Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jan 2006
Source: Columbia Chronicle (Columbia College Chicago, IL Edu)
Copyright: 2006 Columbia Chronicle
Author: Tiffany Breyne, Assistant A&E Editor
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Legalizing Marijuana Still Up for Debate

Clinton tried it but didn't inhale. Kanye wrote a song about it, and
the Kottonmouth Kings base their entire lives around it. Marijuana has
found a place in numerous people's lives, and most people are OK with

Now there's even a book about experiences and thoughts while smoking
marijuana--the illegal substance that some organizations are fighting
an uphill battle to change the negative image revolving around the

This past December three guys--Arj Barker, Doug Benson and Tony
Camin--published The Marijuana-Logues, a humorous book parodying The
Vagina Monologues that replaces the female anatomy with an illegal
substance. The book, as the authors write, is "written by stoners, for
stoners, about stoners."

While this is an interesting concept that provides some laughs, with
pointless conversations, "high-kus" and snippets on marijuana.

In the bigger scheme of things, though, producing a book devoted to
stoner/marijuana stereotypes could mean more than just a few laughs.
For some, the fight to legalize marijuana for recreational, spiritual
and medicinal purposes should be taken seriously. For Louis
Silverstein, a liberal educationtion teacher at Columbia and author
of Deep Spirit and Great Heart: Living in Marijuana Consciousness,
publishing a book like The Marijuana-Logues is a feat with a
double-edged sword.

"I certainly think people have a right and should have the right to
write and publish whatever they want to," Silverstein said. "I think
people can jump on this who are opposed will [...] not pick out other
literature on marijuana and say this really is a substance that makes
people like [the guys] are in this book."

According to Silverstein, marijuana wasn't made illegal in the United
States until the 20th century. Before that time, hemp was grown on
plantations, including George Washington's, ship sails were made out
of hemp and some constitutional documents were written on hemp paper.

As goes along with the term "reefer madness," Silverstein said that
weed gained it's negative appeal when American citizens opposing
Mexican immigration to the states spread word that Mexicans were
bringing with them this dangerous weed that would make people do
terrible things and put them in a crazed sex mode.

Following the propaganda against marijuana, the Drug Enforcement
Agency was formed and put on a mission to tell the public of marijuana
and other drugs' negative effects on people.

"This allowed them to get more money and increase their organization,
and that eventually turned into the war on drugs," Silverstein said.
"Which right now is a multi-billion dollar industry, and there's so
many people making money off the war that it's hard for them to hear
that marijuana is not what they think it is."

The fight to make marijuana legal again, for whatever reason, is one
with much opposition not only from organizations like the DEA or
government officials but from health advocates. Prevention First, an
Illinois drug prevention organization, thinks that legalizing
marijuana for all purposes can have harmful effects on people's health.

"There are people that think marijuana should be legalized
completely," said Tari Marshall, director of communications and
information resources. "The total legalization for anyone and
everyone, to us, would be a dangerous decision."

While Prevention First works with young adults and children under 18
to help them make healthy drug free choices, they have no overall view
on the rights and wrongs of legalization, but they do have facts on
marijuana and what it does to the body.

According to facts Marshall found, the marijuana produced today is 30
times more potent than when it was produced in the '60s due to newer
methods of growing. When people are smoking marijuana instead of
cigarettes, Marshall said the harm to the body is still the same.

"[Marijuana is] actually pound for pound more carcinogenic than
cigarettes," Marshall said. "People smoke marijuana; they're just as
likely to get cancer from smoking marijuana regularly as they are from
cigarettes or any other substance related to these

While Marshall has a strong case for the negative effects of
marijuana, Allen St. Pierre, executive director for The National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that a number of
studies dedicated to marijuana constantly conflict each other. St.
Pierre said that he divides the studies into two groups--the warning
reports and the calming reports. The warning reports can be found on
any substance, legal or not. The calming studies come out months later
and deny the results of the warning reports.

St. Pierre cites organizations such as D.A.R.E. and Partnership for a
Drug-Free America as the primary sources of confusion and where the
majority of younger people get their information from. According to
St. Pierre these organizations do not use credible statistics in the
same way they use them for tobacco studies. Regardless of the
different studies, St. Pierre has other thoughts on the debate between
the effects of tobacco and marijuana.

"One can make the easy concession here that when you burn something
and draw it into your lungs, it's by definition not a wise health
decision," St. Pierre said. "The question though is whether it should
be a criminal decision. And in our country, it is not a criminal
decision in most cases if you engage in something that harms only you."

St. Pierre and Silverstein both agree that the government and monetary
issues have much to do with marijuana still being an illegal
substance. Silverstein, though, sees possible benefits in the
legalization of the drug, such as economic benefits. These benefits
include putting the billions of dollars used on the war on drugs every
year towards Chicago's public school system, which recently announced
a lack of funds will cause layoffs in the near future. Silverstein
said the money could also be used toward helping the city's homeless
people, and that in his perspective the war on drugs has not lessened
the use of marijuana and just "creates havoc" and corruption.
Silverstein is optimistic about a possible change in the drug's
legality in the future, though he doesn't know when that will be.

"I don't think there's any question that there is light there,"
Silverstein said. "In a number of European countries they have moved
very forward. In the United States I still think it's off somewhere in
the indefinite future. That's not gonna occur for awhile."

For more information on Illinois' marijuana laws and on substance use,
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