Pubdate: Tue, 18 Jun 2013
Source: Michigan Daily (U of MI, Edu)
Copyright: 2013 The Michigan Daily
Author: Will Greenberg


As the topic of marijuana legalization burns up national forums, the
Students for Sensible Drug Policy are lobbying in Washington, D.C. for
new drug laws.

SSDP members from around the country -- including one representative
from the University's chapter -- met yesterday to hear speakers and
later visited the Hill to talk with various congressmen in support of
current bills that would alter federal drug enforcement.

The bill being lobbied for is HR 499, a proposal that would prevent
federal drug enforcement from interfering in states where marijuana is
legal either medically or recreationally.

Law student Reid Murdoch, who was the sole representative from the
University's chapter of SSDP, said state and federal drug enforcement
are currently "at war."

"Essentially what's going on is that states around the country are
doing popular referendums and popular opinion is vastly in favor of
marijuana policy reform," Murdoch said. "Despite that, the DEA, under
the Obama administration's orders, has relentlessly pursued medical
marijuana providers and people who are acting in accordance with their
own state laws."

While there are several bills in the House of Representatives that
look to decriminalize marijuana, Murdoch said HR 499 is a good place
to start, as the bill isn't focused on legalization so much as it is
on enforcement efficiency.

"It's an easier pill to swallow, it's a less controversial bill that I
think people from all sides of the political spectrum can get behind,"
he said.

Murdoch visited the offices of several representatives, including that
of Representative John Dingell (D-Mich.).

He said he was hopeful that changes would happen swiftly.

"It's a non-partisan issue," Murdoch said. "People in the past have
been terrified to talk about it, there's a cultural stigma about it,
but I would say absolutely it's a non-partisan issue."

Murdoch added that the SSDP supports decriminalization of marijuana as
a civil rights issue, an economic issue, an individual liberty issue
and a national security issue.

"Our position is that while marijuana stays illegal, it's dangerous,"
he said. "We just need to get it off the streets and we need to
regulate it."

LSA senior Sebastian Blake Swae-Shampine, legislative action director
for the University's chapter of SSDP, said current drug enforcement
was a poor use of resources that could be used for more serious crimes
- -- citing a statistic published by the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws, which states that of the $7.5 to $10 billion
spent on marijuana cases, about 90 percent were for possession only.

Swae said heightened drug enforcement has led to some "egregious"
laws, including the state of Michigan's Asset Forfeiture law, which
has allowed enforcement officials to seize possessions such as cash
and vehicles from drug holders.

"You don't need to actually be arrested or charged with a crime or
tried in order to have your assets be seized," he said. "All you need
to do is have that one law enforcement encounter that goes awry."

Swae said he sees the conversation on drugs as "sobering" because more
people have realized that current drug laws are problematic. He
believed marijuana could easily become a legalized substance -- like
alcohol and tobacco -- which could then be regulated and taxed.
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