Pubdate: Sun, 27 Sep 2009
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2009 Times-Standard
Author: Donna Tam, The Times-Standard
Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Bookmark: (NORML)


Marijuana advocates further discussed the possibility of legalization 
Saturday at the 38th annual National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws, emphasizing arguments for its positive side effects 
on crime and California's poor economy.

With panels on Mexican drug cartels and using marijuana legalization 
as a source of revenue for the government, NORML members discussed 
wasted law enforcement resources and the benefits.

Former NORML Director Richard Cowan estimated that 90 percent of the 
Mexican drug trade involves marijuana.

Drug Policy Alliance Director Ethan Nadelmann said the best way to 
deal with the violence of the Mexican drug cartels would be to end 
the prohibition of marijuana.

"Mexico would more or less be removed from this business," he said.

Other panelists agreed, saying that ending prohibition will also stop 
the institutionalized corruption within law enforcement that is 
related to the drug trade.

"I don't know any police department in any part of the county that 
has not had been tainted by at least one case," said Norm Stamper, 
former Seattle police chief and now a member of the NORML advisory board.

CA NORML Director Dale Gieringer said the role of law enforcement as 
well as the creation of a new revenue stream is what will spark the 
interest of citizens who don't smoke pot themselves.

Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who proposed the tax on 
medical marijuana in Oakland that passed earlier this year, said she 
thinks the measure passed because people saw how much money could be 
made off the taxes.

"People want to make nonsense claims about stoners being irrational, 
but what could be more irrational than throwing away billions of 
dollars each year?" she said.

Gieringer said the amount of money that could be made through 
statewide taxes is still unclear. While the Board of Equalization 
estimated that the passing of Tom Ammiano's bill on legalization 
could generate nearly $1.4 billion in revenue, Gieringer said the 
results of the several statewide initiatives are still unknown.

At a breakout session on the law reform and activism plans in 
California, members discussed the mobilizing of several groups, 
including Americans for Safe Access; Drug Policy Alliance; Students 
for Sensible Drug Policy; the West Coast Leaf, a newspaper focused on 
cannabis news; and the newly created Medical Cannabis Safety Council, 
a nonprofit that hopes to become the industry regulator.