Pubdate: Sun, 4 Jul 2010
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 Daily Pilot
Author: James P. Gray
Note: James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior 
Court, the author of "A Voter's Handbook: Effective Solutions to 
America's Problems" (The Forum Press, 2010).
Cited: Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act
Referenced: US IL: Editorial: Save Marijuana for the Ailing


News flash! On June 22, the Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial 
recommending a radical change in our nation's drug policy. The 
editorial began by saying: "When will we accept that America's war on 
drugs is over - we lost - and it's time to get real about our drug 
laws?" Then the editorial continued: "Medical marijuana should be 
legalized. Pot more generally should be decriminalized. And the 
carnage in our streets and in Mexico begs that we rethink our 
nation's approach to the sale and use of more serious drugs as well."

People around the world and institutions like the Sun-Times are 
beginning to see the light, because the evidence of the failure of 
our policy of drug prohibition is all around us. Another of those 
institutions is the NAACP, whose president announced on this past 
June 29 that: "We are joining a growing number of medical 
professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, 
local municipalities, and approximately 56% of the public in saying 
that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana."

Why is all of this happening? Well, among other things more people 
are beginning to understand that many of the problems with youth 
gangs, such as shootings, drug sales, and even the recruitment of 
young people to that dead-end lifestyle, are directly traced to drug 
prohibition. Police can disrupt the drug trafficking of gangs only to 
a limited degree, but, they like Al Capone and other such thugs in 
the alcohol distribution business before them, can only really be put 
out of that lucrative business by a pronounced change in policy.

Prison overcrowding? We have filled our prisons with young men and 
women who have committed drug-related crimes - which the Sun-Times 
rightfully calls "a shameful waste of human potential and the 
taxpayers' money"   but, just like holding a bucket under a waterfall 
fills up lots of buckets with water, that act can do nothing to shut 
off the flow.

Foreign policy? In Mexico, where President Calderon has been waging 
his own war on drugs, the killing and corruption still continue to 
increase. The Sun-Times addresses those realities and cites the 
concern of many that Mexico is in danger of becoming a failed state 
because of them. Only the repeal of drug prohibition has the chance 
of saving our neighbor to the south from that fate.

So if all of these facts are becoming clear, why has this failed 
policy been allowed to continue? Because traditionally many people 
have harbored the idea that this policy, "for all of its defects," 
will keep drugs away from our children. But the bitter truth is that 
drug prohibition has made drugs stronger, cheaper and more available 
to our kids than any other system ever would have.

In addition to these other self-inflicted wounds, prohibition has 
materially increased cases of accidental drug overdose, unregulated 
drug poisoning, gang shootings, the killing of police and innocent 
victims caught in the crossfire, and AIDS infections and hepatitis 
contracted from dirty needles. And since we will never run out of 
people who are willing to take risks for selling small quantities of 
drugs for large amounts of money, the most effective way we can bring 
peace back to our streets, neighborhoods, and schools is to repeal 
the fundamental cause of the disruption, which is drug prohibition.

Furthermore, there are only so many resources allocated to the 
criminal justice system, so the "tougher" we get on drug crimes, 
literally the "softer" we get on the prosecution of everything else. 
Thus with a change away from drug prohibition, our law enforcement 
agencies will be able to divert scarce resources back to the 
underfunded investigation and prosecution of other crimes like 
robbery, rape, murder and fraud.

But there is even more! Today our country exports more cash to other 
countries because of the sales of illicit drugs than anything else, 
except oil. Forget all of our purchases of Toyota automobiles and 
Sony television sets, the bigger cash outflow is brought about by 
illegal drugs. And by the way, think of the reduced violence the 
repeal of drug prohibition will bring to countries like Colombia, 
Afghanistan, Thailand, Bolivia, Mexico and Nigeria, as well as the 
accompanying loss of profits and power to the drug lords and cartels 
there that today are thriving under our present policy!

Finally, the laws of drug prohibition have also resulted in a virtual 
prohibition of medical research on addiction and related problems. 
But with the recent liberalization of attitudes, medical science has 
begun to learn more about the properties of many of these presently 
illicit drugs. For example, in addition to its other perceived 
benefits, there is some indication that medical marijuana can also be 
helpful for autistic children. (For more information, please visit  )

You can help in this inevitable movement by supporting the "Tax and 
Regulate Cannabis Act of 2010," which will be on the November ballot 
and which would treat marijuana like alcohol for adults. Its most 
effective result will be to make marijuana less available for 
children than it is today by tightening the laws against selling or 
furnishing marijuana to people under the age of 21. (Of course today 
the illegal marijuana dealers don't ask for I.D.) And this measure 
expressly will not affect existing laws about driving under the 
influence or behavior in the workplace. Of course, it will also have 
the side benefit of taxing our state's largest cash crop, which will 
help our state's balance of payments problems.

Ironically, my generation of the 1960s has supported the punishment 
of our children's youthful drug indiscretions that takes away their 
freedoms, dignity, reputations, hope, Pell grants and otherwise 
bright futures for doing the very same thing that many of them did at 
the same age! Ask yourselves, do you think that incarceration would 
have helped the lives and careers of Presidents Bill Clinton or 
Barack Obama - or the Olympic career of swimmer Michael Phelps? No, 
although marijuana certainly has its harms, the most harmful thing 
connected to marijuana today is jail. You can help us in November to 
reduce many of those harms.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake