Pubdate: Fri, 28 Mar 2003
Source: Michigan Daily (Ann Arbor, MI Edu)
Copyright: 2003 The Michigan Daily


Decriminalization Movement Buds

Senate Bill 197, a bill that would decriminalize marijuana, has been 
proposed in the state Legislature. The introduction of this legislation 
coincides with the annual Hash Bash, which will take place April 5. This is 
an opportunity for University students to support the Senate bill and to 
support liberalized marijuana policies.

Senate Bill 197 does not attempt to legalize marijuana, but it would 
drastically decrease the legal repercussions of using the drug. 
Decriminalizing marijuana would benefit Michigan's tight budget situation, 
as it is estimated that the state spends between $7.5 and $10 billion every 
year to arrest and prosecute marijuana law offenders. Law enforcement 
officials arrested over 700,000 people in 2001 for marijuana violations - 
far more than were arrested for all violent crimes combined. The billions 
of dollars spent on marijuana-related arrests could be allocated to areas 
in the state that are underfunded, including education.

The bill states that, instead of arresting and prosecuting individuals who 
violate marijuana laws, law enforcement officials could only exercise a 
maximum penalty of a ticket and a small fine. This decriminalization would 
be a great improvement over the current system and would set an example for 
other states with precarious budget situations to follow.

Unfortunately, this bill will not seriously be considered by the state 
Legislature unless the constituents of representatives show considerable 
support for the plan. Hash Bash presents an opportunity for the University 
community to offer support for the bill and to promote greater changes to 
state and national drug policy.

Although in the past Hash Bash has been criticized for lacking a political 
agenda, hopefully this year will bring a renewed sense of purpose to the 
campus tradition. The anti-drug advertisements that the federal government 
has aired on television have created a large response to the 
misrepresentation of the effects of marijuana. The ads present marijuana as 
the sole cause of blurred judgment, ignoring that legal substances, like 
alcohol, may be more likely to have the same results. Ads suggesting that 
marijuana supports terrorism or causes pregnancy are absurd, and Hash Bash 
this year will bring the public together against these false implications. 
The combination of this war on drugs with the Justice Department's 
disregard for civil liberties as part of the anti-terror efforts has 
resulted in a reduction of individual privacy rights.

While the state Senate is paying at least minimal attention to the issue of 
marijuana decriminalization, University students should come out and 
support Hash Bash in order to show their support for 197. 197 needs the 
encouragement of constituents in order to pass through the state 
Legislature, and students can do their share by advocating for drug law 
reform in the Diag.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens