Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jul 2007
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Orange County Register
Author: James W. Harris, Editor Of The Liberator Online, Newsletter 
Of The Libertarian Advocates For Self-Government
Cited: The Institute of Medicine report
Cited: Jeffrey Miron's report
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (the IIIrd & Jr.)


The recent arrest of Al Gore's son in Laguna Niguel for the 
possession of marijuana and various prescription pills provides the 
opportunity to ask an important question: Why the heck is marijuana illegal?

I can drive to dozens of nearby stores and buy enough booze to drink 
myself to death in one night. Or I can buy enough cigarettes to wreck 
my health and cut decades off my life.

These deadly substances, which by some estimates kill hundreds of 
thousands of people annually, are perfectly legal.

However, get caught with even a small amount of marijuana, and your 
life could be turned upside down. You could lose your property, your 
job, and end up behind bars.

This is nuts. By all medical evidence, marijuana is far safer than 
alcohol and tobacco. No one ever died from a marijuana overdose. It's 
physically impossible. Booze and tobacco are far more likely to cause 
dependency. And cancer risks from smoking marijuana are virtually nil.

As the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal 
government, said in a 1999 report commissioned by the federal drug 
czar's office: "Epidemiological data indicate that in the general 
population marijuana use is not associated with increased mortality."

Still, every year, around 700,000 people are arrested for marijuana 
offenses - almost all for simple possession. Local, state and federal 
governments spend over $7 billion annually fighting marijuana, 
according to Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard.

All that suffering, all that use of precious law enforcement 
resources, just to keep people from smoking a plant less harmful than 
alcohol or cigarettes? Wouldn't we be a lot better off using those 
resources to fight real crime: violence against people and their 
property? By the way, forget the old canard that marijuana leads 
users to commit crimes. There's no scientific backing for it.

And forget, too, the "gateway drug" theory - the notion that 
marijuana use leads to harder drugs. That's just bunk, according to 
the IOM and other researchers.

Would legalizing pot increase use? Again, the IOM: "There is little 
evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to 
a substantial increase in marijuana use." Even if it did, it might 
actually be better if heavy smokers or boozers switched to less-harmful pot.

All these arguments are important, but they're not the core issue. 
Bottom line, it's all about freedom. In a free society, adults should 
be free to do as they choose with their own lives, as long as they 
don't harm others. Hang-gliding, motorcycle riding, bungee jumping, 
eating fast food, neglecting exercise ... adults engage in lots of 
risky behavior. I may not approve, but it's your life, and your 
sacred right to choose.

By the same logic, a free person should certainly be able to grow and 
ingest a common plant.

Please note I'm not talking about driving under the influence of 
marijuana. That should be a crime, as it is now with alcohol. Ditto 
committing other crimes while under the influence. Ditto sale to 
minors. But these acts are illegal for alcohol, too. Still, we don't 
outlaw alcohol because some misuse it.

Marijuana was legal in America right up to the mid-1930s, when a 
lurid, racist propaganda campaign of claptrap and lies conned 
Congress into outlawing it. The ban didn't make sense then, and it 
makes even less sense today.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake