September 27, 2009 – In 1996, voters in California approved a referendum that made it legal for the first time in decades in the US for people to consume cannabis for medicinal purposes.

More than a dozen states have followed suit since and several others – the most recent of which is Picture 8Massachusetts – have approved laws decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of the drug.

Now, there are moves afoot in California to go further to fully legalize marijuana.

Evidence of the impact that the approval of medicinal marijuana has had on some areas of California is clear in Oakland.

Across the bay from San Francisco, it has come to be known as Oaksterdam, in a nod to the symbolic global capital of marijuana deregulation, Amsterdam.

The relaxed approach to marijuana use in this part of Oakland has led to the opening of several marijuana dispensaries.

They are establishments in this once deprived area of town which sell a broad array of cannabis related products, from food products such as brownies and cereal bars laced with cannabis to traditional marijuana for smoking.

Oaksterdam University

“This is where it all started,” says Richard Lee, a leading advocate for the legalization of cannabis, pointing to a building where the first ever dispensary was opened in 1996.

His sense of excitement is palpable as he shows me around Oaksterdam, which beyond dispensaries is also home to a facility where state residents can go through the process of getting the ID needed for their right to use cannabis for medical purposes.

The area is also home to the Oaksterdam University, which Mr Lee runs.Picture 9

He shows me around the student union of the university, which he describes as a trade school for all of those interested in finding a place in the thriving cannabis trade that medicinal marijuana has spawned.

Mr Lee tells me that making cannabis use legal makes economic sense but would also help in the fight against the Mexican drugs cartels.

“According to some estimates, the Mexican cartels get about 60-70% of their money – their profit – from cannabis,” he tells me.

“So if we cut that out of the equation then theoretically 60-70% of the violence they perpetrate would be cut out, because they’d have less money for the guns and weapons and ammunition to kill people and to spend on bribing officials and all the rest,” Mr Lee says.

Trailblazing

That perspective, along with the fact that the California state authorities estimate that marijuana could bring in nearly $1.5bn a year in much needed tax revenue if it were legalised, has led to an increased support among the state’s voters for the full legalization of the drug.

And, politicians like Tom Ammiano, who represents one of the most liberal districts of San Francisco in the California state assembly, have been paying close attention.

Mr Ammiano came into politics as a trailblazing gay rights activist in the 1970s and has long advocated greater tolerance for cannabis use.

Earlier this year, he took that approach one step further and introduced a bill in the California state assembly, which, if approved, would grant cannabis the same legal status in the state as alcohol and tobacco.

That would put California ahead of even Amsterdam, where marijuana use is tolerated but not altogether legal.Picture 10

Sitting with him in his office in the state government building in San Francisco, with its sweeping views of the city, it becomes very clear that his proposal is far from a flight of fancy.

He tells me he has been finding that more and more of his colleagues in the state assembly are coming around to seeing why moving towards legalization makes perfect sense.

‘Lighten up’

“People across the board, whether they’re conservative or liberal, have come to realize that the so-called war on drugs has failed and failed miserably,” Mr Ammiano says.

“In fact, it’s costing us money instead of saving us money. This new approach would be a way for the policing efforts to be focused on the big bad guys, the cartels, with their violence and murder, and lighten up on the more minor offenses. We like to say prohibition is chaos and regulation is control,” he adds.

“On the streets a drug dealer does not ask a kid for his ID before selling him cannabis,” he concludes with an acerbic, humorous tone that serves as proof that he has, beyond politics, also had some success in his other career as a stand-up comedian.

But, despite his optimistic tone, Mr Ammiano says that he knows that those who oppose his proposal, including key figures in the medical and law enforcement community, are armed with statistics pointing to the damaging long-term effect of the drug and have the stamina and resources to wage a major fight to ensure that the bill never gets signed into law.

One of those opponents of the proposal is Ronald Brooks, the president of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, which represents more than 70,000 narcotics enforcement officers in the US.

We meet in the town of Redwood City, south of San Francisco, and as I get in his car, we drive past what appears to be a nondescript office building.

‘Seriously flawed’

However, he tells me that, in the 1980s, it was a bank – the place where his partner on the police force was killed in front of him by a ruthless marijuana dealer, who was carrying out a bank robbery to fund his drug business.

He says experiences like that have strengthened his resolve that America can’t allow itself to take on a more lenient approach to marijuana.

“This argument of freeing up law enforcement so that we can take on the cartels is seriously flawed,” he tells me.

“This is really a hoax being perpetrated on the voters of California to authorize their political Picture 11agenda – that is to legalize marijuana as one step to legalize drugs in America because they simply don’t think that the government ought to control drugs,” he adds.

“The people who are going to lose if this gets approved are the taxpayers because we’re going to have increased costs associated with this, both healthcare and law enforcement costs, and the people who have to drive on the state’s highways who are going to be in danger from being hit by someone intoxicated from using cannabis. This is simply a reckless public policy,” he concludes.

Back across the San Francisco Bay in Oakland, specifically Oaksterdam, the patrons of the Bulldog Cafe are enjoying their legally sanctioned right to consume marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Emerging industry

Gary has traveled from Texas for the weekend to attend a seminar on the cannabis trade at the Oaksterdam University across the street.

He is in his 50s, but says he is hoping to take the information he has picked up in his course on the cannabis business and make a life-transforming move in the coming months to California.

“My girlfriend and I are interested in moving to California from Texas to become a part of this here. We’re not quite sure where we fit in but we want to get into the business itself. We feel it’s an emerging industry, and this is where I feel compelled to come,” he tells me as the smell of cannabis wafts through the room.

Like Gary, there are hundreds of others participating in the courses at the Oaksterdam University on any given week.

Beyond that, there are more than 200,000 people in the state registered as consumers of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

As for Mr Ammiano’s proposal to legalize marijuana in the state, that is still making its way through the California state assembly and it is difficult to say whether it will succeed or not.

What is clear, however, is that whatever the outcome of the legalization proposal, the medical marijuana law and the multi-million dollar industry it has spawned appear to be here to stay in California. By Emilio San Pedro. Source.

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Swptember 16, 2009 – Many law enforcement officers now say the drug interdiction effort is costly and unsuccessful. The bulk of drug arrests in 2008 were for simple possession, almost half for marijuana.Sidebox-FBI-Agent

The new statistics point to a continued emphasis on drug interdiction – otherwise known as the “war on drugs” – that more and more law enforcement officers are now questioning. While many experts hold the anti-drug campaign to be the key reason for the decline in the crime rate in the US, especially violent crime, since the 1990s, these police officers, as well as current and retired judges and prosecutors see, instead, thousands of American lives ruined for small drug infractions in a costly and possibly unwinnable “war.”

“Not only do these officers see the terrible results that their work has had on individuals’ lives, but a lot of what I hear from beat officers and undercover narcotics agents is they’ve seen colleagues die in the line of fire trying to enforce laws that have no positive impacts,” says Tom Angell, a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in Washington. “For a lot of them, this is about trying to keep good cops alive by repealing stupid prohibition laws.”

According to the latest FBI figures, 82.3 percent of all drug arrests in 2008 were for possession, and 44.3 percent of these for possession of marijuana. Arrests totalled more than 1.7 million.

“You can get over an addiction, but you will never get over a conviction, said Jack Cole, a retired undercover narcotics agent and LEAP director, in a statement Tuesday about the “collateral consequences” of the war on drugs.

Changing attitudes

The emergence of frontline officers speaking out against the war on drugs is helping to kindle a debate about legalization of drugs across the US, says Mr. Angell. It is even driving a Congressional bill written by Sen. Jim Webb (D) of Virigina to establish a new Blue Ribbon justice system panel that would take a serious look at drug legalization.

The US could gain $77 billion in revenue a year by legalizing – and taxing – marijuana, cocaine and heroin, says LEAP.

Culturally, attitudes about drugs may be changing. A Zogby poll in May showed for that the first time a majority of Americans favor decriminalizing marijuana. States such as Massachusetts and California have already taken steps in that direction.

“[Most] drugs are more readily available at lower prices today than when Nixon declared a war against it,” says Norm Stamper, a former Seattle police chief and a staunch proponent of drug legalization, referring in part to the lower price of marijuana.

However, White House “drug czar” Gil Kerlikowske recently said, “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary and it’s not in mine.”

Sending the wrong message?

Pro-legalization groups are missing the forest for the trees, says Gregory D. Lee, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent. He says the dwindling crime rate across the US is directly correlated to the government’s investment in border and street interdiction.

“Legalization sends a message that it’s okay to do drugs when in reality these drugs have a tremendous impact on the future of the people who take them,” he says. “[Under legalization], the crime rate would rise because of crimes committed by people under the influence of these substances.”

Mr. Lee points to the rising price of cocaine in the US as a sign that domestic and international interdiction is working. “The war on drugs,” he says, “is being won.” By Patrik Jonsson. Source.

Every 18 seconds, an American is busted for drug possession, according to Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) crime statistics released Monday.

On the one hand, marijuana is practically legal—more mainstream, accessorized, and taken for granted than ever before. On the other, kids are getting busted in the city in record numbers. Guess which kids.

September 14, 2009 – New York City, New York – Any righteous cannabisalista knows the timeline, the grand saga of humanity’s interface with the vegetable mind of the planet. Back in ewnc8000 B.C., before Genesis in Sarah Palin’s book, the sentient were weaving hemp plant into loincloths. The Chinese had it in their pharmacopoeia by 2700 B.C. The Founding Fathers used pot processed into paper stock to write a draft of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which made sense, since Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, along with their slaves, of course, had been raising the crop for decades. There are other, darker dates, too, like June 14, 1937, when Congress, four years after repealing alcohol prohibition, passed the “Marihuana Tax Act,” which essentially outlawed the use of “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L.,” including the “growing,” “the seeds thereof,” and “the resin extracted from any part of such plant.”

As far as yours truly is concerned, however, the most important date in pot history took place on a chilly early-December night shortly after the Great Blackout of 1965, when, seated on the pitcher’s mound of a frost-covered baseball diamond in Alley Pond Park, Queens, I first got high on the stuff. That means I’ve been a pothead for going on 44 years now, or approximately 72.1 percent of my current life. Should I live to be 100, that percentage will increase to 83 percent, since, as Fats Waller implied when he sang “If You’re a Viper,” you’re always a viper.

I mention this so you know where I’m coming from, but even if I once knew a guy who claimed to have been the dealer to several members of the Knickerbocker championship teams, I make no claim to being a weed savant. For me, grass is simply the right tool for the job, a semi-reliable skeleton key to the such-as-it-is creative, an enabler of brainwork. Outside of continuing to smoke it, sometimes every day, sometimes not for months, or years, I pretty much stopped thinking about marijuana as a cosmologic/shamanic/political entity around 1980, that insufficiently repressed beginning of the somnambulant Reagan time tunnel, when grass came with seeds and stems and zombies still skulked Washington Square Park reciting their “loose joints” mantra: “Smoke, smoke … try before buy, never die … smoke, smoke … ”

Back then, despite the occasional shouting in the street and polite libertarian proselytizing by William F. Buckley on Firing Line, there was not much thought that pot would ever be legal. Illegality was key to its ethos, central to the outlaw romance. All over the U.S. of A., people were tanking up, driving drunk, killing themselves and others, and still those hot Coors girls were on the TV selling beer at halftime. The whole country was strung out on Prozac. But get caught smoking a joint while reading a Thomas Merton book in the park and it was the Big House for you. What could be more emblematic of the rapaciousness of the culture? That’s how it was until … maybe now.

Could it be that, at long last, the Great Pot Moment is upon us?

The planets are aligning. First and foremost is the recession; there’s nothing like a little cash-flow problem to make societies reconsider supposed core values. The balance sheet couldn’t be clearer. We have the so-called War on Drugs, the yawning money pit that used to send its mirror-shade warriors to far-flung corners of the globe, like the Golden Triangle of Burma and the Colombian Amazon, where they’d confront evil kingpins. Now, after 40 years, the front lines have moved to the streets of Juárez, where stray bullets can easily pick off old ladies in the Wal-Mart parking in El Paso, Texas, even as Mexico itself has decriminalized pot possession as well as a devil’s medicine cabinet of other drugs. At the current $40 billion per annum, even General Westmoreland would have trouble calling this progress.

Compare that with the phantasmagoria currently going on in California, where the legal medical-marijuana dispensaries ask only a driver’s license and a medical letter attesting to some vague ailment—insomnia will do—to begin running a tab at a state-sanctioned, 31-flavor dispensary. Somehow, even with many medical-marijuana outfits advertising “validated parking” and “happy-hour specials,” Western civilization as we know it has not tumbled into the sea. In November 2010, initiatives are expected to be on the California ballot to “tax and regulate” (i.e., legalize) marijuana altogether. Taxing the state’s estimated annual 8.6 million–pound, $14 billion pot crop (more than any amber wave of grain, high-fructose corn syrup included) could bring as much as $3 billion to $4 billion in revenue, enough to buy a couple of B-2 bombers or, failing that, keep a few libraries open an hour more a day.

The silent majority of pot smokers.
Pot hasn’t been the preserve of the Birkenstock wearer for years. At least the last three American presidents have been tokers, and you know Bush inhaled, for all the good it did the Incarcerationrest of us. Obama will no doubt tread lightly with the health-care loonies on his neck, not to mention the conservative black clergy he doesn’t want to alienate, but he’s already presided over curtailing federal busts of medical-marijuana dealers who are in compliance with state laws. A lively blogosphere debate ensued over whether Obama could really afford to expend any of his political capital on a bud-in-every-bong policy, as the legalize-it forces were hoping. But the move confirmed officially what many had long known. Pot smoking simply does not carry the stigma it once did, even in the straightest society.

As it turns out, not all those bong-using college students gave up the stuff when they graduated. The other day, I was scanning Andrew Sullivan’s blog, reading posts from salarymen, think-tankers, and Big Board watchers, baring their souls over their continued pot use, long after they were supposed to have put aside such childish things and switched to single-malt scotch. The drug of the counterculture now belongs to a hitherto unglimpsed silent majority, one that knows how to get things done, even legislatively.

The real engine of this is the pot itself. In the old days, there were two basic varieties of grass, the shit that got you fucked up and the shit that didn’t. But now, as is known to any stoner not still searching the skies for that last DC-3 full of Panama Red, pot has been gourmandized. You got your indicas, your sativas, your indoor-grown, outdoor-grown, your feminized, your Kushes, your Hazes, with a new, horticulturally hot number rolling down the gene-spliced pike every day. Historically speaking, a good deal of this flowering comes courtesy of our friendly drug warriors over at the DEA, whose G-man interdiction/kill-at-the-source policy did much to wipe out (anyone remember Jimmy Carter’s paraquat crop-dusters?) international shipments, thereby mobilizing ex-Berkeley botany majors and other supposedly lazy Mendocino/Humboldt County hippies to grow their own.

Beyond this is a budding secondary market. With upmarket pot prices holding at $60 to $70 for an eighth of an ounce, what high-end toker can be satisfied with an intake system based on a 75-cent pack of Zig-Zag when, for a mere $600, you can have a sleekly designed ashless Volcano “vaporizer” to place next to the Bialetti cappuccino-maker? For those about to be drug-tested, there is the Whizzinator, a strap-on extra prick containing “clean” body-temperature piss that you deftly whip out any time your employer/coach/drug counselor hands you a plastic cup. All of this is available in the Internet’s seemingly infinite gray market, where grass-centric URLs offer capsule commentary on the myriad pot strains, including breeding-lineage descriptions right out of the Racing Form (e.g., “Blueberry strain—blue haze X Aussie Duck, from Azura and award-winning Jack Herrer”), date and place of incept, maturation times, buzz properties, etc.

On a recent sweltering afternoon, in lieu of downloading a few seasons of Weeds, I made my way to a top-secret mid-Manhattan location for a little remedial “tasting” administered by the esteemed senior cultivation editor of High Times magazine, known by the nom de guerre Danny Danko. Along with a mini-minyan of like-minded devotees, we hovered over a small but mighty collection of strains: the Chem Dog, the Purps (so named for its red-blue neonish hue), and an assortment of Kush (OG and Bubba) from medical-marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and the city by the Bay now referred to as Oaksterdam.

While preparing the samples, Danny Danko, 37, a self-confessed “pot nerd” with a seemingly bottomless capacity for THC ingestion, explained his ethic. A green thumb is not enough to assure the creation of meaningful marijuana, Danko said. “Just because you can grow a tomato that might win a prize at the 4-H club, or a summer squash that’ll knock the socks off the Iron Chef, doesn’t mean you can grow good weed. Give two growers the same seeds and the same conditions, and you can get two completely different qualities of pot. There’s nutrients and care, but there’s an intuitive factor, too—a deep understanding of the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of cannabis. This isn’t a geranium, it is an art, an act of alchemy.”

We started out on the Purps but soon hit the harder stuff. With the lexicon of winespeak now lapping over into pot punditry, kindgreenbuds.com describes the Purps as possessing “hints of buttery caramel coffee and woodsy floral pine.” Couldn’t say I understood all that from a couple of hits, but the Purps, a spicy little thing, did provide a gleeful cheap amusement-park high not unlike chubby Orson Welles’s tumbling down the fun-house chute in The Lady From Shanghai.

The contradictory state of marijuana use in the city today.
This playland was soon bulldozed by the Kush. An ancient indica strain supposedly dating back Picture 33to the Hindu Kush, where the stubby plant is used mostly to make hashish, the Kush in its multi-variegations has long been the rage among suburban and ghetto youth who gravitate toward the strain’s stinky olfactory properties and Romilar-esque “couch-lock” stone.

It was here that I learned something about pot, then and now. Prime in the canon of present-day prohibitionists is the claim that today’s pot is so much stronger that it bears no relation to the stuff nostalgic baby-boom parents might have smoked. The message: Forget your personal experience, the devil weed currently being peddled to your children is a study-habit-destroying beast of a wholly other stripe. No doubt, there is merit to this argument (after decades of some of the most obsessive R&D on the planet, you wouldn’t think the pot would be weaker), but I couldn’t fully buy it. This was because the fancy weed I was smoking, and paying twenty times as much for, wasn’t getting me more smashed, at least not in the way I wanted to be.

“I hear this a lot, because back then, you were probably smoking sativas imported from Jamaica, Vietnam, and Mexico,” Danko informed me. Sativas imparted “a head high,” as opposed to the largely “body high” of indicas. The problem with this, he went on, was that tropical sativas, being a large (some as high as fourteen feet!) and difficult plant to grow (the Kush has bigger yields and a shorter flowering time), especially under surreptitious conditions, were rare in today’s market. My lament was a common one among older heads, Danko said, adding that “the good sativa is the grail of the modern smoker.”

Luckily, following the various Kushes, I was able to cleanse the mind-body palate with the mighty Chem Dog, a notable indica-sativa hybrid, reputedly first grown by a lapsed military man—the Chemdog—who came into the possession of a number of seeds following a 1991 Grateful Dead concert.

It was after some moments of communing with this puissant plant life that I was in the proper state to confront the conundrum of the day, i.e., “The Existential State of Weed in Its Various Manifestations in the Five-Borough Area of New York City, circa 2009.”

Race has always been the driving wheel of reefer madness.

And what a woolly hairball of contradiction it is!

There is all of the above, the whole Mendelian cornucopia of the New Pot with its dizzying array of botanical choice and intake gizmos. Yet the cold, hard fact is, New York City, which first banned pot in 1914 under the Board of Health “Sanitary Code” (the Times story of the day described cannabis as having “practically the same effect as morphine and cocaine”), has always been a backwater when it comes to reefer.

The Big Apple viper may gain some small comfort from the fact that getting stoned in California usually leads to being surrounded by stoned Californians, but this does little to mitigate the envy. Here, in the alleged intellectual capital of the world, where we have no medical marijuana (even borderline-red states like Nevada and Colorado do), at the end of the day, you know you’re going to be calling that same old delivery service that comes an hour late and won’t do walk-ups above the third floor.

In this day and age, nearly 30 years after the AMA began flirting with decriminalizing marijuana, you might think New York City marijuana-possession arrests would be in deep decline. You might even figure that Charlie Rangel, the four-decade congressman from Harlem and longtime leader of the Select Committee on Narcotics, had his finger on the pulse when he told a House subcommittee that “I don’t remember the last time anyone was arrested in the city of New York for marijuana.”

Uh … wrong!

The fact is, New York City is the marijuana-arrest capital of the country and maybe the world. Since 1997, according to statistics complied by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 430,000 people age 16 and older have been pinched in the city for possession of marijuana, often for quantities as little as a joint, a reign of “broken window” terror-policing that kicked off in the nasty Giuliani years and has only escalated under Bloomberg and Ray Kelly. More than 40,000 were busted last year, and at least another 40,000, or more than the entire population of Elmira, will be busted this year. Somehow, it comes as no shell-shocker that, again according to the state figures, more than 80 percent of those arrested on pot charges are either black or Hispanic.

From the days of Harry Anslinger—who, as the more or less permanent head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (J. Edgar Hoover–like, he served for 32 years, appointed by the Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations), raved about how most pot smokers were “Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers” whose “Satanic music, jazz and swing” was driving white women into a sexual frenzy—race has always been the driving wheel of reefer madness. It was no fun to find this dynamic still at work in the beloved hometown.

Why cops prefer pot busts.

But there they were, down in night court at 100 Centre Street, one marijuana arrestee of color after another, standing before the judge to have their class-B misdemeanor possession case Arrestheard.

Legal Aid lawyers defend most of these people. Said one lawyer, “The cops have their areas of concentration when it comes to these violations. Sometimes we’ll get a lot of arrests for so-called trespassing, which often means a person was caught hanging out in front of a project; it doesn’t matter if they live right across the street. But marijuana is very constant, a hardy perennial, you might say, rolling in regularly like the tide. The amounts are almost always tiny, which shows that for all the talk about going after the big guys, cops are mostly arresting low-end users. A lot of people say they were nabbed only minutes after they got the stuff, so it seems as if the cops are just sitting on known spots and busting whoever comes out. Most arrestees will receive an ACD, or ‘adjournment contemplating dismissal,’ a kind of probation. It is rare, but repeaters could get time. At the very least, it messes up your night riding around handcuffed in a paddy wagon.”

Harry Levine, a Queens College sociology professor who has been compiling marijuana arrest figures for years, says, “The cops prefer pot busts. They’re easy, because the people are almost never violent and, as opposed to drunks, hardly ever throw up in the car. Some of this has to do with the reduction in crime over the years. Pot arrests are great for keeping the quota numbers up. These kind of arrests toss people into the system, get their fingerprints on file. The bias of these arrests is in the statistics.”

The NYPD (good luck on getting the Public Information department to respond to your phone calls or e-mails on this particular topic) belittles these charges, saying the arrest stats are “absurdly inflated.”

The kicker in this is the apparently almost unknown fact that possession of 25 grams, or seven-eighths of an ounce—much more than the few joints that are getting people arrested—is not a crime in New York State and has not been since the passage of the Marijuana Reform Act of 1977, or 32 years ago. (Right here add sound of potheads slapping their foreheads, like, how come they didn’t know that?) There are exceptions, however. If the pot is “burning or open to public view,” then the 25-gram deal is off. It is this provision that has been the basis for the arrest outbreak, many civil libertarians contend.

The scenario of what happens on the street, as told to me by several arrestees, is remarkably similar. It goes like this: You’re black, or Spanish, or some white-boy fellow traveler with a cockeyed Bulls cap and falling-down pants. The cops come up to you, usually while you’re in a car, and ask you if you’re doing anything you shouldn’t. You say, “No, officer,” and they say, “You don’t have anything in your pocket you’re not supposed to have, do you, because if you do and I find it, it’ll be a lot worse for you.” It is at that point, because you are young, nervous, possibly simple, and ignorant of the law, you might comply and take the joint you’d been saving out of your pocket. Then, zam: Suddenly, your protection under the Marijuana Reform Act vanishes because the weed is now in “public view.” The handcuffs, the paddy wagon, and the aforementioned court date soon follow.

Now that he is ahead of Rudy’s numbers, Mike Bloomberg, who once famously answered a question from this magazine about his pot use by saying “you bet I did, and I enjoyed it,” has presided over more marijuana busts than any mayor anywhere. This could be compared with the record of another New York City mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, who, in response to the 1937 federal ban on pot, requested a report by the New York Academy of Medicine, which concluded that, contrary to Harry Anslinger’s claim that pot was an “assassin of youth,” marijuana was not medically addictive; not under the control of a single organized group; did not lead to morphine, heroin, or cocaine addiction; and was not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes, and that “publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York is unfounded.”

Once upon a mid-seventies time, the Yippies, then fronted by downtown immortals Dana Beal and the garbologist A. J. Weberman, staged a pot-legalization march up Fifth Avenue that ended in a rally at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park. The big attraction was a giant glass jar filled with joints; anyone picking the number of reefers in the jar would win it. The winner, some shambling longhair troglodyte, broke open the jar and threw the joints into the crowd, prompting a crush toward the stage. Alarmed, Weberman took the microphone and started screaming, “It is only crappy Mexican! Don’t kill yourself for crappy Mexican!”

Could New York pass a medical marijuana law?
“Ah, the good old days,” says Richard Gottfried, sitting in his state-assemblyman office on lower Broadway. Gottfried, who was a 23-year-old Columbia Law student when he was first elected as assemblyman from Manhattan’s West Side in 1970 (he’s been there ever since), is the author of the 1977 Reform Act. Hearing what people were saying about alleged police use of the “public view” phrase of the law, Gottfried rubbed at his still red-flecked professorial beard and said, “Why, if these searches are being conducted in this way … that would be a textbook example of entrapment, wouldn’t it?” He seemed shocked, absolutely shocked, that such practices were going on right here in New York City.

In 1997, Gottfried, a largely unsung hero of sane drug policy, wrote New York State’s first medical-marijuana legislation. “It stayed in committee a while,” says Gottfried. “With things like this, politicians tend to be very, very timid.” Nonetheless, Gottfried is confident medical marijuana is on the immediate horizon. It was passed by the Assembly in 2007, and Gottfried says it would have gotten through the Senate this past spring “if June 8th hadn’t happened.”

“Strange as it sounds, I think this is one issue that might actually be nonideological,” says Gottfried. “During the floor debate, these legislators, liberal and conservative, were almost in tears as they told their personal stories about how they and their loved ones had been helped by marijuana, how it brought relief from chronic pain, how it aided family members in last days of terminal diseases. It was quite moving.”

This doesn’t mean we should expect Californication 2 here, Gottfried says. “Medical-marijuana laws differ radically from state to state. There’s California and everywhere else.” In Maryland, you can’t be jailed for medical marijuana, but there’s no provision for obtaining it, which leaves elderly M.S. sufferers in the bizarre situation of having to potentially go out and score like a randy teenager. The New York version of the law will be “modest,” Gottfried says. As opposed to the “doctor’s letter” mills in Cali, permissions will be very carefully monitored, with legal possession limited to two and a half ounces. “The penalties for violating the medical-marijuana laws will be stiffer than regular possession,” Gottfried says.

What really mattered was that my kids understood that just because I used it didn’t mean they should.

If this was the best that could be done at this time, so be it. But why not simply be aboveboard about it? How many medical-marijuana patients are there really, at least compared with those who use the stuff for mental and emotional well-being, not to mention flat-out potheads?

You’re talking about recreational users?” Gottfried asked. “You’re talking about tax-and-regulate legalization?”

“Well … yeah. How do you feel about that?”

Gottfried smiled. “If marijuana had a similar status to liquor in this country, a locally controlled system of distribution, the way some states allow booze in the supermarket and some states are dry—I wouldn’t have a problem with that.” But I shouldn’t hold my breath, the assemblyman said. “We are in a period of transition. It could be a long transition.”

“I’m functioning in the shadow of something that is bound to change, except no one knows when or how,” says Francis R., who has been in the pot-delivery business for almost twenty years.

Mostly a painter “with some music thrown in,” Francis started off as a “runner” for a large Manhattan delivery service during the late eighties, in the wake of the massive drug sweeps like “Operation Pressure Point” that successfully ended the hard-drug street scene in many parts of New York. A gentrifying city had no place for such violence-prone local color. The delivery services, like the bar-based cocaine trade and the banishment of prostitutes from street corners and into “escort services,” where everything is done quietly and by appointment, proved to be a pragmatic compromise between law enforcement, human nature, and the need to keep the nightlife industry going.

In business for himself since shortly after 9/11, Francis has about 180 clients, of which 50 or so are “regular reorderers.” Employing an easy-to-park 250-cc. Japanese bike, Francis works “like 35 to 40 hours six days a week,” starting at around one in the afternoon. For this, he clears an average of about $150,000 a year, or about $1,000 “retail” on a crappy day and up to three grand on “a great day.”

Up until about 2004, Francis got much of his supply from Canada. “It was mostly indicas trucked across the country from Vancouver, then across the St. Lawrence Seaway, or Lake Erie. The first time I did this, I couldn’t believe it. It is totally dark, you couldn’t see ten feet. Then out of fog come these Indians … Indians, in canoes, paddling, like right out of the fucking Last of the Mohicans, bringing in the weed.” Eventually, however, the connection dried up. Some busts were made, but mostly the quality decreased.

What Francis thinks about legalization.
Now everything Francis sells is from California. He recently made one of his regular trips to Mendocino County. “I had $25,000 in my suitcase, and some friends tell me to drive up toward Ukiah, to the Million Dollar Corner, which is called that because like a million dollars is changing hands there in pot sales like every other day. High as an elephant’s eye, dude.”

I took a pinch of Francis’s new stuff to Danny Danko’s “tasting,” as sort of a blindfold test to see if the experts would be able to identify the strain. This got kind of funny, these half-dozen pot gourmets investigating the inch-and-a-half-high bud, smoking it, poking it, checking out its tricombs under a magnifying glass like a no-shit Sherlock Holmes CSI team. Someone thought it was a clone of the original Skunk No. 1, others were certain it was in the Sour Diesel family. One gentleman, who referred to himself as a “pot snob,” put Francis’s high-priced spread down after a few tokes, declaring it “standard product … nothing to write home about.” He based this opinion primarily on the extreme “tightness” of the bud structure, which he characterized as “your typical ass pellet.” This was a sign of “insufficient curing,” the pot snob said, a giveaway that someone had rushed the crop. He also objected to the blackness of the ash and the fact that it had taken three match strokes to get the smoke going.

Francis was much put out by this assessment. “Everyone’s a fucking critic,” he protested, defending his weed. “Got you stoned, didn’t it?”

Francis said the cops weren’t all that much of a factor. “For the most part, I walk through the town unopposed.” But what about the busts?

“What busts?”

I showed Francis a copy of the New York State marijuana-arrest stats. He couldn’t believe it. He didn’t know a soul who had been pinched. He was not, however, surprised by the ethnic breakdown. “I hate to say it, but there’s no way I’m hiring a black guy to work for me. The chances of a black guy getting stopped is about 50 times more than a white guy. I can’t afford that. Fact is, pot is legal for white people but not for black people, which is total bullshit.”

Francis spends “a lot of time” thinking about legalization. “It is coming, not tomorrow or the next day, but it is coming,” he says. This is the general opinion among his colleagues, Francis says. “I’ve heard of guys buying liquor licenses, you know, to stay on the inebriation side of things.

“Can’t say I don’t have mixed feelings about it,” Francis went on. “I like this job. It’s served me well. Everyone is happy to see me when I come around. Can’t say that for a dentist. Still, it’ll be a great day if they legalize it. Because pot should be legal. You know what would really bother me, though? If gangster corporations like Philip Morris or Seagram’s got a big piece of the action. That would really chap my ass. Because, basically, with a couple scumbags here and there, this is an honorable business, a little-guy business. It should stay that way.”

Then Francis, being a swell fellow, told me he happened to have run across “a little something” just the other night, something sweet.

“You got sativa?”

Francis shook his head. “October … maybe late September. Maybe. But this Dog ain’t no bad dog.” He’d let it go for like maybe a nickel off, because I was putting him in a magazine article.

So I went down the road, to the F train, thinking about how I’d never drawn a legal puff of marijuana in my life. The scenic overlook of the paradigm shift shimmied before my eyes. I could already see the YouTubes of the near future, the debates raging over government versus corporate private-sector control, when every right-minded left-libertarian pothead knows either would be a disaster, a slo-mo shakedown to the Big Bud-weiser versus earnest microbrewers. No, it wasn’t going to be a total picnic when legalization came and people started scoring inside 7-Elevens instead of behind them.

And there was another issue. I’m not one of those potheads who wax on about the first time they got stoned with their kids. Sounds like a landmine from every angle. I mean, why make some moron hippie ceremony out of it? They knew I smoked, I knew they smoked, unless it was some burglar who stole my stash that night. Still, it is a crossroads, when you smell the smoke coming from their room. You feel obligated to tell both sides, even the D.A.R.E. side, citing all sorts of facts and figures, including how, according to a 2008 Australian study, men who smoked at least five joints a day for twenty years had smaller hippocampuses and amygdalas than nonusers. What really mattered was that kids understood pot wasn’t for everyone, that just because I used it didn’t mean they should. Young brains didn’t need that extra noise, I said, happy to set the legal pot-smoking age at 21, like booze, or at the very least the day a high-school diploma is attained. Beyond that, there is nothing left to do but to pray none of them has the addictive chip that makes people lose their good sense.

The DEA’s suggested alternative to medical marijuana.
And, despite the best advice (“Whatever you do, don’t get fucking caught!”), kids sometimes can, and do, lose their good sense, if only temporarily. Really, pinched with a gram, in the middle of a celebratory smoke toast in honor of 420, the equivalent of pothead New Year. How does that even happen? So then, there you are, the pot dad and the newly crowned pot kid, sitting in the office of a court-mandated drug professional who is explaining why this two-month, four-nights-a-week, $10,000 program is actually the right thing, because “marijuana is a gateway drug.” At this point, the temptation is to cover your ears like a Munch painting and shout that mutual back-scratching between the criminal-justice system and high-priced treatment centers is one more reason that idiot drug laws have to go. But it is not that easy, because no matter how much you want the kid to get the same benefits from the mighty weed that it has given you, there is a deep conviction that it would be better if he didn’t smoke at all, at least until he gets his act together, which might take a lot longer than it has to if he keeps smoking. Still, it wasn’t like he needed some cop to participate in that decision-making process.

You can feel it, the war is on. A couple of months ago, the Times ran a big piece (“Marijuana Is Gateway Drug for Two Debates,” July 17, 2009) with updated Harry Anslinger–style quotes from poor souls made homeless by their marijuana problem. Words like dependence and habitual were prominently featured. The DEA is on record as being against the legalization of “smoked” marijuana for medical purposes. They say if people feel sick, they should take Marinol, a nice pharmaceutical that is THC without the fun.

Liquor was against the law for fourteen years. Pot’s been banned for 72. Neither the cartels nor the prohibitionists are going to just fold up and go away.

Not that I can worry about that. If I never smoke pot again, I’m cool. I appreciate what the stuff’s done for me already. I ask only one thing: Should I contract an illness that even grass, in its alleged miracle-drug mode, can’t cure, then just wheel me over to that guy sneaking a toke on the corner. I’ll breathe deep and, like the whiff of a just-baked madeleine, be transported to the place inside my head that’s always been home.

By Mark Jacobson. Source.

August 29, 2009 – The new high life: marijuana is moving into the mainstream with fashion, films, TV and politicians acknowledging its here to stay. Picture 3

In June, an estimated 25,000 people attended the inaugural THC Expo hemp and art show in downtown Los Angeles, an event that pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy — including a $22,400 payment directly to the city of Los Angeles for use of its convention center.

Barneys New York in Beverly Hills is celebrating the Woodstock spirit by selling $78 “Hashish” candles in Jonathan Adler pots with bas-relief marijuana leaves; Hickey offers $75 linen pocket squares or $120 custom polo shirts bearing the five-part leaf; and French designer Lucien Pellat-Finet is serving up white-gold and diamond custom pot-leaf-emblazoned wristwatches for $49,000 and belt buckles for $56,000.

Earlier this year, Season 5 of Showtime’s “Weeds” kicked off with promotional materials plastered on bus shelters, buses and billboards throughout the city. Last year, just across from the tourist-packed Farmers Market at 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue, a “Pineapple Express” billboard belched faux pot smoke into the air. Even the ’70s slacker-stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong are back. After recently concluding an international tour, they say they are working on another movie, voicing an animated version of themselves and even batting around the idea of staging a Cheech and Chong Broadway musical.

After decades of bubbling up around the edges of so-called civilized society, marijuana seems to be marching mainstream at a fairly rapid pace. At least in urban areas such as Los Angeles, cannabis culture is coming out of the closet.

At fashion-insider parties, joints are passed nearly as freely as hors d’oeuvres. Traces of the acrid smoke waft from restaurant patios, car windows and passing pedestrians on the city streets — in broad daylight. Even the art of name-dropping in casual conversation — once limited to celebrity sightings and designer shoe purchases — now includes the occasional boast of recently discovered weed strains such as “Strawberry Cough” and “Purple Kush.”

Public sentiment is more than anecdotal; earlier this year, a California Field Poll found that 56% of California voters supported legalizing and taxing marijuana. Last month, voters in Oakland overwhelmingly approved a tax increase on medical marijuana sales, the first of its kind in the country, and Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn has proposed something similar for the City of Angels. “In this current economic crisis, we need to get creative about how we raise funds,” Hahn said in a statement.

Smoking pot used to be the kind of personal conduct that could sink a U.S. Supreme Court nomination (Douglas H. Ginsburg in 1987) and embarrass a presidential candidate (Bill Clinton in 1992). Today, it seems to be a non-issue for the current inhabitant of the Oval Office; Barack Obama issued his marijuana mea culpa in a 1995 memoir.

California Field Poll Drug references in popular music have multiplied like, well, weeds in the last three decades. Marijuana’s presence on TV and in the movies has moved from the harbinger of bad things including murderous rage (“Reefer Madness” in 1936) to full-scale hauntings (“Poltergeist” in 1982) and burger runs gone awry (“Harold & Kumar go to White Castle” in 2001) to being just another fixture in the pop-culture firmament. Cannabis crops up on shows such as “Entourage,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “True Blood” and “Desperate Housewives,” and even on animated shows such as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”

To date, none is as pot-centric as Showtime’s “Weeds,” which follows the adventures of widowed soccer mom turned pot dealer Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), though the show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, says there are TV shows in development that are set against the backdrop of medical marijuana clinics.

Richard Laermer, a media and pop culture trend watcher and author of several books, including “2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade,” points to Bill Maher as a bellwether of change. “Ten years ago, he would have been taken off the air.” (“Real Time With Bill Maher” airs on HBO.) Now, he’s “a totally mainstream comic who consistently talks about how much pot he smokes.”

Marijuana’s role on TV and in the movies is no surprise, says Robert Thompson, a professor of television and pop culture at the University of Syracuse S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “The people who are making movies and television shows, from the scriptwriters to the director and the producers — a very large chunk of those are probably people who grew up not only much more comfortable with marijuana’s presence in society, but probably as consumers themselves of it.

“As a result,” Thompson said, “it’s almost switched with alcohol. Think back to Dean Martin and Foster Brooks — their whole comedy act was the fact that they were in the bag — that now is seen a lot less often. The stoner is the new drunk.”

There’s one hitch

General marijuana use is, of course, illegal. Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance (in the same category as LSD, heroin and peyote) and possession of it is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. According to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, in 2007 there were 872,721 arrests in the U.S. for marijuana violations. For Californians who are not otherwise covered under the state’s medical marijuana law (which continues to engender controversy among those who believe it’s abused by recreational users), possession of 28.5 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine. What’s more, passing a drug-free urine test is still a prerequisite for many jobs across the country.

Nonetheless, some indulge. Marijuana reform groups say it’s a $35.8-billion domestic cash crop. And today’s cannabis consumers — the state chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws estimates the number of Californians who have smoked at least once in the last year is 3 million — open their wallets for pot-themed movies, handbooks, calendars, fancy glass storage jars, energy drinks, hemp clothing and ganja-themed bus tours, all part of the ever-widening marijuana-adjacent economy.

How much do we spend?

“It’s hard to say,” says Brian Roberts, co-founder of the THC Expo. “Do you count ‘Pineapple Express’ that did $100 million at the box office? Do you add in Dr. Dre’s ‘[The] Chronic’ and ‘2001’ albums that [together] sold over 10 million copies? What I can tell you is that [the expo] pumped over $400,000 into the local economy,” he added, citing expenditures for security guards and other temporary staffers, banners, decorations, printing and advertising, and renting the South Hall of the L.A. Convention Center.

Roberts, who launched and later sold a now-dormant, pot-themed apparel line called THC Clothing before getting into the expo business, has seen pot culture consumers’ buying power firsthand. “I used to own a smoke shop [2000 BC] over on Melrose and people would spend up to $400 for a piece of glass to use as a water pipe — you’re talking about an adult with extra money. That’s like buying a power tool.”

Did something happen between 2003, when Tommy Chong started a nine-month stint in federal prison for selling a mail-order water pipe, and the June THC Expo, when he stood signing autographs and shaking hands, barely a roach clip’s throw from row upon row of swirling glass pipes, smoking devices with octopus-like tentacles, whirring motors and price tags as high as $800?

Some people point to the Obama administration as the biggest game-changer. “It was when [former President George W. Bush] and his boys were run out of office, that made the biggest difference,” Chong said by phone near the end of the “Light Up America and Canada Tour” that reunited him with Cheech Marin.

Roberts cited the election as the tipping point as well. “The whole show teetered on who won the election,” he said. “If McCain had won, I’d have never have put up my money. But Americans are no longer living in fear.”

In addition, trend watcher Laermer points to a more subtle shift: aging baby boomers — a generation famous for tuning in, turning on and dropping out — who are keeping their party habits going into their golden years.

“It’s hard to fathom that the fifty- and sixtysomethings would be against pot after all the pot they smoked,” Laermer said, “Their kids would laugh them out of the room if they started telling them not to smoke pot.”

The so-called marijuana movement has attracted some surprising names. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has spoken out about decreasing penalties for possession and protecting medical marijuana users. Earlier this year, Glenn Beck of Fox News announced on the air: “Look, I’m a libertarian. You want to legalize marijuana; you want to legalize drugs — that’s fine.”

David Bienenstock, senior editor of New York-based marijuana magazine High Times and author of “The Official High Times Pot Smoker’s Handbook,” said: “Whether you’re with the press or a politician, it’s no longer a third rail. In the past it could have cost you your job. Now people are at least able to have those conversations.”

Roberts, for one, is ready. He’s already booked 50,000 square feet at the Los Angeles Convention Center for next year’s THC Expo. It’s going to happen April 23-25 — right after the April 20 date that’s become a kind of pot smokers’ national holiday.

“They’re happy to have us back,” Roberts said. “They told me the food concessions sold $38,000 worth of food on the first day alone — and that’s more than they do in a whole week at the California Gift Show.” By Adam Tschorn. Source.

Aug 28, 2009 | LISBON – The evidence from Portugal since 2001 is that decriminalisation of drug use and possession has benefits and no harmful side-effects.greenwald_whitepaper

IN 2001 newspapers around the world carried graphic reports of addicts injecting heroin in the grimy streets of a Lisbon slum. The place was dubbed Europe’s “most shameful neighborhood” and its “worst drugs ghetto”. The Times helpfully managed to find a young British backpacker sprawled comatose on a corner. This lurid coverage was prompted by a government decision to decriminalise the personal use and possession of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine. The police were told not to arrest anyone found taking any kind of drug.

This “ultraliberal legislation”, said the foreign media, had set alarm bells ringing across Europe. The Portuguese were said to be fearful that holiday resorts would become dumping-grounds for drug tourists. Some conservative politicians denounced the decriminalisation as “pure lunacy”. Plane-loads of foreign students would head for the Algarve to smoke marijuana, predicted Paulo Portas, leader of the People’s Party. Portugal, he said, was offering “sun, beaches and any drug you like.”

Yet after all the furor, the drug law was largely forgotten by the international and Portuguese press—until earlier this year, when the Cato Institute, a libertarian American think-tank, published a study of the new policy by a lawyer, Glenn Greenwald.* In contrast to the dire consequences that critics predicted, he concluded that “none of the nightmare scenarios” initially painted, “from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for ‘drug tourists’, has occurred.”

Mr Greenwald claims that the data show that “decriminalisation has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal”, which “in numerous categories are now among the lowest in the European Union”. This came after some rises in the 1990s, before decriminalisation. The figures reveal little evidence of drug tourism: 95% of those cited for drug misdemeanours since 2001 have been Portuguese. The level of drug trafficking, measured by numbers convicted, has also declined. And the incidence of other drug-related problems, including sexually transmitted diseases and deaths from drug overdoses, has “decreased dramatically”.

There are widespread misconceptions about the Portuguese approach. “It is important not to confuse decriminalisation with depenalisation or legalisation,” comments Brendan Hughes of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which is, coincidentally, based in Lisbon. “Drug use remains illegal in Portugal, and anyone in possession will be stopped by the police, have the drugs confiscated and be sent before a commission.”

Nor is it uncommon in Europe to make drug use an administrative offence rather than a criminal one (putting it in the same category as not wearing a seat belt, say). What is unique, according to Mr Hughes, is that offenders in Portugal are sent to specialist “dissuasion commissions” run by the government, rather than into the judicial system. “In Portugal,” he says, “the health aspect [of the government’s response to drugs] has gone mainstream.”

The aim of the dissuasion commissions, which are made up of panels of two or three psychiatrists, social workers and legal advisers, is to encourage addicts to undergo treatment and to stop recreational users falling into addiction. They have the power to impose community work and even fines, but punishment is not their main aim. The police turn some 7,500 people a year over to the commissions. But nobody carrying anything considered to be less than a ten-day personal supply of drugs can be arrested, sentenced to jail or given a criminal record.

Officials believe that, by lifting fears of prosecution, the policy has encouraged addicts to seek treatment. This bears out their view that criminal sanctions are not the best answer. “Before decriminalisation, addicts were afraid to seek treatment because they feared they would be denounced to the police and arrested,” says Manuel Cardoso, deputy director of the Institute for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Portugal’s main drugs-prevention and drugs-policy agency. “Now they know they will be treated as patients with a problem and not stigmatised as criminals.”

The number of addicts registered in drug-substitution programmes has risen from 6,000 in 1999 to over 24,000 in 2008, reflecting a big rise in treatment (but not in drug use). Between 2001 and 2007 the number of Portuguese who say they have taken heroin at least once in their lives increased from just 1% to 1.1%. For most other drugs, the figures have fallen: Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest lifetime usage rates for cannabis. And most notably, heroin and other drug abuse has decreased among vulnerable younger age-groups, according to Mr Cardoso.

The share of heroin users who inject the drug has also fallen, from 45% before decriminalisation to 17% now, he says, because the new law has facilitated treatment and harm-reduction programmes. Drug addicts now account for only 20% of Portugal’s HIV cases, down from 56% before. “We no longer have to work under the paradox that exists in many countries of providing support and medical care to people the law considers criminals.”

“Proving a causal link between Portugal’s decriminalisation measures and any changes in drug-use patterns is virtually impossible in scientific terms,” concludes Mr Hughes. “But anyone looking at the statistics can see that drug consumption in 2001 was relatively low in European terms, and that it remains so. The apocalypse hasn’t happened.” Source.

August 26, 2009 – Drug use is demonized, and the “evil” of drugs is propagandized in the corporate media. This helps to sustain the long-running, selective “drug war” in the United States and elsewhere.Marijuana-Is-SAFER-book-cover

One logical and ethical solution to the prodigious resources devoted to the “drug war” is the recognition of each person’s sovereignty over his own body. Consumption of drugs and whatever else is the decision of adult individuals in reasonable command of their mental faculties. Society (as it is presently constituted, the state) should monopolize drug sales. The state will save money fighting illegal drug sales and assure that unadulterated, untainted drugs are sold. The drugs can be sold with necessary information and warnings (ideally factually accurate information — neither disinformation nor propaganda) about the drugs, so that the individual is fully informed of the potentialities from drug consumption.

Others, however, choose to live by different principles or rules. In most societies, the ruling class arrogates the right to decide what is best for others and enforce this decision. This is the case in the US for drug use – even for the comparatively harmless marijuana plant.

Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert approached the right to use marijuana from a different tangent. They argue, in the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, that because it is far safer than alcohol, marijuana for personal use should be legalized.

Study after study shows that alcohol is linked with violence: acts of aggression, assaults, rapes, and murders. Alcohol is toxic; marijuana is not toxic. In fact, marijuana is therapeutic for certain disorders – perhaps even having anti-cancer properties (as the writers note, the US government holds the anti-cancer patent). Alcohol may have some benefits for blood-thinning properties in moderated daily doses, but it is not a prescribed treatment. The writers, therefore, question why marijuana use, which does not promote violence, is so harshly punished and alcohol use is not.

Fox et al. cite the 1997 World Health Organization final report that held: “On existing patterns of use, cannabis [the psychoactive component in marijuana] poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies.”

Therefore, to treat drugs fairly (and alcohol is a drug) based upon “facts” established through unbiased and sound scientific studies, either alcohol must be prohibited or marijuana legalized. Marijuana Is Safer does not advocate a return to alcohol prohibition.

Alcohol consumption is largely accepted in society; marijuana use though widespread is usually done discreetly lest one risk being arrested.

The penalties that marijuana users face are many and severe. Fox et al. write, “Believe it or not, virtually no other criminal offenses – including violent crimes like rape or murder – trigger the same plethora of sanctions.”

Indeed, when US president Richard Nixon launched the official government war on drugs, “public enemy number one” was marijuana.

The Outcome of Marijuana Prohibition

The authors hold that the harsh legal enforcement of marijuana has artificially lowered marijuana use and led to increased alcohol consumption.

They identify at least one cause of marijuana prohibition as being racially motivated, an example being crazy Mexicans. This is a part of the onslaught of disinformation that surrounds the use of marijuana.

For this reason, the book includes a chapter tackling the myths and facts surrounding marijuana use, such as it leads to “harder” drug use, that marijuana is highly addictive, that it causes many traffic accidents (the writers do not recommend driving after toking), that it causes brain damage, etc.

There is probably a likelier cause for the maintenance of the prohibition against marijuana that the authors touched on: the alcohol industry has a hand in maintaining marijuana prohibition – protecting its profit margins from competition. Marijuana — “weed” — would be tough competition for alcohol.

Why Legalize Marijuana?

Society would benefit not just in increased safety but also economically. As one example, the book notes that “annual alcohol-related health care costs were forty-five times greater than marijuana-related health care costs!”

The authors contend that “modern marijuana prohibition is a ‘cure’ that is much worse than the disease”

“Why should we add another vice?”The authors argue, “The fact that alcohol causes so many problems in society is not a reason to keep pot illegal; rather it is the reason we must make it legal.” Marijuana is not adding a vice, but rather providing a “less harmful recreational alternative.”

The authors attempt to steer an honest assessment of marijuana compared to alcohol. While Marijuana Is Safer debunks many of the myths existing about marijuana use, it does not insist that driving under the influence of marijuana is safe; it does not insist that marijuana has no addictive properties. It cautions against young people “who lack the maturity” from using mind-altering drugs. It seems here that Fox et al. in, perhaps, a bid to appear impartial, strayed from evidential analysis.

Marijuana Is Safer does not posit foreknowledge of what changes will come about with the legalization of marijuana other than society will, assuredly, be safer. It seems this assurity is premised on people switching from alcohol to safer marijuana and neophyte recreational drug users choosing marijuana over alcohol.

Evidence does exist to support the premise that knowledge of the risks of drug taking does influence taking of the drug. There is a huge advertising industry based on the notion that how information is packaged and presented influences people. Nowadays, cigarette packages clearly indicate that smoking may cause lung cancer and other terrible diseases. Despite this some people continue to smoke. Yet, the numbers of smokers have declined and this is attributed to the increased knowledge of the dangers of smoking. The Canadian Cancer Society stated in 2002: “It’s clear that the advertisements work [to discourage smoking].” The CBC reported that the province of Nova Scotia had a youth (15-19 years) smoking rate of 31 percent in 2000 – when the warning ads on cigarette packages were introduced – and in 2007 the youth smoking rate had dropped to 12 percent.

The reasoned logic of Marijuana is Safer is something all members of society should take time to question and consider. Who stands to benefit from the present policy against marijuana use? What are the benefits and costs to society from the present policy? Marijuana is Safer compellingly reveals the irrationality behind the selective drug prohibition policy, a policy which puts people in comparative danger. by Kim Petersen. Source.

August 25, 2009 – Last week, Mexico passed a new law decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana and other drugs. Perhaps our neighbor to the south will now consider the possibility of full legalization5088-LREM_round_sticker_green2post (regulating marijuana like alcohol, as opposed to simply removing penalties for possession). A number of people in Mexico are calling for a debate, with former President Vicente Fox as one of the most prominent voices in that chorus. However, others are wondering if legalization in Mexico would make a difference. The answer, as I see it, is unfortunately no.

The World Health Organization’s 2008 report on drug use found that more Americans use marijuana than people in any of the other 16 countries studied (which included Mexico). The report, along with many other sources, concludes that America is the largest illicit drug market in the world. The cartels in Mexico cater almost exclusively to customers in the U.S., pulling in huge profits every year (70% of which are from marijuana sales). If Mexico were to legalize marijuana, the cartels’ business would continue as usual. They would still smuggle marijuana into the U.S. and continue to profit from doing so.

No, the answer to the cartel problem does not lie in Mexico; it lies here in the U.S.

The U.S. alone has the power to wipe out the cartels, and it can do so with a simple change in policy. Were we to abolish marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system of taxation and regulation based on alcohol laws, a new, legal marijuana industry would put the criminal competition out of business overnight. We did it once before. In the 1930s, following our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition, the fledgling alcohol industry took over, producing a safer product and putting money into the economy rather than taking it out. And it happened without the moral degradation prohibitionists predicted.

This is precisely why the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy released a report in January calling on the U.S. to change its marijuana laws. Drug producing countries in Latin America have first-hand experience with the devastating effects of America’s war on drugs. The violence and organized crime feeding the U.S. market have been rooted there for decades, with disastrous results. The U.S., on the other hand, has never faced these realities on its own soil – not to the same scale and severity as our neighbors in Mexico or those who lived through the reign of Pablo Escobar in Columbia.

But that is beginning to change. Violence in Mexico is spilling over into Texas, Arizona, and southern California. The cartels now operate in 230 American cities – think about what that means. 230 means more than New York, Los Angeles, and other large metropolitan areas, it means Bismark, N.D., Wichita, Kan., and even Kalamazoo, Mich., small towns where Americans are feeling the impact of bad drug policy. More directly, it means that the U.S. government can no longer ignore the failures of its war on marijuana.

The sensible solution is right in front of us. We just need the political will to see it through.

If you’d like to help make a change, write your member of Congress and ask him or her to support marijuana policy reform. More information on how to do so can be found at mpp.org/federal-action.
by Ben Morris. Source.