Pubdate: Fri, 03 Feb 2012 Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu) Copyright: 2012 The Daily Iowan Contact: http://www.dailyiowan.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/937 Author: Will Mattessich TIME TO TALK POT Decriminalization of marijuana is not an issue that is discussed by Serious People in America who want to focus on Serious Issues. It's just "pot." It's for "stoners." You want it to be legal? You must be a "stoner." It's not a Serious Issue. This attitude and the amount of misinformation about marijuana is destroying the ability to have a rational debate on the topic. It's a new age of McCarthyism, but instead of calling adversaries communists, the pro-criminalization camp labels their opponents "stoners," a far more effective label because it implies incompetence rather than dastardly plans. President Obama and candidate Mitt Romney have both avoided questions about medicinal marijuana during the caucus and primary season. Some Iowa legislators, including Iowa City's Sen. Joe Bolkcomm, are hoping to start a discussion on the issue of medical marijuana this year, but getting their colleagues to take the issue seriously will be an uphill battle. The rhetoric from anti-drug websites such as "Above the Influence" assists in preventing a rational discussion on the issue. Its page of "Drug Facts" about marijuana implies that the reason someone would want to use the drug is because of such movies as Pineapple Express, stating "Some movies and music make 'stoner' culture seem cool, natural, and like it's not a big deal." This type of information feeds into the myth that everyone who has ever used the drug is just like Seth Rogen and James Franco's characters in Pineapple Express. It neglects to mention that many marijuana users are people with debilitating illnesses, many of them productive members of society solely because of the benefits the drug offers. New research continually shows that the bogeymen of permanent cognitive impairment and marijuana as a "gateway drug" are a result of misunderstood statistics and temperance propaganda rather than sound methods. On the other hand, the positive medical effects of the drug have been proven in many cases. Iowa City had 662 drug-related arrests in 2010, according to the Iowa City Police Department's annual report. The Iowa City police spent $100,000 last year alone to seize drugs on I-80. In 2009, authorities sent armies into Currier to catch 19-year-olds with marijuana in their rooms. What if, instead of spending the money and manpower on a tiny green plant that causes people to cough and sit on their couches, we put more officers on the street to catch armed robbers or rapists? Those of us who don't use marijuana often take a laissez-faire attitude to criminalization without realizing that the drug war and unfairly enforced marijuana laws have effects beyond only users. One of the largest side effects of the drug war is the creation of a massive surveillance apparatus that can be used against us grass-free citizens as well. Law-enforcement agencies have pushed for greater ability to electronically spy on citizens through the drug war, which costs billions of dollars and hundreds of lives annually. The CIA and FBI collaborate with the Department of Homeland Security (a governmental organ that is seeming more and more Orwellian as the years go by) to create a vast network of border surveillance including unmanned drones spying on American soil, ostensibly to catch terrorists and drug traffickers. A Gallup Poll from October showed that, for the first time, a plurality of Americans supported legalizing marijuana. The group that was most likely to say they wanted to keep the drug illegal were respondents aged 65 and older. Hopefully, this trend means that rational and moral reforms in the country's drug laws are coming soon. Criminalization of marijuana is a waste of money and an assault on civil liberty. The change begins when the public matures enough to take the issue seriously. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.