Pubdate: Tue, 10 Feb 2009
Source: Gadsden Times, The (AL)
Copyright: 2009 The Gadsden Times
Bookmark: (Opinion)


Obama Should Reconsider Approach To Marijuana

When Barack Obama was campaigning before last year's election, the
president spoke of his experiences with marijuana. In March, he told
the Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., "I think the basic concept of
using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same
controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's
entirely appropriate."

In his memoir - "Dreams of My Father" - Obama spoke of struggling
with questions about race and identity in his youth. In those
struggles, he said he turned to drugs, including marijuana and
cocaine, to "push questions of who I was out of my mind."

Now as president, Obama appears to be drawing on his experiences when
it comes to establishing his administration's policy on marijuana and
other drug laws.

This past week, federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency
raided four marijuana dispensaries in California, seizing 500 pounds
of the plant.

California, like 12 other states, permits medicinal use of marijuana.
Medicinal marijuana is still against federal law, however, which is
why the DEA busted the shops.

California is different from the other states because it allows the
dispensaries, again going against federal law. A DEA spokeswoman in
Los Angeles said, "Anyone  possessing, distributing or cultivating
marijuana for any reason is in violation of federal law."

Under the Obama administration, those federal laws might be loosened,
if not outright changed. Those closely following the legal hacky sack
say the president might instruct the DEA to scale back its fight
against marijuana, going after what the agency considers more
dangerous drugs.

Last week, a former Justice Department official said, "It is no
longer federal policy to beat up on hippies."

That mindset misses the point.

Not everyone involved with marijuana is a hardened criminal - some
only use it for medical reasons, and others for recreation. While
some correlate marijuana to the 1960s and peace and love, the sale,
possession and use of the drug is still against the law.

Changing - or even loosening - the laws against marijuana could set a
dangerous precedent. But these days it seems there are other topics
more important to most Americans, such as the economy, education,
health care, national security and public safety. Banishing strict
drug laws could have a dire effect on each of those important topics.

A fight against a problem spiraling out of control would be
expensive; studies have shown marijuana use among children can have a
terrible effect on brain development, along with other health
consequences; drug cartels use drug profits to fund terrorist
activities that threaten our national security; and each of these 
factors, and many more, makes us less safe in our own front yards.

Those things show marijuana in its true light. It is not a harmless
drug. It is not just something that "hippies" use. It is being used
by children, older adults and people in between. And it is more
harmful than most people realize. That is why drug laws must be in
place and enforced. Loosening marijuana laws puts our country on a
precipice and once we fall, we might not be able to recover.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin