Pubdate: Mon, 02 Mar 2009
Source: Maneater, The (Uof Missouri - Columbia, MO Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Maneater
Author: Brendan Gibbons
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Medical And Economic Benefits Of The Drug Are Being Discussed.

Although an increasing percentage of Americans support  legalizing 
marijuana, studies by various agencies show  a country far from 
descent into reefer madness.

Polls from different research groups show similar  percentages of 
Americans who believe marijuana should  be legalized.

A February telephone survey conducted by Rasmussen  Reports found 40 
percent of participants in favor of  legalizing the drug, with 46 
percent opposed.

A CBS and New York Times poll conducted in January  reported similar 
numbers, with 41 percent in favor and  52 percent opposed.

But this increasing support for legalization is not  accompanied by 
an increase in use, according to the  National Drug Intelligence 
Center's 2008 Drug Threat  Assessment. The report states the U.S. 
demand for marijuana is relatively stable and declining slightly  in 
some areas.

A national study conducted by Partnership for a  Drug-Free America in 
2008 stated 16 percent of  teenagers in grades 7-12 reported using 
marijuana in  the past month, down from 24 percent in 1998.

Although the debate around marijuana legalization often  centers on 
social and health consequences, a California  state lawmaker 
introduced a bill that would make it a  matter of economics.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, proposed a  bill that would 
set up a wholesale and retail sales  regulation program. Growers and 
distributors would have  to pay fines of up to $5,000 to conduct 
business, and  the state would mandate a tax of $50 per ounce on 
legally sold marijuana.

Ammiano estimated the fees and taxes could generate  more than $1 
billion in state revenue.

Canadian economist Stephen Easton studied marijuana  production and 
use in British Columbia and found taxing  marijuana cigarettes could 
generate more than $2  billion.

"The broader social question becomes less whether or  not we approve 
or disapprove of local production, but  rather who shall enjoy the 
spoils," Easton said in the  report, which was released in 2000.

An MU student who sells marijuana, who asked to remain  anonymous for 
possible legal consequences, said he  would personally support 
legalization, though it would  put him out of business as a dealer.

"(Legalization) would change my whole life," the  student said. "I 
wouldn't be able to sell weed  anymore."

He also said legalization would cause him to consider  selling 
cocaine to make more money.

"Dealers would only focus on drugs like crack and  meth," the student said.

Evan Groll, Students for Sensible Drug Policy MU  chapter president, 
said he would support legalization  but doesn't think it would happen 
in Missouri anytime  soon, unless there was a collective push from 
state  officials and grassroots organizations.

Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City, proposed a bill that  would allow 
voters to decide in 2010 whether to  legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

The House read the bill Jan. 15, but it is not on a  calendar or 
scheduled for a hearing.

Mark Pedersen, a medical marijuana patient and  activist, said he 
helped provide patient  recommendations for the bill.

Pedersen said he started using cannabis medicinally 11  years ago 
after he was diagnosed with fibromyalgia with  severe migraine 
headaches. He said using marijuana  reduced the number of migraines 
he had and helped him  with memory loss associated with the disease.

He said he would support full legalization but said the  bill is not 
to promote recreational use.

"Parents need to protect their children from all  intoxicants," 
Pedersen said. "But it's not the job of  police and the government to 
hold back cannabis from  patients."

In 2004, Columbia voters approved two  marijuana-friendly 
propositions: an initiative that  legalized the drug for medicinal 
purposes and another  that reduced possession of small amounts and 
paraphernalia to a fine-only offense.

This differs from state law, which classifies  possession of less 
than 35 grams of marijuana as a  misdemeanor punishable by one year 
in jail and a fine  of up to $1,000.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom