana use.
For the complete report, see http://www.parl.gc.ca/illegal-drugs.asp.
Our drug warriors reacted immediately after the Canadian Senate released its findings. They are so attached to their position on marijuana that they are becoming lost in their own deception. People are laughing aloud at these foolish people. The world is laughing at the attention and money being spent by our government to inhibit the use of a weed that millions of people in this country smoke. Laws do not stop people from breaking them when the laws show no common sense.
"Objective reviews keep debunking the thinking behind prohibition, but our government throws them on the trash heap every time," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "We should be grateful that the Canadians, like the British, are trying to do the sort of honest, fact-based analysis that our government refuses to do. Americans should give this a serious look - and reject the prohibitionist policies that have failed for two-thirds of a century."
The government tells us that fewer people are jailed for the use of marijuana. That may be so, but if you are a student and caught with marijuana, you risk losing government funding for college. This does not happen if you are a student and get caught with alcohol, which is much more harmful than marijuana. If you get arrested for possession of marijuana, it goes on your record forever. This keeps people from gaining employment. Try explaining to an employer that you were charged with possession of a Schedule 1 drug. Try telling the truth about how you feel about the drug war to an employer, and they will use this information as an excuse not to hire you.
The United States is increasing penalties for marijuana use while other governments are looking at this drug for health and medical issues. "Americans of all ages overwhelmingly understand that marijuana is less harmful to health and society than either alcohol or tobacco," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the NORML Foundation. "Marijuana fails to inflict the type of serious health consequences these two legal drugs cause. An estimated 50,000 die each year from alcohol poisoning and more than 400,000 annual deaths are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is non-toxic and cannot cause death by overdose."
St. Pierre added, "Neither the marijuana user nor the drug itself presents a legitimate danger to public safety. It's current classification as a Schedule I criminally prohibited drug is disproportionate to its relative harmlessness. Science and the American public acknowledge this reality. It's now time for our marijuana policies to reflect this fact."
Is it harmful for the government to lie to us about marijuana? Of course it is. These lies justify laws which are used to lock up people, get politicians elected, tear away at our fundamental liberties and keep medicine away from sick people.
The government benefits from this drug war: think of all the government employees who would lose their jobs if the war on drugs ended. The pharmaceutical companies, the alcohol distributors, the cigarette companies would suffer financial harm if marijuana were decriminalized. Think about how much money lobbyists from these companies give to political parties to keep pot illegal? Years ago, a study done at Harvard claimed that marijuana is an excellent anti-depressant. Think about what the legalization of marijuana would do to the pharmaceutical anti-depressant industry in this country. Wake up people, this drug war is against you.
Here is a list of some of the notable people who are for decriminalization of marijuana and to whom Mr. Walters directed his anger: New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Superior Court Judge James P. Gray, and former Secretary of State George Schultz, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, former Senator Alan Cranston, commentator Arianna Huffington, newsman Walter Cronkite, U.S. Representative Ron Paul, former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, former Police Chief Joseph McNamara, National Review editor William F. Buckley, former U.S. drug czar Peter Bourne, and Federal Appellate Judge Richard Posner. This is only the short list!
Outside of the U.S. Congress, the Supreme Court and the Administration, most citizens are for legalization of medicinal marijuana. If the government would stop misinforming the public about the dangers of marijuana, I think most citizens would agree to the decriminalization of all marijuana usage.
Mr. Kingston, are you paying attention?
Keiler Hook "is a woman, a mother, an activist, and a journalist" from the Deep South in the United States, who writes pieces mostly concerning the "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs"; both subjects capturing her passion and her talent.
This article originally appeared at YellowTimes.org