Pubdate: Thu, 06 Mar 2003
Source: Oakland Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Author: John Wagers
Note: John Wagers is a member of the Drug Policy Alliance and the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He lives in Oakland.


THE problems resulting from the enforcement of our punitive drug laws
are becoming more unbearable every day. My concern is the effect drug
laws are having on the quality of life in California, my city and my
neighborhood. I am an 84-year-old chemist and I am not an illicit drug

Crime and violence plague our cities. Civil rights of citizens are
violated. Prisons are exploding and lives wasted. Meanwhile, the
ever-increasing cost of the drug war robs funds sorely needed for
useful programs. This is one budget item where growth is assured
because powerful interests benefit.

The politics of the Democratic Party is nearly as bad as the
Republican Party on this issue -- a politics of oppression.

I still remember my early days in Nebraska when alcohol was
prohibited. The Chicago scene of crime and terror was on the front
page of the daily. Today, we prohibit cannabis (marijuana) a benign
drug, safer than tobacco or alcohol and not conducive to dependence.
Many people use it for its therapeutic value and/or mild psychoactive

Marijuana was improperly classified by federal law along with hard
drugs in Schedule 1 for political reasons alone. It's time to
reclassify it in the same schedule as anti-depressants. Why are we not
free to smoke pot, or grow cannabis or hemp for its industrial fiber?

Our federal government tried and convicted Ed Rosenthal recently for
growing marijuana to help sick people tormented with pain. Bryan Epis
of Chico was sentenced to 10 years in prison for doing the same,
though medical use of marijuana is allowed by California law. This
injustice and oppression is an outrageous violation of our personal

Police and criminal justice resources should be focused on serious

Canada, Britain, Switzerland and several other European countries have
legalized marijuana or are about to do so. The avoided costs of
enforcement and the revenue gained in regulation can help improve
their financial welfare.

The State's Right to Marijuana Act by Rep. Barney Frank would
authorize states to regulate marijuana free from federal interference.
It would also allow prescription sale of marijuana through pharmacies
as a Schedule 2 controlled substance.

We know that much of the violent crime in Oakland is related to the
drug trade. This trade and violence will continue as long as it is

Marijuana is the volume leader on the illicit drug market. According
to author and journalist Dan Baum, without prohibition of marijuana,
the country's drug problem would be minuscule. There are fewer than a
million hard-core users of heroin and cocaine nationally. More than 70
million Americans smoke pot.

We need a common-sense drug policy that includes legalization and
regulation of marijuana with provision for harm reduction education
and treatment to prevent misuse of all drugs. This makes more sense
than more violence, more cops, more prisons and longer sentences. The
drug war is doing more harm than drug abuse itself.

It's time to join the new anti-war movement.