Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
Source: Kalamazoo Gazette (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Kalamazoo Gazette
Contact:  http://www.mlive.com/kzgazette/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/588
Author: Lynn Turner
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy http://www.ssdp.org/
Cited: Chicago Recovery Alliance http://www.anypositivechange.org/
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Marijuana)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization)

LOCAL PANEL DEBATES LEGALIZING POT

KALAMAZOO -- The question repeatedly asked at a panel discussion on 
the current state of the country's drug policy was, "Why not legalize 
marijuana and regulate it the same as alcohol and tobacco?"

The money it generates could be used for drug education and 
prevention programs as well as for treating addicts who want help for 
their substance-abuse problems, said two of the four panelists who 
debated the issue Wednesday night at Kalamazoo College.

The discussion, titled "A Sober Look at Drug Policy," was sponsored 
by the college's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

"I've seen more drug destruction than anyone," said Dan Bigg, 
director of the Chicago Recovery Alliance, which treats drug addicts. 
But he said marijuana use shouldn't be demonized.

Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Fink and retired 
Kalamazoo County Circuit Judge William G. Schma who also took part in 
the discussion, offered opposing viewpoints.

"I don't think we've done a good job in regulating the drugs we have 
now," Fink said.

Schma, who helped create the Drug Treatment Court program in 
Kalamazoo County, agreed. He said working with addicts through the 
court system showed them the cost and devastation even legal drugs, 
such as alcohol, cost individuals and society.

Former Coast Guard interdiction agent turned marijuana legalization 
advocate Greg Francisco said he thinks more damage is done by law 
enforcement arresting people with small quantities of drugs for 
personal use than does the drug use.

"I think we can all agree drug abuse is harmful to society," he said 
to a crowd of about 200 -- mostly students -- in the Dalton Theatre. 
"But drugs are here to stay.

"Most people report that it's easier to buy illegal drugs than legal 
drugs. ... The drug dealer just wants to see my money."

All four agreed that the "War on Drugs," declared in 1971 by 
President Richard Nixon, has been a bust or at least misnamed. Drugs 
are now cheaper, purer and more prevalent than before, Francisco 
said. And the cost has risen to almost $20 billion a year in this country.

K-College freshman J.J. Weber said he thinks drugs should be 
legalized if that is the will of the American people.

"I could see marijuana (being legalized) before heroin or the heavier 
drugs," he said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake