Pubdate: Tue, 28 Oct 2003
Source: Red Deer Advocate (CN AB)
Copyright: 2003 Red Deer Advocate
Author: Deroy Murdock


NEW YORK - Comedian Tommy Chong began a nine-month federal prison
sentence this month for operating a glass-blowing shop that sold pipes
to marijuana smokers.

Prosecutors were not impressed that his Nice Dreams Enterprises
marketed a morally neutral product. Chong's pipes, after all, could be
used with loose-leaf tobacco, just as any stoner in an Armani suit can
smoke pot in a lawful Dunhill meerschaum.

In fact, as the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 10, Assistant U.S.
Attorney Mary Houghton's court pleadings sought Chong's harsh
punishment because he got rich ''glamorizing the illegal distribution
and use of marijuana'' in films that ''trivialize law enforcement
efforts to combat drug trafficking and use.''

Chong must have wondered when such activities became criminal. Perhaps
the FBI now will arrest Sean Penn for hilariously smoking grass in
Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Then they can handcuff Denzel Washington
for portraying a crooked narcotics officer in Training Day.

At last, the homeland is secure from Chong, a 65-year-old comic whose
merchandise spared potheads from fumbling with rolling papers. Could
there be any greater triumph for public safety than that? And in this
peaceful world and placid nation, taxpayers can rest assured that
officials are using their hard-earned cash as wisely as possible.
Recall that Chong and 54 others were busted in Operation Pipe Dreams,
a Feb. 24 crackdown on the drug paraphernalia industry. That project
involved 1,200 local, state and federal authorities, the Drug
Enforcement Administration estimates. These professional sleuths could
have pursued al-Qaida instead, but what would that have

All seriousness aside, as funnyman Steve Allen often said, federal
drug warriors keep embarrassing themselves by enforcing pointless,
oppressive policies that merely ignite tax dollars as if with a Zippo

Like every White House since Nixon's, the Bush administration
continues the collective, bipartisan hallucination that Uncle Sam's
heavy hand can crush the desire of millions of Americans to alter
their states of consciousness. Fortunately, some judges, states and
cities have soured on the costly and cruel War on Drugs as it grinds
through its 30th futile year.

It is neither compassionate nor conservative for the Bush
administration to use government force to stop cancer and AIDS
sufferers, among others, from smoking marijuana to make their final
days on Earth less excruciating.

The U.S. Supreme Court evidently agrees. On Oct. 14, the Supremes let
stand a Ninth Circuit Court decision blocking federal efforts to yank
the prescription-writing licenses of doctors who recommend medical
marijuana to patients. This was a huge victory for the First
Amendment, medical privacy and the freedom of diseased Americans to
ease their pain while leaving others untouched.

Seattle voters on Sept. 16 approved Initiative 75 by 57.8 to 42.2 per
cent. I-75 instructs local police and prosecutors to make adult
marijuana possession their lowest priority.

Seattle's citizens decided to focus their limited resources on
legitimate public needs, such as catching murderers, foiling rapists
and preventing terrorists from, say, toppling the landmark Space Needle.

A recent Drug Policy Alliance ( study found that
between 1996 and 2000, voters endorsed 17 of 19 statewide ballot
measures to approve medical marijuana, protect civil liberties, treat
rather than imprison non-violent addicts and limit civil-asset forfeiture.

 From 1996 to 2002, 46 states passed some 150 such enlightened,
fiscally responsible drug-law reforms.

''The War on Drugs may well be the most wasteful use of government
resources today,'' said Don Murphy, a DPA spokesman and former
Republican Maryland delegate. ''As a taxpayer, it's nice to know that
Maryland is not alone in embracing more pragmatic approaches.''

Even Drug Czar John Walters may see this issue slipping from his iron
fist. While campaigning against I-75 , Walters could have preached
zero tolerance. Instead, Seattle Weekly reported, he said ''The real
issue is should we legalize marijuana.'' He added, ''Let's have a
debate about that.''

In a Sept. 17 letter to Walters, Robert Kampia, executive director of
the Marijuana Policy Project (, wrote: ''It's time
to have that debate, so I am pleased to accept your

An honest, national debate on the War on Drugs in general - and its
uniquely idiotic marijuana phobia in particular - would be a welcome
development in the sad history of this American fiasco.

New York commentator Deroy Murdock writes for the Scripps Howard News
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