Politicians Guide to Marijuana Policy

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Introduction

Recently, I read a post on theFreshScent in regards to medical marijuana in New Jersey: MMJ Called into Question by N.J. Rep. This particular NJ Rep is Mary Pat Angelini. I was disturbed by the amount of misinformation that she spreads about marijuana and its usage. NJ Rep. Angelini really doesn’t know much about marijuana. I find that her situation is not something new or isolated. Most politicians do not know much about marijuana. This rampant ignorance comes from decades, nearing a century, of misinformation starting with Henry Anslinger’s racist remarks back in 1937:

There are 100,000 marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.

– Henry Anslinger, U. S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner, 1937

I won’t say this was enough for Congress to pass the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act in 1937 but I’d say this is where the banning of marijuana started. For more on the criminalization of marijuana, feel free to read: Marijuana Mondays: Ep. 5: Why is marijuana illegal?

Before I get started, I wanted to address the problems that many politicians and people in general have with being educated about marijuana. The number one problem that I find with misinformation is not so much the source but the actual respect given to the source. Usually, the most vocal sources of misinformation come from police officers, DEA agents, and others like anti-drug organizations who pass themselves off as experts.

But, do we ever hear from a doctor, scientist, or a researcher? It amazes me that people who don’t have any direct experience or information with marijuana somehow know so much about it. However, if you LISTEN to most true authorities, they’ll tell you that marijuana is far from dangerous. Also, we need to study marijuana more because there is still so much we don’t know. Most importantly, we don’t listen to the people who actually use marijuana on a daily basis. However, I think that voice is getting louder and louder.

Politicians Guide to Marijuana Policy

So, before I start, I need one thing from the reader: a clean slate. If you’re big on prohibition, anti-prohibition, or just in the middle not know who to believe

Note About Smoking
Anything burned and inhaled is bad for you. I don’t think this is up for argument. As people have died from smoke inhalation in a burning home so it should be extrapolated that introducing any smoked material, including marijuana and tobacco, will be harmful to a person’s body. However, marijuana does not have to be smoked to be consumed. It can be made into a tincture which can be used in drinks. It can also be used in foods. There exists safer options for consumption of marijuana.

In Favor of Common Sense Marijuana Policy

La Guardia Committee Report, 1944 [Drug Library | Wikipedia]
The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York
“The report was prepared by the New York Academy of Medicine, on behalf of a commission appointed in 1939 by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia”

  • The practice of smoking marijuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
  • The use of marijuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marijuana smoking.
  • Marijuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
  • Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marijuana.
  • The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marijuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.

National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, 1972 [Drug Library | Wikipedia]
Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding
“The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse was created by Public Law 91-513 to study marijuana abuse in the United States.” President Nixon completely disregarded the findings of his own commission.

  • The criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only ‘with the greatest reluctance.

Marijuana Rescheduling Petition Docket No. 86-22, 1988 [Drug Library]
DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young in support of rescheduling marijuana said, “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.” (page 58). The DEA completely disregarded the findings of their own judge.

Other Sources
Myths and Facts About Marijuana, 1997
[Drug Policy Alliance Network]
“This collection of myths and facts is based on the book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence . A decade after the book was published, the latest scientific evidence continues to support the original findings.”

  • Myth: Marijuana is Highly Addictive.
  • Fact: Most people who smoke marijuana smoke it only occasionally. A small minority of Americans – less than 1 percent – smoke marijuana on a daily basis. An even smaller minority develop a dependence on marijuana. Some people who smoke marijuana heavily and frequently stop without difficulty. Others seek help from drug treatment professionals. Marijuana does not cause physical dependence. If people experience withdrawal symptoms at all, they are remarkably mild.

NORML’s Marijuana Health Mythology, 1994 [NORML]

  • Myth: Pot Kills Brain Cells
  • Government experts now admit that pot doesn’t kill brain cells… It is worth noting that other drugs, including alcohol, are known to cause brain damage.

These are only a few resources that can be used in your effort to come up with a common sense marijuana policy that can work. Listen to the advocates for marijuana reform and listen to the advocates for prohibition. But, when you do listen, be sure to ask for references of the information. You’ll know who’s telling the truth when that information is backed up by science and not hearsay.

Who wants to keep marijuana illegal?

I do believe there are some people out there with honest concern about marijuana use, albeit very few. However, I believe that it comes from misinformation. I do respect their concerns which is why I try to educate and inform people about the truth of marijuana. When you realize the truth about marijuana, you get organizations like NORML, MPP, SSDP, ASA, and many more.

So, who wants to keep marijuana illegal and WHY?

Law Enforcement
They are charged with protecting us, right? Well guess how much money it costs to “protect” us from drugs. Try $70,000,000,000. Yes, that’s BILLION. But, wait a min. Marijuana is the most prevalent drug as well as the easiest to “sniff” out. If marijuana, at some point in the future, becomes legal, how much funding would law enforcement need to cover helicopters to spot marijuana farms, infrared devices to spot “hot” homes, the massive amount of man hours spent arresting millions of users, and the prison costs incurred by jailing over 800,000 people per year for things as small as a marijuana joint. Now, take that all away and how much money does law enforcement get to play with? Definitely not that much.

Alcohol & Tobacco
We all know these are the legal drugs allowed by the law. Alcohol has the job of inebriating people. Tobacco has the pseudo ability to calm people down. Introduce marijuana. A substance that can be smoked, mixed in a drink, or made into food. It not only inebriates but it also has the ability to relax you. If marijuana were legal, there would really be no reason to smoke tobacco nor drink alcohol. You better believe they do NOT want legal competition. Imagine corner stores selling packs of marijuana cigarettes, marijuana shops, and marijuana bars. Legal marijuana is a real threat.

Pharamceuticals
A lot of people try to dispute the medicinal value of marijuana. It’s funny because marijuana was used medicinally in the United States before it was used recreationally (or industrially, I think). At any rate, the medicinal value of marijuana is immense. While the United States continues to pretend that marijuana isn’t medically useful, the rest of the world is studying marijuana intensely. They’re doing so for a reason. There is a lot of scientific evidence the proves marijuana does relieve pain which is bad for drugs like tylenol, ibuprofen and harder drugs like hydrocodone and oxycontin. But, nations such as Spain and Israel has done studies that show marijuana is helpful in reducing cancer as well as other ailments.

In fact, I’ve writtin a post hoping that Senator Ted Kennedy would use marijuana for his glioma, brain cancer (see: Post #41). Science has already proven that marijuana can do a lot of what pharmaceutical companies chemical concoctions do WITHOUT the detrimental side effects (unless you consider sleepiness and hunger detrimental).

Criminals
Think about this one hard. If you were a criminal, it would be obvious that marijuana prohibition actually does you a favor in allowing you control the pricing of your own product. You don’t have to pay taxes because it’s illegal. Where’s the line on the tax form where you can state how much illegal profit you’ve made in the previous year? It doesn’t exist. Do you think Al Capone would advocate for legal alcohol, especially when it was the backbone of his fortune? Do you think drug cartels would want to give up the massive profits and control by legalizing marijuana? Absolutely not.

The Point

The problem with marijuana prohibition is that people continue to believe that marijuana is a dangerous substance. Yet, the only proof that marijuana is dangerous comes, not from science or any empirical evidence but, from people who want to keep marijuana illegal for financial reasons. It’s a gold mine. To legalize marijuana is to send a lot of people scrambling for new revenue streams including drug cartels.

These people don’t care about the citizens. Law enforcement didn’t care about Rachel Hoffman when they got her killed trying target a small time dealer. Alcohol and tobacco are directly responsible for the deaths of millions. Pharmaceutical companies have proven they don’t care by consistently pushing through medication that does more harm than healing. And the real criminals couldn’t care any less as long as the profits keep coming in. The only people that care about THE PEOPLE are the advocates and users of marijuana.

We want it legal because…

  • we don’t want to get arrested by overzealous agents and police who lie to obtain search warrants.
  • we don’t want to use alcohol or tobacco (I get violently ill around tobacco smoke and I don’t like the effects of alcohol)
  • we don’t want to continue placing our lives in the hands of man made chemical sludges
  • we don’t want to have to keep dealing with shady characters with fake names and throw away cell phones
  • the high from marijuana is enjoyable

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