Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jun 2007
Source: Brattleboro Reformer (VT)
Copyright: 2007 Brattleboro Publishing Co.
Author: Richard Davis
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Vermont legislators who worked on  passage of a 2007 bill expanding
access to marijuana  for medical purposes are to be commended. But
there is  a bigger issue that needs to be dealt with.

Of all the so-called street drugs, marijuana is the one  that should
be legalized for a variety of reasons.  Quite simply, marijuana has
many positive effects and  very few bad side effects. Chronic use or
abuse of any  drug will do bad things and marijuana is no exception.
Smoking is bad for the lungs and long-term use of the  drug can cause
memory impairment.

My research leads me to believe that there has never  been a case of
marijuana overdose. It is one of the few  "drugs" that the human body
cannot be poisoned by  during one session of use, unless you consider
increased somnolence or excessive appetite overdose  symptoms.

In fact, there may be a case to have marijuana not be  called a drug
in the street, illegal abuse, sense. In  order to understand why
marijuana is illegal in the  United States it is important to look at
the history of  the big scare created when America's first drug czar,
Harry Anslinger, waged war against the drug.

According to the Web site ,

"In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act was passed,  effectively
prohibiting possession or use of marijuana.  It was claimed to be
needed to oversee and coordinate  existing state law concerning marijuana."

The following are excerpts of Mr. Anslinger's testimony  before a
Senate hearing on marijuana in 1937: "There  are 100,000 total
marijuana smokers in the U.S., and  most are Negroes, Hispanics,
Filipinos and  entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing,
result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white  women to seek
sexual relations with Negroes,  entertainers and any others. ... The
primary reason to  outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate
races.  Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its  users
insanity, criminality and death. You smoke a  joint and you're likely
to kill your brother. Marijuana  is the most violence-causing drug in
the history of  mankind."

Seventy years later, the U.S. legal system continues to  outlaw a
substance that never had a basis in fact for  making it illegal. If
our laws are to reflect a  changing society, they must be changed when
there is a  need to improve the quality of society.

The only argument one hears today that supports the  illegality of
marijuana is that its use leads to the  use of more dangerous drugs.
People who escalate up the  ladder of drug abuse will find a way to do
so no matter  what the substance. You can't blame one drug for such a
complex behavioral problem as addiction.

Alcohol, a legal drug for adults, is one of the most  dangerous legal
substances in any society. If alcohol  was to be introduced as a new
drug for some sort of  medicinal purpose today, it is unlikely that
the FDA  would grant approval. The potential for abuse is  tremendous
and the side effects are deadly.

Rather than put the money and resources of society into  a failed war
on drugs we need to cultivate creative  approaches that turn
incorrectly labeled problems into  opportunities for progress.

Small-scale agriculture, in Vermont and around the  country, is an
industry struggling for survival.  Imagine what would happen if
marijuana was legalized  and farmers could diversify their operations
with such  a crop. I have heard anecdotal reports from farmers and
law enforcement officials that marijuana is already a  serious cash
crop for many Vermont farmers. The risk is  tremendous but the money
supplementing meager milk  checks has probably saved a few farms. Why
not  eliminate the risk and give a boost to agriculture?

Perhaps the next state law could allow farmers to be  exclusive
dealers of medical marijuana. Vermont could  become a sort of Lourdes
for people looking for symptom  relief from chronic pain and
debilitating illnesses.  Who knows, maybe our society would become so
enlightened as to eventually allow everyone legal  access to marijuana.

The organization NORML (The National Organization for  the Reform of
Marijuana Laws), estimates there are 80  million marijuana users in
this country. That is more  than 25 percent of the entire U.S. population.

If you think the ski industry is important to Vermont's  economy,
think about how agriculture, and the entire  state, would be
transformed with the legalization of  marijuana.

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Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive  director of Vermont
Citizens Campaign for Health. He  writes from Guilford.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath