Pubdate: Wed, 28 Dec 2011
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2011 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


After $1 Triilion Dollars Wasted on Failed Policies, This Whole 
Medicinal Weed Thing Really Makes Sense

When I started writing this column a little more than a year ago, I 
thought medical marijuana was a thinly veiled cover for folks who 
wanted to legalize the substance. Not that I opposed the notion, nor 
did I doubt that marijuana has medical value - I've seen it stop 
nausea in people who couldn't keep any food down and I've seen people 
who were wasting away get an appetite. But I saw the overall 
marijuana drama as something of an amusing middle-class cause that 
really didn't mean much in the big picture. I also saw an explosion 
of marijuana-related storefronts around town and thought there was 
money to be made.

My perspective has changed over the past year. Yes, there are 
profiteers and people who just want to get high among the medical 
marijuana fold, but I believe the vast majority of people working in 
the field are sincere. Even if their ultimate goal is legalization, 
they see that at least protecting people who are sick and need the 
medicine is a sincere and effective step.

Even further, I now believe that ending marijuana prohibition has the 
potential to make so many positive changes in the United States that 
legalization can't wait. Here's why:

The War on Drugs is lost

The War on Drugs is an utter and farcical failure. It was doomed from 
the start because it was developed counter to the scientific evidence 
available at the time and was conceived of as a political tool 
against President Richard Nixon's enemies. Since it kicked off in 
1972, the country has spent $1 trillion on this failed policy, 37 
million people have been arrested for drugs (10 million for 
marijuana) yet more people use drugs than ever before, illegal drugs 
are readily available in practically every community, most of the 
violence associated with drugs is due to their illegality, and 
foreign drug cartels routinely bring illegal drugs across our 
national borders in amounts that police are incapable of slowing 
down. When it comes to the War on Drugs we're flushing money down the toilet.

Marijuana is safe medicine

And if you doubt that people are sick and need medication, look at 
the $300 billion a year (according to the Bureau of Investigative 
Journalism) we spend on pharmaceutical drugs. The pharmaceutical 
industry is among the nation's most profitable. On the way to those 
profits in 2010, according to statistics from the Food and Drug 
Administration, there were 82,774 deaths and 471,291 serious outcomes 
(i.e. death, hospitalization, life-threatening, disability, 
congenital anomaly) were attributed to prescription drug mistakes. In 
comparison, there has never been a reported marijuana overdose death. 
Not only is it safe, but the most common side effect is you get a bit 
of euphoria. OK, you can get dry throat too, but that beats the long 
list of negative side effects listed for most medications on TV commercials.

Harm to ethnic communities

The original criminalization of marijuana in the 1930s was in part a 
move to send Mexicans back to Mexico during the Great Depression. The 
1972 declaration of the War on Drugs was aimed at blacks and hippies. 
The consequences of the war have been devastating on those 
communities while not stopping drug use. Police have fought the drug 
war more vigorously in black and Hispanic communities than in 
affluent white neighborhoods. And even when middle-class whites get 
arrested, due to being able to afford more competent defense and 
disparities in sentencing, they don't go to jail in nearly the 
numbers as others.

When an urban person of color gets arrested for a nonviolent drug 
offense, their life takes a downswing they may never recover from. 
They go to jail and their families are ripped apart. They meet other 
criminals in jail who teach them how to conduct a life of crime. When 
they get out of jail, they've been out of circulation for a number of 
years, any education they were getting is over; they're ineligible 
for federal education funding because they have a felony record. 
Without education or job skills, there's little chance for 
employment. Pretty much all they have to fall back on are the 
criminals they met while in jail. The community loses a possible 
productive citizen, the family loses a potential breadwinner and the 
user is probably going back to jail at a cost to taxpayers

Police are addicted to drug money

Police know the War on Drugs is lost, but it is so profitable they 
won't tell the truth. Police get federal money, foundation money and 
forfeiture money for pursuing the failed drug war. It behooves them 
to pump up the statistics on their anti-drug efforts because they get 
paid. Recently, in Bay City, a lawyer complained that the city should 
save the cost of participating in the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement 
Team. The ensuing discussion revealed that the federal government 
gave Bay City police a $60,000 grant to participate in the drug 
enforcement team. In Detroit, Mayor Dave Bing recently announced that 
police could use more than $2 million in drug forfeiture money to 
purchase crime-fighting technology that the city could not otherwise afford.

In an atmosphere where education dollars are hard to come by, where 
budget cuts threaten the existence of social services, where health 
care costs have nearly paralyzed the nation, anti-drug money still 
flows without impediment into dark coffers across the nation.

There's money to be made

I believe a lot of the talk among political entities about being able 
to control dosage and purity of the drug is partly cover for deciding 
just who is going to make the profits from a plant that has been used 
by indigenous peoples since the dawn of history. In a Dec. 5 press 
release, California's Union of Medical Marijuana Patients revealed 
that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is "about to 
award an exclusive license to Kannalife Sciences, Inc. of New York to 
develop medical therapeutics based on the chemistry of cannabis."

There's big money to be made, and the folks who handle big money want 
to keep it for themselves. In 2005, Milton Friedman and 500 
economists supported a Harvard study showing that legal taxed and 
regulated marijuana would produce annual savings and tax revenues of 
$10-$14 billion for the United States. California pot sales alone 
already are an estimated billion-dollar industry. It's not like we 
couldn't use that kind of money in Michigan.

Science supports medical marijuana

There is no factual basis for marijuana prohibition. There are at 
least a couple of thousand peer-reviewed scientific articles out 
there that support the medical use of marijuana for treating diseases 
such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and numerous other ailments 
including chronic pain. The only science contradicting these 
favorable findings comes from scientists working for anti-drug 
organizations - and they have the credibility of the scientists who 
claim that global warming does not exist.

There are a lot more things that I learned about marijuana over the 
past year. I've learned about how the active ingredients in marijuana 
work, and that it's not all about THC. I've learned that whole plant 
medications can be more effective than synthesizing one "active" 
component. I've learned that polls show the vast majority of 
Americans support medical marijuana and a slim majority supports 
out-and-out legalization. I've learned enough about marijuana that I 
believe that changing our laws and attitude toward the weed could 
indeed change our nation.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom