Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jun 2012
Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)
Copyright: 2012 North County Times
Author: Michael J. Williams

Lake Elsinore


Local action is the key to getting marijuana legally accepted and 
regulated, according to panelists who participated in an 
informational forum this week in Lake Elsinore.

"Your political power is local ---- city by city, changing the laws, 
putting pressure on the policymakers ... and going to the ballot 
box," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement 
Against Prohibition.

He was one of six panelists who spoke at the town hall-style meeting 
put on by We The People for Common Sense in Lake Elsinore at The 
Diamond Club on Thursday.

In keeping with the theme of local action, the nonprofit organization 
is circulating a petition to get support for a voters initiative that 
aims to legalize a limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries 
in Lake Elsinore.

"We can keep kicking the can as we've been doing, or be proactive and 
regulate this," We The People leader Wayne Williams said in 
introducing the speakers to an audience of about 70 people.

Since California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996 that 
decriminalized the use of marijuana as a medicine, proponents have 
been battling with authorities to be able to legally cultivate and 
procure the substance in the face of ongoing bans in many cities and counties.

"Voters spoke in 1996, and the government is still undermining this 
every step of the way," Williams said.

On the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a dangerous 
drug and any use is prohibited, creating ongoing confusion concerning 
enforcement and providing California's local governments an excuse to 
continue their bans.

"The federal government continues to overreach their constitutional 
authority and they're being allowed to get away with it," said 
Franklin, a former Maryland state police officer.

Yet Ed Rosenthal, a longtime activist and author, contends the 
majority of voters in many places favor legalization and can exercise 
their power to end prohibition of the drug. According to Rosenthal, 
the prohibition is an instrument of control that empowers government 
to throttle individual liberties.

"For years and years, society has been creating more and more rules," 
he said. "When we legalize marijuana, for the first time we are going 
to be pushing back and taking our freedom. ... This is symbolic."

As exemplified by Rosenthal's stance, the discussion Thursday night 
ventured into more expansive philosophical and social issues related 
to the enforcement of laws banning marijuana as well as other drugs.

After working for years to capture and prosecute drug offenders, 
Franklin said, he came to the realization that the policy was doing 
more harm than good by tearing apart families and perpetuating violence.

"The war on drugs is counterproductive to the safety of our 
communities," he said.

A video shown to participants and panelists captured an episode in 
which police in Columbia, Mo., acting on a search warrant, broke into 
a family's home, shot their dog, and handcuffed the father to be 
hauled to jail for possessing a gram of marijuana.

At the conclusion of the film, Williams, apparently shaken by what he 
had seen, had to take a moment to compose himself.

"The policy's failed," he finally said. "We need to do something 
about it. ... That could be me. That could be you."

According to the speakers, incarceration often has damaging 
consequences that go far beyond the harm of drug use.

Gretchen Burns Bergman, the executive director of A New PATH ---- 
Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing ---- said her son, a 
heroin addict, was introduced to that drug in jail after being 
arrested for marijuana possession.

"What I can say is marijuana certainly is a gateway into the criminal 
justice system and the loss of human rights," she said.

In talking about the theory of pot being a gateway to more powerful 
drugs, Dr. David Bearman brought a bit of levity to the discussion, 
based on his experiences working with patients addicted to heroin.

"I found that 100 percent of heroin users ... had used Coca-Cola. 
Well, let's outlaw Coca-Cola," said Bearman, who has written 
extensively about the medicinal properties of cannabis, the 
scientific term for marijuana.

"The fact that you have a statistical relationship doesn't tell us 
anything about causation," Bearman said.

Other panelists were Michael Krawitz, director of Veterans for 
Medical Marijuana Access, and Joe Grumbine, founder of The Human 
Solution. Three others invited to speak were unable to attend.

Judging from the questions submitted, most of the people in 
attendance agreed with the panelists' positions.

Lake Elsinore resident Susan Tyler said she appreciated all the 
speakers, but was particularly touched by Bearman's presentation.

"I thought it was good to learn new information about the medicinal 
qualities," she said.

She said she supports a relaxation of the federal ban on marijuana.

"I don't think it should be a Schedule 1 drug," she said of the 
federal classification that puts marijuana on par with drugs such as 
heroin. "Alcohol has been proven to be a lot more harmful than marijuana."

The presentation reinforced William Morse's sensitivity toward the 
legal contradictions..

"We shouldn't have two forms of government like that," he said. "We 
shouldn't have a state that says it's legal and a federal government 
that says it's not."

Robin Gray said she was disappointed more people didn't attend, 
especially opponents of legalization. She had helped promote the 
event by passing out fliers.

"Different places accepted them, but they might have thrown them in 
the trash because there's such a stigmatization of the word 
'marijuana,'" she said. "I've started using the word 'cannabis.'"
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom