Tuesday, March 31, 2009
There are many types of people who oppose legalizing Marijuana for a variety of reasons. Many of these groups have some very strange reasons and selfish interests. Many are just ignorant of the facts. Here's some of the opposition:
* The Uninformed - People who believe the misinformation that Pot is harmful to society. These people think they are informed because they watched a black & white documentary from the 1950's that promoted such myths as "Pot Causes Hallucinations" or "If you smoke pot, you'll get Reefer Madness". Scary.....
* The Government - Pot has been illegal for so long that no politicians have the political courage to tell the truth about Pot. The ones that do tell the truth are defeated by their opponents that paint them as a druggie. Many of these anti-drug politicians are funded by the Alcohol lobby and Pharmaceutical Companies.
* The Health Care Industry - If the public really found out the truth about all the incredible medicinal properties beneficial from a variety of marijuana plants, then they wouldn't have to see a doctor as often. The new slogan would be "A joint a day, keeps the doctor away".
* Religion - Anything fun is a sin and of the Devil. Churches might lose members as people figure out that God can't be that stupid. Have another glass of wine.
* Moralizers - The morally superior who enjoy looking down their noses at the less fortunate and get a sadistic thrill out of putting people in jail.
* People who do no Drugs - These people who don't drink, don't smoke, in some cases don't even drink coffee. They just don't understand why anyone would want to smoke anything or do any drug. From their perspective the world would be better off if no one did anything.
* The Alcohol Lobby and Pharmaceutical Companies - Legalizing Pot would seriously cut into the sales of Beer and thousands of prescription drugs. Pot would become the recreational drug of choice because it is safer than Beer and easy to grow yourself.
* The Tobacco Lobby - Pot has the ability in some people to help them break the addiction of nicotine. Pot smoking could actually reduce the number of tobacco addicts. Smoking Pot out of a vaporizer eliminates all the carcinogenic and toxic chemicals yet still permits the user to enjoy a safe, clean and pure "high".
* Law Enforcement - There are a lot of people who make a living fighting Pot who would have to go get a real job if Pot were legalized. Police departments get a lot of funding to fight Marijuana and those funds could be returned to the taxpayer if Pot were made legal. Cops would have to chase robbers, rapists, and murderers.
* Government Agencies - Using unconstitutional civil forfeiture laws the government has been able to use the presence of Pot to steal billions of dollars of private property from the People. Drug laws have been an excuse to circumvent our constitutional right and justify wire tap laws, the erosion of protection from illegal searches, key recovery encryption, and domestic spying. If you take a politically unpopular position like this one I'm taking now, the government can plant drugs on you and put you away.
* Pot Dealers - If Pot were legalized then people making money off of selling Pot illegally would be out of business. Pot prices would drop to $10 a bale. Crime relating to illegal Pot money would vanish.
* Wood Industry - Hemp would become the primary source of fiber for paper products as well as a new source for building materials. We wouldn't have to cut down every big tree in the world.
* Private Prisons - If Pot were legalized the private prison industry would be hurt. They would no longer jail Pot smokers. It could free up space for violent criminals.
* Trial Lawyers - Normal people caught with a joint spend billions each year on lawyers to get them off of criminal charges after getting caught with a joint. Lawyers get rich off of the Marijuana laws. If Marijuana were legal this money could be spent sending your kids to college.
* Mental Hospitals - There's a big industry treating people for problems they don't have. If you have insurance, you're crazy until the insurance coverage runs out. If you smoke Pot then you have mental problems. If Pot were legal some of these people would have to get real jobs. We should start treating people who are addicted to 12 step programs.
* Republicans - Pot helps you see reality the way it really is. It's harder to con a Pot smoker on political issues. Once you get stoned it's harder to want to hate Liberals, Queers, Blacks, Pregnant Teens, Draft Dodgers, President Obama, Feminists, Lesbians, Pot Smokers, and other people the Republicans want you to hate. When you're stoned it's harder to like people like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Bobby Jindal, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, the KKK, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, People who beat Gay's to Death, People who blow up Abortion Clinics, and the ones who just think they are morally superior in general.
* Political Cowards - Politicians like to pose with police as somebody who is "against drugs" promising to lock up all the pot smokers and throw away the key. These people need an artificial issue to be against so they don't have to face real issues like how to protect the public from crooked lawyers and crooked judges. Political cowards cross all party lines when it comes to pot.
* Others - These groups could also be hurt by legalizing Pot. Car body shops would get less alcohol related wrecks to fix. Hospitals would get less alcohol related business as would alcohol treatment centers and funeral homes. It could hurt cemeteries and tombstone makers as well.
* Drug Cartels in Mexico also oppose legalization as this would eliminate over 70% of their profitable, tax-free income.
(source: http://www.perkel.com/politics/issues/pot.htm and updated by Joe the Stoner)
As compared to most drugs, Pot is the least dangerous. Pot is not an addictive drug. For those who claim it is, anything is theoretically addictive, and there are some people who can become addicted to spring water. So to put it in perspective, Pot is less addictive than coffee. I have become addicted to coffee myself and have broken the habit. You get mild headaches for a few days. I have never had any symptoms for withdrawal from Pot.
Pot will cause some short term memory loss. It's harder to remember a 10 digit phone number. Beer causes the same memory loss as Pot. The effect is temporary and wears off completely. Pot has no long term affects on the brain. I have been smoking Pot for the last 25 years and I still test as a genius on IQ tests. My mental abilities have increased over the years.
Pot will give you the Munchies. You may eat more than you would normally. If you are on a diet, you should factor this in when deciding to smoke Pot. It could cause you to gain weight.
Pot is a sexual stimulant. It removes a persons inhibitions. You are more likely to agree to have sex when you are stoned. You are also more likely to not use birth control while stoned. Sometimes people get others stoned to try to get them to have sex when they normally wouldn't. If you are getting stoned with members of the opposite sex, be aware of this and realize that it can have this effect on you.
If anyone asks if you smoke Pot, Just say No!
Never drive while doing any drugs or alcohol, or many prescription drugs for that matter. Alcohol causes you to wreck your car. Pot has a much lesser effect on driving than alcohol, but it has some effect. You are more likely to pull out in front of someone or run a red light than lose control of the vehicle. Pot might also cause you to get lost. Don't drive while stoned.
Smoking Pot increases your risk of cancer. But most people smoke very little Pot. If you use Pot moderately you don't have anything to worry about. Moderate means a joint every few days.
Pot will give you dry mouth. Have something to drink when smoking Pot.
The most dangerous thing about Pot is getting caught with it. You can go to jail. People get very weird about Pot and you can get in a lot of trouble over it. So if anyone asks if you've been smoking Pot, Just Say No!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The hemp plant (scientific name: cannabis, slang: marijuana) is one of the many useful herbs "yielding seed after its kind" created and blessed by God on the third day of creation, "and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:12) He gave hemp for people to use with our free will.
God said, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth.…To you it will be for meat." … And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:29-31) The Bible predicts some of herb's prohibition. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times, some shall … speak lies in hypocrisy … commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (Paul: 1 Timothy 4:1-3)
The Bible speaks of a special plant. "I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more." (Ezekiel 34:29) A healing plant. On either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare 12 manner of fruits, and yielding her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelations 22:1-2) A gift from God.
How was cannabis used in Biblical times and lands?
Cannabis was used 12 ways: clothing, paper, cord, sails, fishnet, oil, sealant, incense, food, and in ceremony, relaxation and medicine. For so the Lord said unto me, "I will take my rest and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs. For afore harvest, when the bud is perfect and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks and take away and cut down the branches." (Isaiah 18:4-5)
What about cannabis today?
Hemp today has thousands of uses. Modern technology has devised many new uses for the hemp plant;like biomass energy, building materials, fuel, plastic and so on. Hemp is ecological and its seed is among the best food crops on Earth. Selected varieties produce flowers that provide an herbal relaxant and a spiritual tool. Its herb is used globally as medicine.
Does the Bible discuss drugs?
Alcohol is the only drug openly discussed in the Bible, so it must serve as our reference. Wine is drunk during religious occasions such as Passover; the Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples. It remains a sacrament in modern church services.
Jesus began his public life by miraculously turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-10) when the reception ran out. The Bible distinguishes between use and misuse. It says, Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. (Proverbs 31:6-7) but Woe unto them that … follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! (Isaiah 5:10)
Yet the simple joys of drinking were also sung. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man and oil to make his face to shineth. (Psalm 104:14-15)
He said not to criticize other people for their habits. "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; that which cometh out of the mouth defileth a man." (Mat. 15:11) The apostle Paul wrote, I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. … For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Paul: Romans 14:14,17)
Did He speak of government?
Jesus said to keep church and state apart. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's and unto God the things which be God's." (Luke 20:25) As we have seen, it was God, not government, who gave man the herbs to use. And it was government that put Jesus to death.
Property forfeiture laws?
He warned us about seizure and forfeiture laws. "Beware of the scribes which …devour widows' houses…. The same shall receive greater damnation." (Luke 20:46-47) Jesus, too, was a victim. The soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part. (John. 19:33)
What about the Drug War?
Blessed are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)
It was God who created cannabis hemp and told mankind to use "every green herb" on Earth. The Bible speaks of mercy, healing and a persecution of God's children. They persecute me wrongfully; help thou me. (Psalms 119:86) Prisons and drug wars do not save souls. The Lord… hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. (Isaiah 61:1)
What should the ministry do?
Teach God's truth. Warn your congregation that the war on marijuana is unchristian and must be ended. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you will be no priest to Me … for I desired mercy and not sacrifice. (Hosea 4:6, 6:6)
Remember: Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving…. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine. (Paul: 1 Timothy 4:4-6)
Thursday, March 26, 2009
As for those tens of millions of you who believe that cannabis should be legally regulated like alcohol — and the tens of thousands of you who voted to make this subject the most popular question in today’s online Presidential Town Hall — well, your voice doesn’t really matter.
Asked this morning whether he “would … support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence,” the President responded with derision.
Boston, MA: House and Senate bills seeking to "tax and regulate the cannabis industry" have been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature.
House Bill 2929 and Senate companion bill S 1801 propose to legally regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana for adults over 21 years of age.
The bills would impose licensing requirements and excise taxes on the retail sale of cannabis.
Adults who possess or grow marijuana for personal use, or who engage in the nonprofit transfer of cannabis, would not be subject to taxation under the law.
"Decades of whispered grumblings about the wisdom and efficacy of prohibition is rapidly giving way to a serious — really serious public discussion about how to replace it," said former NORML Board Member Richard Evans, who assisted in drafting the legislation. "Those who consider themselves leaders in government and the media have the obligation to either show how prohibition can be made to work, or join in the exploration of alternatives."
Massachusetts is the second state to consider marijuana regulation legislation this year. In February, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced Assembly Bill 390: The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act. That bill is currently before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.
Additional information and summaries of H 2929 and S 1801 are available online at: http://www.cantaxreg.com.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit: http://www.masscann.org.
A Bronx narcotics detective was indicted Monday on charges she juiced the truth about a big pot bust - lies that got the case against the dealers tossed out.
Detective Debra Eager, a 15-year NYPD veteran, said on the stand that she and her partner saw two drug suspects toting boxes into a Holland Ave. apartment.
Eager, 41, said she followed the duo into the building, heard them enter an apartment and then made an arrest.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
(Reposted from the NORML website)
Proposed rule changes to Colorado's medical marijuana law:
The Colorado Board of Health will soon be considering a proposed regulation change which would restrict the number of patients that may be provided for by a state-authorized caregiver. The hearing was originally scheduled for March 18, but has been rescheduled due to the large number of people wishing to testify against this change. You can view the proposed changes at http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/op/bh/hearingnotices/Medical....
NORML's affiliates and allies in Colorado believe that the establishment of this proposed policy is not in the best interest of the patient and is likely to result in serious, negative health consequences for ill Coloradans. If the policy passes, it would block safe access to medicine, ripping thousands of sick patients from their current, safe caregiver relationship and forcing them into the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous position of having to find a new caregiver. It will force patients into illicit market situations where they run the serious risk of physical assault or theft.
The policy would also limit patient rights. Patients deserve the right to select the caregiver of their choice, in the same manner that a patient may select a preferred doctor. Both doctors and caregivers are individuals charged with the important task of caring for the health care of the patient. This is an important and personal decision which can have major ramifications on the health of the patient.
Finally, it is an irrational policy. The State's arbitrary limit is tantamount to restricting a neighborhood pharmacy such as Walgreens to serving only five patients. It is economically inefficient and masses significant costs onto patients, most of whom are of limited financial means as brought on by their debilitating diseases. The State should not interfere with, and affirmatively restrict, such an essential, life-and-death
With 40 million uninsured Americans and in the midst of the most severe economic crisis in decades, a policy that increases the cost and decreases access to healthcare is not in the interest of Coloradans. Please do not enact the "Five Patient Policy".
You may contact the Colorado Board of Health with your concerns at:
Colorado Board of Health
C/O Linda Shearman, Program Assistant
Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment
4300 Cherry Creek Drive South EDO-A5
Denver CO 80246-1530
FAX: 303 691 7702
Public comments may also be e-mailed at:
Thank you for supporting Joe the Stoner's and NORML's marijuana law reform efforts in Colorado.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
A crowd of about 10,000 people collectively began counting down on the University of Colorado's Norlin Quadrangle just before 4:20 p.m. Sunday.
Yet the massive puff of pot smoke that hovers over CU's Boulder campus every April 20 -- the date of an annual, internationally recognized celebration of marijuana -- began rising over the sea of heads earlier than normal this year.
Officers in the past have gone to great lengths to catch people in the illegal act of smoking pot on 4/20.
CU freshman Emily Benson, 19, of Kansas City, said she thinks the decriminalization of marijuana will become a hot topic in the upcoming political season and said she felt part of something bigger than just a smoke-out on Sunday.
We’ve discovered alternative methods to safely, effectively, and rapidly deliver marijuana’s therapeutic properties to patients that don’t involve smoking.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
By the time the smoke cleared, a new pusher would be sitting in every cartel's big chair and the distribution networks would continue satisfying the demand of every junkie and recreational-drug user in America.
Mexico's drug cartels would continue to be, in the words of the Justice Department's National Drug Threat Assessment for 2009, "the greatest drug-trafficking threat to the United States."
Now, imagine a different weapon.
Consider the impact of eliminating the most profitable product the cartels sell.
All we have to do is legalize marijuana."
Marijuana is the (Mexican cartels') cash crop, the cash cow," says Brittany Brown of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Washington office, which does not advocate legalizing pot.
Marijuana is cheap to grow and requires no processing. More than a million pounds of it was seized in Arizona in each of the past two years, according to figures provided by Ramona Sanchez of the DEA's Phoenix office. But those seizures were just a cost of doing business for multibillion-dollar drug lords. Marijuana continued to be widely available - and not just to adults.
Teens tell researchers that buying pot is easier than getting cigarettes or booze, says Bill Piper, director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which does advocate legalizing marijuana.
Some argue that if you legalize marijuana there would still be a black market. They say that because the product is so cheap to produce, the black market could underprice legal pot and sell to kids. But consider what we know about alcohol.
- First, Prohibition didn't work.
- Second, even though alcohol sales are regulated, back-alley or school-yard sales of moonshine is not a billion-dollar problem.
- Third, alcohol, like its addictive killer-cousin tobacco, is taxed, which helps cover its costs to society.Not so with marijuana.After decades of anti-pot campaigns, from Reefer Madness to zero tolerance, so many Americans choose to smoke marijuana that the Mexican cartels have become an international threat to law and order.Instead of paying taxes on their vice, pot smokers are enriching thugs and murderers.
American drug users help sharpen the knives that cartel henchmen use to behead their enemies and terrorize Mexican border towns.
Even marijuana grown in the United States, increasingly in national parks and on other public lands, is often connected to Mexican cartels, Brown says.
According to the Justice Department's 2009 assessment, cartels have "established varied transportation routes, advanced communications capabilities and strong affiliations with gangs in the United States" and "maintain drug-distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors in at least 230 U.S. cities." Including Phoenix and Tucson.
The DEA says cartels are "poly-drug organizations" that routinely smuggle cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and precursor chemicals through our state."
(But) marijuana generates the most profit," Sanchez says.
Legalizing marijuana would not stop pushers from selling other, more lethal poisons. But taking away their most profitable product would hurt criminal organizations that have grown richer, more powerful and better armed during the so-called war on drugs that was first declared by President Richard Nixon.
Today's Mexican cartels "are as ruthless and brutal as any terrorist organization," says Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is opposed to legalizing marijuana.
Their brutality is destabilizing Mexico. Several years after Mexican President Felipe Calderón bravely decided to take on the cartels, Mexico ranks with Pakistan as "weak and failing states" in a recent report by the United States Joint Forces Command. Why? Because Mexico's "government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels," the report says.
While U.S. drug users enrich the cartels, the U.S. government pours huge amounts of money into defeating them.
The Bush administration sold Congress on the Merida Initiative, a multiyear, $1.4 billion aid package designed to provide training and high-tech assistance to help a besieged Mexican government combat the cartels.
Even in these days of gazillion-dollar bailouts, that's a chunk of change.
But consider this: According to a report last fall from the Government Accountability Office, the United States has provided more than $6 billion to support Plan Colombia since fiscal 2000. The goal of reducing processing and distribution of illicit drugs (mostly cocaine) by 50 percent was not achieved, the GAO found.
A GAO report from July 15, 2008, says that since fiscal 2003, the United States has provided more than $950 million to counternarcotics efforts in the 6 million square-mile "transit zone" that includes Central America, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern Pacific Ocean.
What did this buy?"
Despite gains in international cooperation, several factors, including resource limitations and lack of political will, have impeded U.S. progress in helping governments become full and self-sustaining partners in the counternarcotics effort - a goal of U.S. assistance," the report said.
Weary of the drug war
Our southern neighbors are getting tired of fighting our drug war.
Last month, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy called for a shift from the "prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and criminalization." Former Latin American Presidents Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico), Cesar Gaviria (Colombia) and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil) said the drug war has failed.
It was a tragically costly failure.
In testimony before Congress last June, Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and department of criminology, said, "It is likely that total expenditures for drug control, at all levels of government, totaled close to $40 billion in 2007."
He said about 500,000 people are in prison in the United States for drug offenses on any given day. Piper says 800,000 people a year are arrested on marijuana charges, the vast majority for simple possession.
Now, consider the possibilities of a new approach.
In 2005, economist Jeffrey A. Miron put together a report suggesting that if marijuana were taxed at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco, legal sales would raise $6.2 billion a year. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a Democrat from San Francisco, is trying to get his state to legalize marijuana for adult use, set up a state licensing system and levy a tax that some say could raise $1 billion a year.
Let's be clear: Marijuana cannot cause dependency. It is healthy yet smelly. I use it. And a lot of people like the effects of this "alleged" intoxicant; they believe they can control its addictive properties. This is exactly why people drink margaritas during happy hour.
This is also why a war on drugs is unwinnable.
You'd think a country built on capitalism would understand basic laws of supply and demand. Instead, a failed and irrational national policy blunders forward, costing billions, incarcerating large numbers of people and enriching ruthless crime syndicates.
The cartels are not stagnant. They are growing in power and influence. In Phoenix, Mexican cartels are blamed for a dramatic rise in kidnapping and other violence.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard says it may be only a matter of time before the kind of turf battles that are common in Mexico erupt along drug-transit corridors in Arizona. Goddard, who does not support legalization, says, "I do support an intelligent dialogue (on legalization)."
Brave but hopeless fight
Law enforcement has a smart-bomb approach to eliminating the bad guys.
Last month, the DEA announced Operation Xcellerator, a 21-month multi-agency effort aimed at the Sinaloan cartel. It culminated in more than 750 arrests and the seizure of 23 tons of drugs and $59.1 million in cash.
The police work involved was smart and courageous. After all, cartels torture and kill cops.
But while police were putting their lives on the line for the war on drugs, U.S. drug users were helping the cartels make up for any economic losses.
It's time to hit the bad guys where it really hurts.
Take away their cash cow. LEGALIZE MARIJUANA!
Saturday, March 14, 2009
As reported in the Daily Camera of Boulder, CO: (by Vanessa Miller - March 13, 2009)
Investigators later determined the noise and damage were caused by a bullet that went through Chely’s external wall, an outside wall of the neighbor’s house and a piece of furniture before finally ending up in the daughter’s room in a wall over the bed, Huntley said.
No one was hurt.
“It’s my understanding that she was very fearful and concerned about the welfare of her children,” Huntley said.
As the movement to Legalize Marijuana continues to grow, many Coloradoans are faced with possibly having to decide in the near future whether Colorado reforms current Marijuana Legislation.
Hopefully, as the movement continues to grow, the upcoming elections may include reform legislation for legalizing marijuana and the voters of Colorado will need to make the decision.
Many people wonder what the laws really are in Colorado when it comes to Marijuana.
For a link to the current laws in effect in Colorado, please visit:
http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?wtm_view=&Group_ID=4526 where a chart shows exactly how much in quantity is legal and the consequences and penalties for larger amounts in possesion.
If you would like to help contribute and/or donate to the cause, please visit http://www.joethestoner.com/ and click on the "Donate" with PayPal link
Thank you for your support and please check our blog frequently for updates to news in Boulder, CO and the "420" Marijuana Movement.
That's because the ailing economy is triggering a scramble for new government savings or sources of revenue. Nadelmann compares today's marijuana laws to alcohol prohibition, approved during prosperous times in 1920 only to become unpopular during the Great Depression. Prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, in part due to the cost of reining in illegal booze and the need to recoup lost tax revenue in tough economic times.
As he signed a law easing prohibition, President Franklin Roosevelt reportedly quipped, "I think this would be a good time for a beer."
Is our recession-plagued present a good time for a joint? Legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, would pull the rug out from under pot dealers in urban America, and create a crisis for them, but it would likely prove a boon for state budgets. In an oft-cited 2006 report on U.S. marijuana production, expert Jon Gettman used "conservative price estimates" to peg the value of the annual crop at $36 billion--more valuable than corn and wheat combined.
Three national polls this year showed a surprising number of Americans think marijuana should be legal. Zogby, CBS News and Rasmussen all recorded support for legalization hovering at around 40 percent. Nadelmann of the DPA believes support would have been higher if the question was whether or not marijuana should be taxed and regulated.
California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has proposed a bill to tax and regulate legal marijuana, which he says would generate $1 billion in revenue for the Golden State's anemic budget. Ammiano, who represents areas of San Francisco, says his proposal, unveiled last month, is "simply common sense," considering the unprecedented economic emergency. The measure would also save California an estimated $150 million in enforcement costs.
Rising support for decriminalization has also come from drug war-ravaged Latin America. Former presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Brazil headed the 17-person Latin American Commission on Drugs, which included intellectuals and statesmen. It issued a report last month calling the drug war failed. It called, among other changes, for the personal use of marijuana to be decriminalized.
Currently, marijuana is already decriminalized in some form in 13 U.S. states, including California and New York, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Typically in these states, marijuana possession in small amounts is reduced to a minor offense punishable by a low fine. Alaska has a particularly liberal law, allowing possession of up to an ounce of pot at home without penalty.
Some eight additional state legislatures are currently considering decriminalization, or the expansion of already existing allowances, according to NORML.
No other state has gone as far as the sweeping "tax and regulate" plan Ammiano proposed for California, but all this talk of legalizing pot has Eric Voth, M.D., deeply worried. Voth, chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, believes advocates of legal marijuana are exploiting the country's economic insecurities to advance their agenda, despite evident risks.
Pointing to alcohol and tobacco, which are taxed, he argues the resulting revenue hardly compensates for the social and public health damage wreaked by both substances, including spillover use among youth. In the 1970s, when marijuana use was at its peak, some 11 percent of high school seniors used marijuana daily, whereas today only between two and three percent do so. If marijuana were legal, more kids would smoke it and face health, addiction and learning problems, says Voth, who advised the White House under Republican and Democratic administrations. "I'm not a prohibitionist, I'm a physician and I've seen those problems face-to-face in the trenches."
But, as Voth himself admits, the lobby to decriminalize marijuana is increasingly organized, with a strong presence in state capitols and Washington, D.C. When Ammiano announced his California plan, he enlisted the DPA and the Marijuana Policy Project to back him up. "High Times," the popular pot enthusiasts' magazine, has spearheaded its own "420 campaign" for marijuana legalization. Libertarian organizations, like the Cato Institute, tend to be skeptical of pot prohibition, too.
But there are legal questions over states' efforts to decriminalize. Lenient state laws (not to mention Ammiano's legalization plan) clash with separate federal laws on marijuana, which are strict, calling for up to a year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine for possession of any amount, even if it's a first offense.
Last year, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), sponsored legislation to decriminalize marijuana federally, earning a handful of co-sponsors, but the bill quickly stalled in committee.
Ammiano says his plan isn't radical, since pot would simply be taxed just as tobacco and alcohol are now. But for his opponents that comparison sets off alarm bells.
Both industries have a bad record of facing up to the adverse health effects of their products and its availability to underage users. A legally sanctioned marijuana industry, opponents say, would open the door to another powerful, cynical, corporate dispenser of legal drugs.
Friday, March 13, 2009
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Phelps insists he's more worried about the pain he caused family, friends and fans than losing money in endorsements after he was photographed inhaling from a marijuana pipe.
In excerpts from an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer that aired Friday morning, the swimming star didn't directly answer the question of whether he was smoking marijuana.
"It was a bad mistake. I mean, we all know what, you know, what you and I are talking about. It's a stupid mistake. You know, bad judgment."
USA Swimming suspended the Olympic great for three months after the photo was published in a British tabloid Feb. 1. He also lost his sponsorship from Kellogg.
"I've come to realize that people want to bring you up, but more people want to bring you down. And that's how our public is. That's definitely something to keep in mind and keep close to heart."
Phelps has previously apologized for his poor judgment.
He was questioned about promises he made to fans after a DUI arrest in 2004, which the swimmer vowed was a mistake he would not repeat.
"I'll be the first one to admit I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. Both, like I said, in the pool and out of the pool. I've never made the same mistake twice."
When asked if he considered his DUI arrest and the marijuana controversy the same thing, Phelps replied: "In my eyes, no. I think they're both immature and stupid mistakes. For me, I feel my duty is to try to help other people not make this mistake."
The photo was taken at a house party while Phelps was visiting Columbia, S.C., in November during an extended break from training after he won a record eight gold medals in Beijing.
"There was probably two or three people there I didn't know," he said. "It was a very small group. Six or seven people probably total in the whole house. Like, nothing major. You know, not like a giant college house party. It was nothing like that. It was just a small group and we were just sitting around and celebrating."
Phelps said he trusted his friends that the people he didn't know there could also be trusted.
"I'll say that there are a lot of people out there who want to take advantage of any situation they have. ... Sometimes you learn the hard way," he said.
Phelps said he became aware of the photo a day or two before it was published.
"It's not about money to me," he said of the fallout. "So, you know, the contract side of things, yeah, I was disappointed. But, you know, I think the biggest thing is who I hurt the most. Like, if I lost money, OK. It's not an issue with me."
Asked what his mother's reaction was, he said: "Didn't scream. Clearly showed she was upset. She wasn't reprimanding me."
Phelps also addressed the issue of young boys and girls who look up to him that may have been crushed by the photo.
"I want to say that if you do make a bad judgment or you do make a mistake, make sure you're responsible for it. Because that's how you're going to change and that's how you're going to learn."
The remainder of the interview will air Sunday night on "Dateline."
"The state of California is in a very, very precipitous economic plight. It's in the toilet," says Ammiano. "It looks very, very bleak, with layoffs and foreclosures, and schools closing or trying to operate four days a week. We have one of the highest rates of unemployment we've ever had. With any revenue ideas, people say you have to think outside the box, you have to be creative, and I feel that the issue of the decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana fits that bill. It's not new, the idea has been around, and the political will may in fact be there to make something happen." (See pictures of stoner cinema.)
Ammiano may be right. A few days after he introduced the bill, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that states should be able to make their own rules for medical marijuana and that federal raids on pot dispensaries in California would cease. The move signaled a softening of the hard-line approach to medicinal pot use previous Administrations have taken. The nomination of Gil Kerlikowske as the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy may also signal a softer federal line on marijuana. If he is confirmed as the so-called drug czar, Kerlikowske will take with him experience as police chief of Seattle, where he made it clear that going after people for possessing marijuana was not a priority for his force. (See a story about the grass-roots marijuana war in California.)
In 1996 California became one of the first states in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. Currently, $200 million in medical-marijuana sales are subject to sales tax. If passed, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 390) would give California control of pot in a manner similar to that of alcohol while prohibiting its purchase by citizens under age 21. (The bill has been referred to the California state assembly's public-safety and health committees; Ammiano says it could take up to a year before it comes to a vote for passage.) State revenues would be derived from a $50-per-oz. levy on retail sales of marijuana and sales taxes. By adopting the law, California could become a model for other states. As Ammiano put it, "How California goes, the country goes."
Despite the need for the projected revenue, opponents say legalizing pot would only add to social woes. "The last thing we need is yet another mind-altering substance to be legalized," says John Lovell, lobbyist for the California Peace Officers' Association. "We have enough problems with alcohol and abuse of pharmaceutical products. Do we really need to add yet another mind-altering substance to the array?" Lovell says the easy availability of the drug would lead to a surge in its use, much as happened when alcohol was allowed to be sold in venues other than liquor stores in some states. (Read why Dr. Sanjay Gupta is against decriminalizing pot.)
Joel W. Hay, professor of pharmaceutical economics at USC, also foresees harm if the bill passes. "Marijuana is a drug that clouds people's judgment. It affects their ability to concentrate and react, and it certainly has impacts on third parties," says Hay, who has written on the societal costs of drug abuse. "It's one more drug that will add to the toll on society. All we have to do is look at the two legalized drugs, tobacco and alcohol, and look at the carnage that they've caused. [Marijuana] is a dangerous drug, and it causes bad outcomes for both the people who use it and for the people who are in their way at work or other activities." He adds, "There are probably some responsible people who can handle marijuana, but there are lots of people who can't, and it has an enormous negative impact on them, their family and loved ones." (See pictures of Mexico's drug wars.)
In response, retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, a longtime proponent of legalization, estimates that legalizing pot and thus ceasing to arrest, prosecute and imprison nonviolent offenders could save the state $1 billion a year. "We couldn't make this drug any more available if we tried," he says. "Not only do we have those problems, along with glamorizing it by making it illegal, but we also have the crime and corruption that go along with it." He adds, "Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substances to use, to misuse, abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They're here to stay. So let's try to reduce those harms, and right now we couldn't do it worse if we tried."