Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jun 2005
Source: Courier-Journal, The (KY)
Copyright: 2005 The Courier-Journal
Note: Only publishes local LTEs
Author: Michael E. Slider


'Going Up In Smoke'

Perhaps we are missing the point in the discussion over medicinal 
marijuana. I do not smoke marijuana, and I am not a "pot-head." I am a high 
school teacher who works with young people every day, and I completely 
oppose our nation's failing war on marijuana. This so-called "war" being 
waged by pompous politicians who want to look tough on crime is a 
well-documented disaster that is draining our hard-earned tax money and 
making a mockery of the individual liberties on which our country was founded.

On the federal level, $4 billion is spent annually on the arrest, 
prosecution and incarceration of marijuana offenders. Kentucky spends over 
$7 million eradicating cannabis plants every year. There is no solid 
evidence that extended prison sentences and eradication efforts reduce the 
use of drugs in our society. Our hard-earned money, which is sorely needed 
for local infrastructure, community development and education, is literally 
going up in smoke.

Ever since the passage of mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug 
offenders (including marijuana) in the 1980s, the prison population in the 
U.S. has exploded. We now incarcerate a larger percentage of our population 
than any other country in the world. Often, first-time, nonviolent 
marijuana offenders are serving longer terms than violent criminals. These 
laws completely violate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution that 
protects us against cruel and unusual punishment.

Make no mistake: Marijuana is not harmless, as some would claim. It does 
impair judgment, and it causes some of the same long-term health issues as 
cigarettes. However, vilifying its use distracts us from a much more 
important question: Do our current policies truly make our state and our 
country a better place to live? If we cannot answer this question with 
certainty, it is time to put aside shallow "get tough" slogans and at least 
open a dialogue on other possibilities.


La Grange, Ky. 40031
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