Pubdate: Wed, 16 Dec 2009
Source: Orion, The (California State Chico, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Orion
Author: James Jelenko


Both Sides Take An All-Or-Nothing Approach To Marijuana Legalization

The debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana is like a 
twisted NASCAR race. One machine -- filled with pungent smoke and 
long-haired freaky people -- blazes toward an ashy world constructed 
almost entirely of hemp byproducts. Another, piloted by Gil 
Kerlikowske, the chief of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 
moves in the opposite direction toward a drug-free nation where 
marijuana simply doesn't exist. And in the background are gaggles of 
reasonable, ticket-holding spectators who, regardless of their 
affiliation logically wonder, "Where is the finish line?"

Instead of getting in a vehicle and moving toward a realistic 
solution based on reason and compromise, the opposing groups seem to 
embrace a strictly one-sided outcome. Both sides are stuck to their 
perspectives like a stoner stuck to a couch.

But if any headway is going to be made on this issue, it needs to be 
a joint effort. Until both parties are willing and able to dislodge 
themselves from their deeply entrenched beliefs, the discussion will 
never produce enough traction to move in any direction.

The problem with this status-quo is that taxpayers -- many of whom 
have little or no opinion when it comes to the legalization of 
marijuana -- get stuck footing the bill for this ideologically-charged debate.

When it comes to governmental action, nothing happens for free. There 
are many wheels in the machine of government and each one of them 
needs greasing. Every time legalization, decriminalization -- or any 
other type of bill -- goes to Congress for a vote, someone has to pay 
for it. If the conversation were going anywhere, I'd be fine with 
providing financial support because that is the responsibility of a 
citizen. However, it seems that whenever the issue arises, both sides 
try to bogart the conversation instead of listening and working together.

The pro-legalization advocates claim marijuana has enormous medical 
potential, but conveniently ignore or refute the plain and simple 
argument that it is still a drug and has negative side-effects. This 
strategy just makes the more logical and acceptable of their points 
feel like half-baked attempts for stoners to get legal weed.

On the other side of the coin, Drug Czars like John Walters and 
Kerlikowske have stated the medical benefits of marijuana have never 
been established, despite diametrically opposed evidence made 
available in recent studies conducted by the Scripps Research 
Institute, the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, 
Columbia University and many more. Moreover, Kerlikowske stated in an 
interview for Puget Sound Public Radio that legalization is neither 
in the current administration's vocabulary nor in his own.

Yet in stark contrast to this statement, there are still seven people 
who receive medical marijuana directly from the federal government 
through the Investigational New Drug compassionate access program. 
This hypocrisy and tenacious clinging to closed-mindedness on both 
sides of the issue will get us nowhere.

Perhaps marijuana can provide a medical alternative to those in need 
and perhaps not. But if we ever wish to ascertain the truth, we must 
look at the facts as they are and be willing to hear an answer we may 
not want to. We must stop perceiving the issue as black and white and 
see the many shades of green. It isn't always easy, but it's the 
right thing to do. Until that happens, any pipe dreams of 
establishing reasonable drug policy will simply go up in smoke.
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