Pubdate: Sun, 27 Sep 2009 Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA) Copyright: 2009 Times-Standard Contact: http://www.times-standard.com/writeus Website: http://www.times-standard.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1051 Author: Donna Tam, The Times-Standard Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws http://www.norml.org/ Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/topic/NORML (NORML) NORML TACKLES CRIME AND MONEY 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.