Pubdate: Fri, 18 Jun 2010
Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2010 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Author: Bob Ray Sanders
Note: Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth  Star-Telegram.


For many years I had in my possession four medical  prescriptions,
issued in 1926, for different patients  with various ailments. No
matter what the "illness,"  the doctors' prescribed remedy printed on
the official  government form was the same: Whiskey.

This was during "prohibition," that 13-year period in  American
history when the "manufacture, sale or  transportation of intoxicating
liquors" was forbidden  under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
The  amendment, ratified in 1919, went into effect in 1920.

Under the National Prohibition Act of 1919 (also known  as the
Volstead Act), there were a couple of  exceptions. Alcohol could be
obtained for medical  reasons with a physician's prescription, and the
clergy  were allowed to secure wine for the sacrament.

So, in addition to a lot of people becoming ill during  this period,
there was a significant rise in the number  of preachers who were
administering communion to a  growing number of worshipers.

Hallelujah, and pass the holy wine.

I recently was reminded of my 84-year-old whiskey  prescriptions as I
heard reports on National Public  Radio about how individual states
are dealing with  medical-marijuana laws.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have  adopted laws that
permit, to varying degrees, the sale  and use of the long-outlawed
drug to treat various  medical problems. California, which became the
first  state to adopt such legislation in 1996, has the most  liberal
rules, while New Mexico - requiring marijuana  dispensaries to be
nonprofit - has the most  restrictive, according to NPR.

There is a November ballot initiative in California  calling for the
full legalization of marijuana, which,  if passed, would put a halt to
some local governments  trying to crack down on the proliferation of

I don't know whether we should legalize marijuana, but  it is time for
this country to begin a serious  discussion on the subject.

In the last 30 years, we've made significant progress  in
decriminalizing the drug. With the increase in  prohibition-like
subterfuge of medically prescribing it  for real or fake illnesses,
this country should deal  with the matter straight-up. Just stop the
games and  the yearly legislative maneuverings.

Understand, I'm not a drug user, so this isn't about me  except as a
taxpayer who realizes the billions of  dollars spent on the
unrealistic attempts to police  those who do partake of the herb. The
toll on our  treasuries, law enforcement and individuals seems too

I vividly remember the 1972 case of a 19-year-old Fort  Worth college
student who was given a 25-year-sentence  for the possession of one
marijuana cigarette, which he  maintained was given to him by an
undercover police  officer who also persuaded him to "try it."

That's a long time in the joint for possessing one  "joint." Imagine
the cost to the state and to the young  man and his family.

Yes, we've come a ways since then. In fact, just three  years ago the
Texas Legislature passed a law allowing  local police to issue a
citation for possession of 4  ounces or less of marijuana rather than
arrest, jail  and prosecute the offender. At that time, the director
of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.,  estimated that
major cities in Texas would save a $1  million a year, as each
marijuana arrest cost state  taxpayers $2,000.

In a country that repealed prohibition 76 years ago,  and one that has
never seriously considered banning the  sale of cigarettes or other
tobacco products, it seems  ridiculous to continue the charade of
enforcing  outdated marijuana laws. Many experts say alcohol and
tobacco are far more harmful.

I really don't know, which is why I think it's time to  do more study
and have much more discussion.

On the surface, though, it seems more reasonable - and  a lot less
expensive - if we simply legalize the drug,  regulate it and tax it.

Such a move would reduce the number of police officers  assigned for
enforcement, eliminate a huge number of  prison beds allocated for
drug offenders and add  dollars to the public coffers.

Let's stop wasting time and money, y'all, and start

Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth  Star-Telegram.
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