Pubdate: Mon, 24 Feb 2003
Source: Duluth News-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2003 Duluth News-Tribune
Author:  Keith Stroup
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Marijuana prohibition is a failed public policy that is wasting valuable law
enforcement resources, and needlessly destroying the lives and careers of
hundreds of thousands of good, productive citizens each year in this
country. The costs of prohibition are far worse than any harm that may be
caused by marijuana itself.

We spend an estimated $10 billion annually in a futile effort to identify,
arrest and prosecute marijuana smokers and those from whom they purchase the

This is an almost unbelievably stupid use of resources that should instead
be fighting serious and violent crime, including terrorism. Is anyone really
more frightened by marijuana smoking than by violent crime? Who decides
these priorities?

The result is that more than 700,000 Americans are arrested on marijuana
charges each year, and 88 percent of those arrests are for simple possession
of marijuana, not cultivation or sale.

We have declared war against a whole segment of our population, without
cause. The vast majority of marijuana smokers are good citizens who work
hard, raise families, pay taxes and contribute in a positive manner to their
communities. They are not criminals, and we must stop treating them like

Treating the responsible use of marijuana by adults as a criminal matter is
a misapplication of the criminal sanction and invites government into areas
of our private lives that are inappropriate.

Most of us agree that the government has no business coming into our home to
learn what books we are reading, the subject of our personal telephone
conversations, or how we conduct ourselves in the privacy of our bedroom.

Similarly, the government has no business getting involved in the decision
of whether we smoke marijuana or drink alcohol when we relax in the evening.
In a free society, those are decisions we permit the individual to make,
free from government interference.

In 1977, President Carter, in a speech to Congress calling on lawmakers to
decriminalize minor marijuana offenses, said, "Penalties against drug use
should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug
itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession
of marijuana in private for personal use."

Carter's words remain true. It is time we stopped arresting responsible
citizens who happen to be marijuana smokers.

Additionally the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
supports the establishment of a legally regulated market for marijuana, with
age and quality controls, where consumers could buy marijuana for personal
use from a safe legal source.

As we learned with our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition in this
country, only a legally regulated system will eliminate the crime,
corruption and violence associated with a "black market."

Let's end this misguided war against our own citizens and stop arresting
responsible adult marijuana smokers.

KEITH STROUP is the founder and executive director of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws based in Washington, D.C.
These essays were distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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