Pubdate: Tue, 30 Apr 2002
Source: Daily Californian, The (CA Edu)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Californian
Author: Kevin Sabet
Note: Kevin Sabet is a UC Berkeley alumnus studying drug policy at Oxford 


Once again, the city of Berkeley has sent an unambiguous message affirming 
its nonchalance attitude toward the issue of drugs and the harms they 
incur. This time, they have told the DEA to butt-out on even investigating 
medical marijuana "clubs," which have been deemed illegal by not only 
Congress, the Clinton and Bush administrations, but recently the Supreme 
Court in a unanimous ruling against medical pot.

Apparently, everyone in the city seems to believe that our laws on 
marijuana smokers are not lax enough. Do they remember that Berkeley 
already directs its Police Department to treat marijuana smokers (never 
mind medical pot users) with the "lowest priority"-yes, lower than 
jay-walking-in their everyday pursuits?

Did they forget that California is one of 12 states that have 
decriminalized pot? Yes, if you are caught with marijuana for personal use 
you are not fined more than $100-and you won't be thrown in jail for even 
five minutes. As the DEA reports, only 7,000 people are in federal and 
state jails combined where marijuana possession was their most serious 
offense. Sensible or not, these lax laws still allow the DEA and federal 
authorities to pursue unlawful activities involving large quantities of 
marijuana, including at notorious medical marijuana toking houses.

Unfortunately, City Manager Weldon Rucker-not accountable to the 
overwhelmingly pro-drug Berkeley electorate-and his sensible proposal have 
been trumped in favor of political pandering by the council. Luckily, the 
resolution carries little clout with Berkeley police officers-who 
themselves see the damage that a lax attitude on marijuana can have on a 
city. San Francisco tried to prevent a DEA raid through a similar piece of 
legislation last year, but that didn't seem to stop the agents who 
rightfully closed down a club accused of selling pot to minors and 
non-medical users.

Whatever your stance on medical marijuana is (remember, because medicine is 
never smoked due to the toxicity of breathing in fumes, smoked marijuana 
should "generally not be recommended for medical use" according to the 
National Academy of Sciences), pro-drug has-beens in the city of Berkeley 
should not dictate drug policy designed to protect kids from large scale 
marijuana distribution.

With the universal praise the council has given pot, one would think that 
marijuana is no more harmless than a glass of club soda. In fact, marijuana 
use has now been shown to adversely affect those regions involved in 
coordinating and regulating body movements; those involved in learning, 
memory and stress response; those that integrate the cognitive functions; 
and the reward center of the brain. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable 
to marijuana toxicity and its effect on hormones. It is no wonder that half 
of teens and adolescents in substance abuse treatment are there for 
marijuana only.

The current scientific consensus is that marijuana is not a benign drug. As 
the United Nations reiterated again last week, "calls for marijuana 
legalization should be met with resistance." Unfortunately, the city of 
Berkeley and its officials would rather let everyone and anyone toke it up 
than focus on how to actually lower drug demand in the first place. Indeed, 
drug prevention is not an issue the council has discussed in years. 
Instead, with this move, a city known for its tradition of human rights 
activism turns its back once more on children and the vulnerable by 
preaching the tired mantra of "lay off our pot smokers" from its chambers 
in City Hall. It's time the city put down their cigarettes and put on their 
thinking caps.
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