Pubdate: Fri, 03 Dec 2004
Source: Collegiate Times (VA Tech, Edu)
Copyright: 2004 Collegiate Times
Author: Jonathan McGlumphy, regular columnist
Cited: Raich v. Ashcroft
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


The consideration of state medical marijuana laws versus federal
anti-drug laws by the United States Supreme Court has sparked
nationwide debate on the subject. The arguments by the federal
government on the issue of medical marijuana are merely a subset of
our national drug policy as a whole, which sounds something like this:
Drugs are bad. If you do drugs, you're bad, and you should be punished.

I have long opposed the War on Drugs as a matter of principle. You, as
an adult, have the right to do whatever you wish to your own body so
long as you are not harming someone else; you should be held fully
responsible for the consequences if you misuse your substance of choice.

Unfortunately, we live in a country with two predominant mentalities
that cannot seem to accept this simple premise. I'll call them the
"red" and "blue" points of view. The reds are against it because it's
immoral or some other such quasi-religious nonsense. The blues are
against it because they cannot accept the idea of individual
responsibility and accountability for one's own actions. Tossing
principle aside for the moment, I'll make some practical arguments
against the War on Drugs.

First, it's not accomplishing its intended goal. After spending $25
billion over the past 25 years, the amount of illicit drugs available
in the United States has not been reduced by one iota. So, if nothing
else, we've been throwing money into a bottomless pit.

The United States now has a prison population of over 2 million people
(hardly the mark of a free society), with nearly one-quarter of that
being drug offenders. Don't get me wrong, if you commit a violent
crime, you should be locked up, but too often it is the nonviolent
user or low-level dealer that is arrested, prosecuted and sent to
jail. As an example, in 2000 over 700,000 people were arrested in the
United States for "simple possession" of marijuana. Could we not have
better used the police and judicial resources to deal with more of the
muggers, rapists and murderers?

I know what some of you may be thinking: "Drugs cause

Wrong. The anti-drug laws create an environment that encourages crime.
In exactly the same manner that Prohibition gave rise to gang violence
over the control of liquor, the War on Drugs fosters a black market
that is dominated by whoever is willing to take the biggest risk. And
because it is a black market (indirectly created by our government),
the payoffs are very high.

You don't see Jack Daniel's sending pushers into schools, do you? Or
maybe Philip Morris shooting it out with R.J. Reynolds?

Of course not, because they are engaged in a legal trade where their
products can be sold in stores and regulated to be kept out of the
hands of youngsters. Sure, a few will slip through the cracks, but
it's a lot easier to get marijuana in schools than it is to get
alcohol. Why?

Because the people who deal drugs are automatically criminals, thus
they don't care about the age of their users. I'd rather see cocaine
on the shelf at Wal-Mart where you get identified than hear of another
child killed by gunfire over drug territory in the inner cities.

Speaking of the inner city, let me point out what the War on Drugs
really is: racist. According to a 1998 Federal Housing survey, 15
percent of illicit drug users were black, yet blacks comprise almost
58 percent of those in state prisons for drug felonies. That aside, if
a white man and a black man walk into a court room for the same drug
charge, and they have identical records, who do you think is going to
get the better treatment?

I could go on about the egregious violations of our Fourth Amendment
rights due to car searches, "no-knock" home raids and drug tests, but
I think the message is clear: The War on Drugs is a failure on all
fronts and needs to end.

We need to stop treating drugs as a criminal problem and start
treating them as a health problem. Many users have few difficulties
associated with their substance of choice, and those that do should
not live in fear of prosecution just because they legitimately need

I recognize that we cannot make the necessary changes overnight, but
the legal use of medical marijuana is a step in the right direction
toward sensible drug policy. May good sense and compassion prevail in
the Supreme Court.
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