Opinion

The Great Debate

Drugs, elephants and American prisons

By Bernd Debusmann
April 30, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate–Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

Are the 305 million people living in the United States the most evil in the world? Is this the reason why the U.S., with 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and an incarceration rate five times as high as the rest of the world?

Or is it a matter of a criminal justice system that has gone dramatically wrong, swamping the prison system with drug offenders?

That rhetorical question, asked on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Virginia Senator Jim Webb, fits into what looks like an accelerating shift in public sentiment on the way that a long parade of administrations has been dealing with illegal drugs.

Advocates of drug reform sensed a change in the public mood even before Webb, a Democrat who served as secretary of the Navy under Republican Ronald Reagan, introduced a bill last month to set up a blue-ribbon commission of “the greatest minds” in the country to review the criminal justice system and recommend reforms within 18 months.

No aspect of the system, according to Webb, should escape scrutiny, least of all “the elephant in the bedroom in many discussions … the sharp increase in drug incarceration over the past three decades. In 1980, we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more than 500,000, an increase of 1,200 percent.”

The elephant has ambled out of the bedroom and has become the object of a lively debate on the pros and cons of legalising drugs, particularly marijuana, among pundits on both sides of the political spectrum, on television panels and in mainstream publications from the Wall Street Journal to TIME magazine.

True watersheds in public attitudes are rarely spotted at the time they take place but the phrase “tipping point” comes up more and more often in discussions on the “war on drugs”.

“Something has changed in the past few months,” says Bruce Mirken, of the Marijuana Policy Project, one of a network of 30 groups advocating the legalisation of the most widely-used illegal drug in the United States. “In the first three months of this year we’ve been invited to national cable news programs as often as in the entire year before.”

SHIFTING MOOD

Allen St. Pierre, who leads the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), also feels that the most serious public discussion in more than a generation is getting under way. “In mid-March,” he said in an interview, “there were 36 separate marijuana bills pending in 24 states — on legalization, de-criminalization, medical marijuana. Not all the bills will make it, but they are a sign of change.”

So are public opinion polls. On a national level, they show an increase from about 15 percent in support of marijuana legalization four decades ago to 44 percent now. The numbers differ from state to state. In California, the most populous, a recent survey showed 54 percent in favour.

St. Pierre sees a confluence of reasons for the shift in attitudes — baby boomers, a generation familiar with drug use, are in charge of the country’s institutions; the dismal economy makes people question public expenditures that do not seem essential; and the drug violence in Mexico that has begun spilling across the border.

Contrary to widespread perceptions, marijuana accounts, by many estimates, for considerably more than half the illegal drugs smuggled from Mexico to the United States.

The argument for legalizing marijuana, and eventually other drugs, is straightforward: it would transform a law-and-order problem into a problem of public health. A side effect of particular importance at a time of deep economic crisis: it would save billions of dollars now spent on law enforcement and add billions in revenues if drugs were taxed.

If drug policies were decided by economists, the debate would have begun earlier and might be over by now. Four years ago, 500 economists including three Nobel prize winners urged the administration of George W. Bush to show that marijuana prohibition justified “the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues and numerous ancillary consequences…”

Such as prisons holding, in the words of Senator Webb, tens of thousands of “passive users and minor dealers.”

While they contribute to prison overcrowding in some states, they have little to fear in others. To fully grasp the bizarrely uneven treatment of marijuana use, consider the annual “smoke-out” on April 20 in Boulder, Colorado.

There, on a sunny Monday, a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 converged on the campus of the University of Colorado to light up marijuana joints, whose smoke hung over the scene like a grey blanket. Overhead, an aircraft dragged a banner with the words “Hmmm, smells good up here.” Police watched but made no arrests and issued no fines.

Even the most optimistic of reform advocates do not see an end to prohibition in the near future. President Barack Obama endeared himself to reformers during his election campaign by an honest answer to a question on past drug use: “Yes, I inhaled. Frequently. That was the point.” But his spokesman recently said Obama opposed legalization.

It remains to be seen whether that stand remains the same if Webb’s proposed commission, assuming it will be established, came up with recommendations for deep change. That happened to the last report by a blue-ribbon commission on the subject.

The so-called Shafer report, whose members were appointed by then-president Richard Nixon, found in 1972 that “neither the marijuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety” and recommended that there should be no criminal penalties for personal use and casual distribution.

Nixon rejected the report. He had already declared “war on drugs”, and American prisons soon began filling up.

Comments
81 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Really, it is not about drugs at all. It is about money. The fact is that illegal drugs make a lot more money than legal drugs. It is far to easy for an overpriced physician to prescribe something like prozak when cannabis, a weed that grows almost anywhere, is just as good and can be inexpensively produced. The weed is also a stronger source of natural fiber than cotton which could disrupt the textiles. It could be used to produce paper thereby eliminating countless jobs in the timber/deforestation industry. Finally, the seeds are used as livestock feed and as a source of fuel and vegetable oil. So weed should be illegal to protect jobs in places like the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries. Really, it’s only drugs if YOU don’t do it. Next time you sip on your wine or coffee, take a puff off your favorite cigarette, or go to the doctor for nerve pills (“the doctor” is the designated title of a licensed member belonging to a highly developed medical cartel(the AMA) controlling health care prices, pharmaceutical rackets, and government health care policy in the US) ask yourself who the drug user really is!”The doctor” is the designated title of a licensed member belonging to a highly developed medical cartel(the AMA) controlling health care prices, pharmaceutical rackets, and government health care policy in the US. The big drug dealers rarely get caught. It will be tony in the ghetto doing 5 years for a few dime bags.

Posted by jay | Report as abusive
 

http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

You can find and email your Congressmen at the above address.

http://www.Whitehouse.gov

You can email the President at the above address.

Here is what I recently sent:

Please end Marijuana prohibition. Remove Marijuana from the Controlled Substances Schedules. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) recommends Marijuana be regulated like Alcohol and Tobacco. This would eliminate the economic and social costs associated with the prohibition and allow better control of distribution and taxation while expanding our GNP by bringing a multi billion dollar a year industry out of the black markets where it funds criminal activity. This will also generate dozens of off shoot industries like paper, cloth, canvas, oil, bio-diesel, flour, and ethanol. This is no different than alcohol prohibition. We are at a similar economic position with at least 40% of the populace who wants this prohibition to end.

Please stand behind Virginia Senator Jim Webb who is trying to right these wrongs and end the destruction of lives under the current policy known as the War on Drugs. Marijuana should never have been included in that effort and now is the time to end its prohibition.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

I believe Marijuana should be legalized. There has never been real scientific data to support making it illegal in the first place.
My concern is that the push to legalize it by politicians is so they can control and tax it, thus putting another segment of society out of work.
There needs to be a plan to include all those who wish to participate. If the government wants to distribute it, then they need to make a provision that allows growers to sell their product to the distrobution centers.
The idea I heard about tacking on a $60 per ounce tax is way out of line. Why should it be taxed more than cigarettes or alcohol? You will see people growing their own if it costs that much to buy it from the government.
We say we live in a free country. How come were are not free to grow the same plants as our founding fathers without harrassment, imprisonment, or taxation?

Posted by Vern | Report as abusive
 

Marijuana should not be taxed at all. I suppose that the case can be made that tobacco and alcohol both require minimum standards of preparation for safety reasons, and so a tax is needed to help enforce this.

But marijuana is a weed. It’s a plant that will grow just about anywhere. And if you have one in your home, why should you be taxed for it? Let the people have it. Put safety regulations in place and minimum age requirements if you like. But really, we need to stop offering the government our money in exchange for what should be hours by right already. We’re already taxed enough. Besides, what would the government do with the tax money anyway? Give it to some rich folks that are trying to keep another sick fraudulent “business” alive? Please.

The government needs to stop trying to regulate what is and is not acceptable behavior. Especially if that behavior is harming no one and is being conducted in the sanctity of your home. Just tell your reps to give you what you want. And don’t elect them again if they don’t. We should not be offering to “buy” our rights in exchange for permission to do what they don’t have the right to deny you in the first place. Tell them that enough is enough and that they need to let this whole drug war go so that we can actually work on solving addiction problems rather than putting responsible users in jail.

 

Benny, The tax should only be on sales. And, Vern, anyone who attempts to put a large tax on MJ is only trying to maintain the black market which would undercut the sale price.

Like tobacco when you put to high a tax you just set up the market to fail to a black market. When Ohio doubled the cost of lose rolling tobacco black market sales went up while farmers and non-farmer land owners purchased tobacco seed and are planting their own. The State and supporter of the tax convinced people that this would reduce the amount people smoked but, in reality it just created a criminal enterprise and new growers. Marijuana would be no different. It should be legal and regulated like alcohol and tobacco but sales should not be over taxed. With just the standard sales tax alone, given all the side industries that would be created, would greatly increase the tax revenues to local and state entities.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

We must help Mexico win its war with the drug cartel or we will have a Leftist government running Mexico after the next presidential elections in 2012. If we lose Mexico to LatAm left, we will have regular Chinese and Russian nuclear naval visits next door. Moreover, Colombia will be surrounded by commies (e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Mexico). If we lose Colombia, it would be a geo-political disaster for the US. At that point, it would only be a matter of time before rogue nuclear weapons enter the US through the porous border and a few American cities are destroyed.

We have got to stop US high power weapons being sold to the Mexican drug cartels. The NRA is either with us or with the Cartels. We should decriminalized marijuana to kill the Cartels’ main sources of income. Time is of the essence.

 

I love you people!! Very intelligent! The problems are many, but you give me faith.

First of all, it’s a question of freedom. What right does any government have to tell me what I can or can not eat, drink, smoke, etc? They can sure make suggestions and educate me on the pros/cons, but the decision is mine. Drugs should all be legal and never require a prescription.

People will say: what about the lost jobs and industries (prisons, police, etc). I say it’s a shift of resources. prison guards become MJ, cocoa, poppy growers. Police become

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

I love you people!! Very intelligent! The problems are many, but you give me faith.

First of all, it’s a question of freedom. What right does any government have to tell me what I can or can not eat, drink, smoke, etc? They can sure make suggestions and educate me on the pros/cons, but the decision is mine. Drugs should all be legal and never require a prescription.

People will say: what about the lost jobs and industries (prisons, police, etc)? I say it’s a shift of resources. prison guards become MJ, cocoa, poppy growers. Police become wholesalers and shop owners. Look at the ‘legal’ industry around caffeine, coffee is everywhere, do you know what caffeine does to us?

People will say: what about the public health concern? I say what? Why is society on the hook for prolonging individual lives? If I want to smoke butts and MJ, I do not expect Medicare to cure my lung cancer. What a sense of entitlement people have.

People will say: the young do not know the dangers of drug use! I say make it part of education. Mandate a class on the benefits and dangers of all drugs, make available the current scientific research on said drugs. While you are at it mandate a class on personal finance (i.e. don’t spend what you don’t have).

These are just a few examples, but the short story is that people should be free to experiment with whatever they want if it does not infringe on the liberty of others. Society has no right to say otherwise, and in the same vein they have no responsibility to correct the decisions people make. If I OD, destroy my mind, develop lung cancer, it may be sad, but we all die and society should not waste resources on prolonging the inevitable. If in chasing my high I rob a store, that is in fact a crime and it infringes on the liberty of others and should be punished.

This country was founded by lawyers and all branches of government are heavily peppered with lawyers… so why would we not expect a ridiculous amount of ridiculous laws for them to develop, judge and enforce. It is in their self-interest.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

Keith, I am weighing the pros and cons and right now I veer towards the cons, especially because children are ultimately involved: kids are not to blame if their parents/guardian reckless attitude towards smoking pot will endanger their well being.
If a kid swallows a plastic bit of toy in the room next to where you are cheerfully yapping away sharing a dooby with your friends and unaware, what then?

De-criminalizing the substance gives out a erroneous message to the current users that the dangers suddenly dissappear. The greatest and only danger they care about is going to jail (suffering the consequences of a reckless act) but it does little to minimize the risk of the use itself – I really don’t care if pot causes cancer to smokers or if some college brat doesn’t make the grade, but I care if some pothead is driving recklessly with the munchies and involves me in an accident, for example.

As for the economic end of the deal, it is true some degree of negotiation must occur for police work to be more social and less monetized, and the prison system completely re-worked, but states like California suffer not from a lack of money from revenue but from unrealistic lawmakers, corrupt officials and decades-old mismanagement. There is actually too much money in California and all the sharks are feeding.

I continue to say that the social realities of today regarding crime as a whole will not change if pot is legalized. It will not make crime-riddled areas any more safer, it will not lower use of harder drugs, it will not help create mixed neighborhoods where all classes are represented and none is isolated in the inner cities, it will not curb violent behavioral patterns in prison populations and it won’t end the social housing mentality from culling their youngest. It won’t make the richest section of the population any more willing to mix with lower classes, it won’t help small/medium size companies to establish themselves in a good section of town without some fancy credit line they’ll never be able to repay. It will not help curb the over-spending attitude of governments – local and national.

You’re high on dreams if you think legalizing pot will accomplish anything of real substance.

Posted by SG | Report as abusive
 

SG, while for a big part I agree with you, there are a couple of flaws in your reasoning. First of all parents carry the responsibility over their kids, as well as their own health.

The example of parents not noticing their children because they are using marijuana seems a bit off. The same risk exists when they are drinking alcohol (I’d say, when they are drunk and beating each other up, parents will notice the choking boy even less). The same risk exists when they are sleeping, or when they work two jobs, or have three children which they can’t watch 24/7. The same can be said for driving: distraction by mobile phone, for example, or again drinking (or drinking in particular; to me this is a big problem in the US) cause more driving accidents than marijuana smoking..

The dangers you speak of exist, to some extent. Cannabis smoking, however, doesn’t come close to the health risks accompanying tobacco smoking, just to give an example.

On the economic end, to me it’s not about having “enough”. Economics don’t work that way… The more money you have, the more you can do. Perhaps you have enough to sustain the way you live now, but scientists have made it clear that our current way of living isn’t sustainable (for instance from an ecological point of view). Less useless spending, because that’s what we’re talking about, is better. You give a very good argument yourself: the kids don’t know about the risks and all they fear is the law. Isn’t this ridiculous? Why not use the money that’s being spent on a measure that doesn’t work on educating the people and give them the tools to decide for themselves. Just like most women won’t drink during their pregnancy.

While decriminalizing or legalizing won’t solve all the worlds problems, it would make a lot more sense and actually make it easier to control drug related issues. Sure you can portrait everyone supporting this a pothead and say they’re high on dreams, but to me this is a more sensible solution to an issue that never will disappear. Don’t make the right choice for people, but give them the opportunity to make the right choice themselves.

Posted by Henry | Report as abusive
 

Reading the history of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 is alone reason enough to repeal it. An unjust law based upon a fictional science, twisted facts and outright lies.

Posted by amasiam | Report as abusive
 

Good article. Has everyone noticed the preponderance of drug prohibition articles? Seems like 90% are against the war on some drugs. It’s long, long overdue that we dispose of this bad policy.

 

Oscar wrote: We have got to stop US high power weapons being sold to the Mexican drug cartels.

This is a piece of political anti-gun propaganda that has little to do with facts. The Mexican drug cartels have ready access to fully-automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, and other ACTUAL military weapons that are illegal for sale in the U.S. What interest could they possibly have in a “military style” semiautomatic rifle?

Yes, some American rifles do end up south of the border, but they are by far in the minority. You have heard that 90% of traced guns in Mexico come from the U.S. That is because Mexico does not submit guns for a trace when the guns are obviously not from America. In actuality, only 17% of seized guns are from America. The remaining 83% are from somewhere else. The 90% number only means that the Mexicans are very good at identifying which guns do and do not come from America, which is not hard, because every gun made in the U.S. is stamped as such on its barrel and receiver.

Where do the Mexican drug cartels actually get their military-grade weapons? It’s not from civilian gun shops in the united states. It’s not through “straw man” or gun-show purchases.

 

SG Said:
“Keith, I am weighing the pros and cons and right now I veer towards the cons, especially because children are ultimately involved: kids are not to blame if their parents/guardian reckless attitude towards smoking pot will endanger their well being.
If a kid swallows a plastic bit of toy in the room next to where you are cheerfully yapping away sharing a dooby with your friends and unaware, what then?”
I think Henry answered this statement with tact and grace. I think I would have been more brutal given SG used an old ploy of invoking the children’s safety. Today Marijuana is bought and sold in a black market where no regulations exist on who they can sell to. Any junior high school kid can get it any time they want as long as they got the cash. In a white market it would be regulated similar to alcohol with store owners enforcing those regulations in fear of losing their license. In other words it would be harder to get.
SG Said:
“De-criminalizing the substance gives out a erroneous message to the current users that the dangers suddenly dissappear.”
This is more false propaganda from the prohibitionists. With standards and quality control fewer deaths will occur from OD but, if we are strictly speaking Marijuana there is no chance of OD and very few dangers at all.
SG Said:
The greatest and only danger they care about is going to jail (suffering the consequences of a reckless act) but it does little to minimize the risk of the use itself – I really don’t care if pot causes cancer to smokers or if some college brat doesn’t make the grade, but I care if some pothead is driving recklessly with the munchies and involves me in an accident, for example.
Unless you also consider the partaking of an evening Scotch on the rocks as reckless, I can’t see how using Marijuana is reckless. The only thing reckless about the act of using Marijuana is the Law that will persecute you and possible through you in jail. And, DUI is against the law and no one here is talking about changing that law so this was a superfluous argument.
SG Said:
“You’re high on dreams if you think legalizing pot will accomplish anything of real substance.”
Some facts: Marijuana makes up over 80% of all illegal drug use in the US. Over 50% of the current prison population is in for drug offenses.
What would happen in Marijuana was legalized?
Close to 80% of the money currently funding gang activity in this country and south of the boarder would vanish.
Significantly fewer would be imprisoned on drug charges easing the demand on prisons.
Significant amounts of funding for drug interdictions would be saved
A multi billion dollar a year industry would be created in the white market that would not only include the smokable flower but new cooking oils and flour, new paper, cloth, canvas, construction materials, alternative fuels and pharmaceuticals.
Law enforcement could spend more time catching real criminals who harm others
The issues of using Corn corps for bio diesel and ethanol would be solved since the science community has already endorsed Hemp as one of the best sources of both these alternative fuels.
Properly taxed these new industries could greatly help in funding our local, state and national debt.
SG it won’t bring the rich and the poor closer together. That is called socialism and we are not talking about changing economic systems. We are taking about righting a wrong that has ruined thousands upon thousands of lives, that has turned the US into a prison state, that has stripped the people of their Constitutional Rights, that has created the largest disenfranchised subculture in the history of the US (the ex-Con). That wrong is called the War on Drugs. Addiction should never have been criminalized. It is a health problem. If not for a bunch of bigoted lawmakers trying to control the Chinese, blacks and Hispanics and William Hurst trying to save his empire we would never have gone down this road. Do not be fooled by the prohibitionist rhetoric. Read the history for yourself.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

SG,
Just one quick point, I’m 23 so I’m not too far removed from high school and I could’ve smoked weed every single day for free from 6th-12th grade. That’s how available weed is to children, so if it’s all about the children then weed should be legalized. It was much harder for me to get cigarettes and alcohol than it was for me to get marijuana. Maybe once every few months there were parties with booze and it was even difficult to get cigs.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

If everyone who posts support for ending the war on drugs and legalizing Marijuana would email their senators, and congressional representatives, and tell THEM that you want this done, then they would have no choice.

And for those that oppose your requested change, simply withhold your vote next election cycle and write in a candidate if you like. It seems from all of the responses that we should be getting to work speaking with a single voice on this issue. It would be nice to read posts from folks who have done just that, so that they can encourage others to do so. I send Tod T Hart a link to this discussion. I don’t know if he’ll visit it but if he doesn’t I will simply vote for his opposition or write myself in :-).

 

Late for the sky, such are the inside-the-beltway types. Washington has a hard time getting it, but the states are doing it. The Feds will be the last to help out, but 14 states have already legalized medical marijuana.

And you underestimate the “ancillary” effects of prohibition, BD. The foundations of government are corrupted by prohibition. The top expense of drug cartels is buying off law enforcement, judges and politicians. Drug cartels have enough influence to sway national policy, and you can bet they don’t want legalization. That would put them out of business. If we want a lawful society again, we need to stop prohibitionist policies.

Another poster frets, with considerable justification, about the violence spilling over from Mexico. But pointing to the guns misses the point. We didn’t put Al Capone out of business by taking his guns. We took away his BUSINESS.

Posted by Freebooter | Report as abusive
 

Long replies, but I hope they are of interest to anyone who cares to read them:

In reply to May 7th, 2009 2:21 pm GMT – Posted by Freebooter
Al Capone may have been propped up by the Prohibition but he had extensive ties in other illegal activities such as racketeering, murder, prostitution, money laundering and other black market products – this at the height of the Great Depression, when most people were desperate. These businesses are, to this day, very profitable to the mafias he had close dealings with. Now, legalizing alcohol was a good thing after a disastrous attempt at tackling its Abuse but it didn’t curb the power of gangs. It brought them to the limelight in the news and the movies. Unfortunately, legalizing alcohol didn’t help with the personal irresponsibility of drunk driving, child endangerment or as cause of workplace accidents – only the strengthening of legal consequences for those who were caught drunk. How many deaths and crippled do you think it took for the law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol come to fruition? And do you think there wasn’t education regarding the dangers of alcohol use in those situations too? There was – and people were not more stupid then than they are now.

In reply to May 7th, 2009 12:29 pm GMT – Posted by Michael Ham
Would legalizing make it less available to kids? I doubt it very much. Would legalizing it remove the “Cool Status” this drug enjoys nationwide? I doubt it. So the use would persist regardless and the teens would be further empowered to say – “…But it’s not illegal and I suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder and this is my medication.” (As if current medication practices are anything to brag about, but that is for another discussion.) The discussion of having legalized but available only to adults over 21 under conditions similar to alcohol would still make it to the wish list of forbidden things for teens to do. Especially if they can get their hands on their parents home grown stash. If parents allow consumption at home, they’re liable to go to prison over marijuana just as if, or worse than, they smoke it illegally today. Again, the availability of a highly mind-altering substance is not the issue, but since we don’t live in a perfect world, many adults and teens have to be reminded of the consequences – because Education will not shine a light through unless there is a receptive mind to acknowledge it. When you were a teen, you were lucky. Continued use of any kind is nothing but Escapism from Reality. If Reality is so bad that millions of people just have to have their fix, then isn’t it sad that the energy it takes to change particular aspects of Reality is spent on getting high?

In reply to May 7th, 2009 10:09 am GMT – Posted by B.Free
No, it wouldn’t be harder to get. Just as it isn’t harder to get now. What would happen is that it would be harder to prove that the dooby the kid got caught smoking was from a legal source so legal action could be taken against the legal business that sold it to him or to an enabler. At this point we’re talking about teens in junior high. What needs to be tackled is the overwhelming desire of a large number of teens to get high – especially when they’re already street savvy and with a brain developed enough to know what is right and what is wrong. Teens already know the legal consequences of seeking an illegal substance, they know the charges against them should they get caught stoned out of their minds. Whether it’s legalized or not, the consumption of the drug will not be affected. It will merely shift the current market here and there a bit but it will not change the overall situation. Also you’re minimizing parental responsibility towards toddlers. In a perfect world, all parents would be dotting parents, responsible, level headed, and all of them would only have begun their sexual life when they reached 18 or 21 years old and not a day before. In a perfect world, by the day of the 18th birthday, all individuals would behave like responsible adults, with good character, and would have left their teenager tendencies behind. Just as making it legal for the sexual life of a person to begin at a legal age doesn’t help curb the teen pregnancies and transmission of STD’s, so does legalizing pot under circumstances equal to alcohol will not curb current numbers of abuse and risks. By the time people reach your age, for example, they should be able to leave behind fallacies in arguments and use pertinent facts and genuine sources to make their point across, for example. What needs to be genuinely CHANGED is not simply Education regarding drugs and their use but the current social and physical infrastructure conditions that make kids and adults SO eager to take them at all costs to begin with.
The standards and control issue are mute when there won’t be a serious capability to control marijuana production and sales in the black market, which will always be cheaper and much more readily available. Unless you also consider the partaking of an evening Scotch on the rocks as reckless, I can’t see how using Marijuana is reckless. The only thing reckless about the act of using Marijuana is the Law that will persecute you and possible through you in jail. And, DUI is against the law and no one here is talking about changing that law so this was a superfluous argument.
Continuously comparing marijuana to alcohol is skirting the issue. The issue here is not alcohol, though there are parallels that can be made, but it still isn’t the same. That substance is a legal product for consumption while marijuana IS NOT – Simple. For a responsible adult, moderate consumption of a scotch on the rocks is not a problem. Marijuana gets you high with a very small amount consumed and will land you in trouble with the law if you are caught. I do feel that 1 joint is not enough reason to stick someone in the slammer, though if that person has prior drug convictions and on probation, most likely the consumption ISN’T moderate and there are other underlying problems with the individual. Which takes me to your poorly made up percentages that are not backed up with a credible reference. I can pull statistics out of my De Laplace but it’s getting to be a long reply so here it is: If your “stats” are anything to go by, 50% of the current prison population is in for drug offenses. But out of those 50%, which drug offenses and repeat offenders are we talking about? You say nothing of it. MaryJane isn’t the only one around. Unfortunately cocaine and derivatives, heroin and derivatives, abuse of prescription medicine, *alcohol abuse*, methamphetamines, glue inhaling and God knows what else, should be mentioned in those statistics of yours so only a smaller percentage is actually in for marijuana use only. Of those, which ones are in not just as consumers but as producers and dealers and which ones have other convictions they’re serving time for too, like breaking the terms of their probation or in for being part of organized crime? There is absolutely no reason to believe organized crime will cease or lower significantly as soon as marijuana is legalized. Funds can’t be saved from the slaughter that governments subject them to. More would go to fund wars overseas or needless mammoth construction enterprises instead. What I’m finding amusing is how you are saying marijuana will save the Earth. I’ve heard that line before. But it won’t, I’m afraid. It will use land resources to cultivate a cash crop specifically for recreational use instead of food. The industry may be properly taxed but the taxes will make it prohibitively expensive to industrially cultivate it, research it, package it, secure it, distribute it and sell it and at the same time pay for legal insurance due to the unavoidable court cases that will ensue. So being an anti-socialist is actually supporting legalization of pot? Good God, man, do you understand what you are saying?!? On a personal level: I don’t care about the disenfranchised culture of pot smokers as pot smokers have personally demonstrated me they’re just as bigoted as anybody else. And since you are saying you know your history then you should be able to also know that 1937 is not the same as 2009. If it was that simple, then alcohol regulation should go immediately back to pre-Prohibition terms, as you like to compare alcohol and marijuana so much; but it won’t, because to do so is to allow alcoholism to flourish to a degree nobody alive today in the USA can imagine, except for the Native American Indians in reservations. Those with a liver left.

Posted by SG | Report as abusive
 

In reply to May 7th, 2009 2:56 am GMT – Posted by Henry
I think you are confused: First you agree with me saying that parents carry the responsibility over their kids as well as their own health. and then when I say that parental reckless behavior endangers the child you say it’s “a bit off”? Where is the contradiction? Are there parents that don’t engage in stupid behavior? Not the majority, but apparently there are, as you stated that the same risks are involved when the parents drink alcohol and beat each other up. Making another mind altering substance legal doesn’t make kids any safer. Now parents will be drunk AND smoking pot while they beat each other up. Driving and talking on your cell phone is illegal in some states because it has been proven that it endangers everybody on the road. Unfortunately you exaggerate when you state parents working 2 or 3 jobs or having 3 kids as risks. What a lame bunch of crap you write and clearly so out of touch with reality. And if I keep getting offered lame evidence by marijuana supporters, why should I change my mind? Anybody smoking a cigarette doesn’t automatically see funny things or has their reasoning and reflexes impaired and I want to see you smoking a joint without tobacco paper and tobacco, unless you make a joint the same way you do a Havana cigar. Both the rolling paper and the tobacco still have their chemical substances. Further to demonstrate how you’re so stoned you can’t make heads or tails of what I say is that even at the economic level you are agreeing with me. Even at the educational level, you agree with me. I never stated kids who smoke pot don’t know the risks. I may have implied they’re too stupid to care. And I never said that lack of Education about the consequences is a good thing. I think the fact that it’s forbidden is what gets you because you have the choice in your hand, regardless of the current law but you hate having to deal with that pesky prohibition. You can smoke it and get away with it, like so many do or you can choose not to smoke it at all and use your money for something worthwhile. It has always been your call.

Posted by SG | Report as abusive
 

SG,

I respect your opinions, I just far from share them. It would take too much space to respond on every point, but I found one point amusing and since you like statistics and references, regarding Al Capone:
“It is estimated that by 1929, Capone’s income from the various aspects of his business was $60,000,000 (illegal alcohol), $25,000,000 (gambling establishments), $10,000,000 (vice) and $10,000,000 from various other rackets.”
http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USA capone.htm

“Capone was notorious during the Prohibition Era for his control of large portions of the Chicago underworld, which provided the Outfit with an estimated US $100 million per year[17] in revenue. This wealth was generated through all manner of illegal enterprises, such as gambling and prostitution,[8] although the largest moneymaker was the sale of liquor.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_capone

Funny how both sources estimate around $100M with the majority from alcohol. Consistent at least, right?

While we’re at it, gambling and prostitution should be legal as well. Anything between two consenting adults should be legal when not infringing on the liberties of others.

If something is legal there is NO reason to kill to protect your freedom and MUCH LESS reason to kill to protect market share.

And yes, I am high on dreams. I believe MLK was also high on dreams. If it cannot be dreamt it cannot be accomplished.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

SG,
What my point was, is that it’s not humanly possible for kids to have it even easier to get weed than it already is. Like I said, I went to a school with middle of the road income families and I could’ve literally smoked weed every single day from 6th to 12th grade if not even earlier for free. It’s completely available on a daily basis for every kid.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)

THIS PETITION SEEKS TO ABOLISH ALL PRIVATE PRISONS IN THE UNITED STATES, (or any place subject to its jurisdiction)

The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.
We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.

Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
These new slave plantations are not the answer!

For more information please visit: http://www.npsctapp.blogsppot.com or email: williamthomas@exconciliation.com
To sign the petition please visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/gufree2/pe tition.html

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

William Thomas
National Community Outreach Facilitator
The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
P.O. Box 156423
San Francisco, California 94115

 

In reply to May 8th, 2009 5:32 pm GMT – Posted by William

I agree absolutely that the prison system today is a for-profit operation and it must be changed.
If the due process of law is constitutionally guaranteed and is upheld by police and courts – which are public – then why are the prisons private or run by private institutions?
Should we now make the courts private, and the police private too?
How can the Constitution be then safeguarded when it comes to defending “(18) Not to have a cruel or unusual punishment inflicted upon oneself.http://www.constitution.org/powr ight.htm” when that punishment is left in private hands, though the sentence was given by public hands?
It’s a matter of sovereignty, in my personal opinion.
Does the US also leave the management of military prisons in the hands of private companies?

That is one of the things that has to change prior to thinking about legalizing a drug: the for-profit aspect of upholding the law, and in no way is it defending the very dangerous criminals that are in the prisons right now, nor that it should be an excuse to keep them out of prison.

Posted by SG | Report as abusive
 

In reply to May 8th, 2009 4:26 pm GMT – Posted by Michael Ham

I am not sorry for the dumb choices made by kids (or you at that phase); the fact that weed is readily available makes no difference. It is easy to find ways to get high: if it isn’t weed, it’s glue, and if it isn’t glue it’s choking games.

Unfortunately, there have been a couple of generations or more educated like they’re not supposed to have Responsibility – primarily for themselves and ultimately toward Others.

Posted by SG | Report as abusive
 

In Reply to May 7th, 2009 10:28 pm GMT – Posted by Keith

Once you mentioned MLK I realized you are high on drugs and taking the mickey out of this discussion.

Posted by SG | Report as abusive
 

I admit that I have a strong urge to climb on board this “legalize drugs” bandwagon. In many ways, it would make things so much easier. Having said that, how many times has the easy way out been the RIGHT way out? Do we really think society will benefit by having drugs readily available to the population? How far do we lower the bar, how low do our expectations go? Will we next say petty theft really isn’t that bad and it’s filling up the prisons so it would just be easier to make it a $25 fine?

People achieve good and great things when they aim high, when expectations drive individuals to accomplish things not thought possible. It’s the same thing with a society – if you aim low, that’s probably the target you’ll hit.

And now this middle age dinosaur will quietly slip away…

Posted by Figgy | Report as abusive
 

SG,
I’ve never smoked weed in my life and never will.

What you big gov’t drug war spenders need to realize is that it’s not just potheads who are sick of having their freedoms taken.

My point is pot is available to every kid, if you want it less available then you should be for legalization where you actually have people regulating the market.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

Hi all, I would just like to address SG’s hate-mongering rhetoric. First you claim anyone who endorses legalization is high. My entire family has endorsed legalization for 30 years and most of us aren’t high. Second you imply kids who smoke pot are too “stupid” to care about the risks. If that were true why do so many people I know with graduate degrees and doctorates, people whose intellects I suspect vast exceed your limited cranial capacity, smoke so much pot. Smoking pot doesn’t make people stupid and people who choose to smoke pot don’t tend to be stupid people; it attracts a thriving community of intellectuals and academics, two things which from just a casual glance it is plain to see you’re not. Attacking peoples character as part of a reasoned discussion is known as a logical fallacy, bear that in mind next time.

Posted by James E. King | Report as abusive
 

Certainly , people might be made aware of the costs involved in habitual use if any , to the taxpayers to bring medical care to the users , i’m thinking like cigy lung probs. Also why do i have to put up with all the cool people blowin’ smoke in my direction? Very unwelcome, thank you not.
Respect my space choices and i’ll reciprocate.
Did any one notice that the republicans might be the shareholders in the private prison system, or am barking up the wrong tree?

Posted by albe | Report as abusive
 

as a fully re-habilitated ex-offender, university graduate and casual drug user i find it fascinating that the penal system in the united states is vastly weighted in favour of punishment for crimes commited rather than the rehabilitation of offenders who could potentially be productive to your society as opposed to a drain on resources. The swelling numbers within your system is surely down to institutionalised repeat offenders who quite frankly have not been given the opportunity and help required to make something of themselves when eventually released. Legalisation of marijuana is not the answer as apart from all the dangers of cigarette smoking it can also trigger mental health issues such as schitzophrenia and surely we can all agree, despite the high, that it is bad for you. I smoke and i inhale but if i could buy it any time from anywhere i’d do it a lot more which can only be a bad thing….

Posted by oli | Report as abusive
 

I have several reasons why Marijuana should be legalized, and I will list them along with nay sayers, you decide who’s logic is better.

First and foremost, I want you all to know why Marijuana was criminalized, and how it became public enemy number 1. In 1937 there was a tax act that was introduced and passed which taxed the growers of Marijuana to pay an outlandish tax per gram to grow the crop. This in turn developed into the tax stamp known today. Those whom couldn’t provide a stamp for their marijuana, they were encarcerated. Now think about this for a second. This was the thirties, who smoked pot back then? Minorities, and the U.S. government knew that, and they knew no one could pay a tax on a crop they didn’t grow, thus made them a criminal. Now fast forward, 1972 Richard Nixon declared WAR on DRUGS in America. Is it me, or didn’t he resign from office from accusations of abuse of power? And, we as Americans still placed ourselves behind him in support for it, which leads me to believe we didn’t know what we were supporting at the time.

Now lets take some nay sayers comments toward legalization.

“Marijuana legalization will lead to an increase in pot-smoking among teens and young adults.”

This in fact is a scare tactic, and I almost want to punch whomever says this because it is a backwards point. See what no one wants to see is that it is already prevalent amonge teens, and young adults. They can’t get alcohol without ID, but a drug dealer doesn’t care, he just wants his money. Remove the dealer from the picture, and place the drug in the hands of liquor stores, then you will at least reduce the amount of teens whom have ready access to it at anytime.

“Legalization will send the wrong signal to our children.”
Well this leaves no room for error doesn’t it? What signal does it send to our children? Well first off if parents were more involved with their childrens lives, then whether the drug is illegal or legal wouldn’t make a difference. In fact, if it was legal they would know that the have to be a grown-up to do those things, and if you taught your children right they wouldn’t mess around with it in the first place, even if they did it isn’t going to kill them.

“Pot smoking leads to mental illness”
This has been proven to be false. Pot doesn’t in anyway cause any form of mental illness. If you smoked pot and later found out you were mentally unstable, that is because you were already unstable or had some a preexisting condition you were unaware of. Anyone whom says different either made it up, an idiot splurring lies, or both.

“pot is a risk to public safety.”

Well that is a legitament concern, but one that is clouded in lies. Liquor is dangerous, but the choice to consume it is one that we hold proud in America, but the choice isn’t ours if we want to consume something that wont kill us eventually? Making a drug illegal makes it dangerous. Moreover, it takes the authority away from the police, and places it into the hands of outlaws. Legalizing Marijuana will project some other health concerns, but they are far from the same risks as alcolhol. To me, it’s completely illogical, and unAmerican to keep the prohibition for pot.

So in closing, we are a nation that was founded under priciples of basic freedoms. The choice to smoke pot is a basic priciple of freedom, and one that doesn’t need to be trampled on by people who can’t stay out of other people’s business. If someone wants to responsibly consume it in the privacy of their own home, then we as their neighbors shouldn’t care as long as their right to do so doesn’t infringe on your right to breath clean air.

Lets keep this debate a logical, and reasonable one. I can’t stand it when someone’s only arguement is “drugs are bad mkay.”

Legalize it, tax it, and free it.

Posted by Chris_A | Report as abusive
 

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