Pubdate: Sat, 07 Sep 2013
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Column: It's A Gray Area
Copyright: 2013 Daily Pilot
Author: James P. Gray
Note: JAMES P. GRAY is a retired Orange County Superior Court judge.
He lives in Newport Beach.


With the recent statement by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. that 
the federal government will not prosecute people for marijuana 
offenses as long as they are acting within the laws of their states, 
it is simply a question of time before the entire "war on drugs" is over.

In fact, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight.

This is not really a victory for those who want to use marijuana as 
much as it is a victory for liberty. The government should hold 
people responsible for their actions, but not for what they, as 
adults, put into their bodies.

As a practical matter, this is also a victory for the concept of 
federalism, upon which our great country was founded. In my 
presentations on this subject, I often ask members of my audience how 
many of them believe the federal government has all of the answers. 
All I get in response is snickers.

So why not allow the states to determine how best to protect the 
safety and welfare of its residents regarding marijuana?

While on the campaign trail for the 2012 presidential election, 
former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said often that this approach 
would result in some spectacular successes, which could be copied, as 
well as some significant failures, which could be avoided.

And besides, we really couldn't be in any worse shape regarding 
marijuana than we are now, so why not allow our 50 "crucibles of 
democracy" to come up with and implement their own workable plans?

By the way, when we finally came to our senses and repealed alcohol 
prohibition, we did not say that each state must now serve alcohol. 
No, we simply restricted the role of the federal government to 
assisting each state in enforcing its chosen laws.

So, for example, if a particular state remained dry and someone 
smuggled alcohol into that state in violation of its laws, the 
federal government would step in. And that approach continues to work 
quite well even today.

So why does this new development mean the end of drug prohibition is 
in sight? Because most estimates show that of all of the people in 
our country who use an illicit substance, 80% to 85% use only 
marijuana. And soon everyone will recognize that the relatively small 
number of people who use all other drugs combined will not justify 
the enormous bureaucracy that is required to support the current 
enforcement system.

Fortunately, this is already beginning to happen. For example, many 
people are starting to see that it is easier for our children to 
obtain marijuana, or any other drug, than alcohol. Ask them yourself. 
And there is no quality control. That was also a significant problem 
under alcohol prohibition but not after its repeal.

In fact, ask yourself, "Who do you trust more, your state's minister 
of health or the mafia?"

Another pivotal question to ask is, "Where would you like the 
billions of dollars for these products to end up, with Mexican drug 
cartels, juvenile street gangs and other similar thugs, or diverted 
to police and teacher salaries and road repair?"

To take that thought to another level, if our federal government were 
to announce that the United Nation's Single Convention on Narcotic 
Drugs, which requires all signing countries to prohibit these drugs, 
should be repealed, virtually all other countries around the world 
would heave a sigh of relief. And they would vote and act accordingly.

For example, the government of Uruguay is quite close to selling 
marijuana to its residents itself. In addition, former Mexican 
President Vicente Fox recently came out strongly in favor of the 
legalization of marijuana and even all other drugs as well. That, 
says Fox, is the only way effectively to take away the profits and 
power of these blood-thirsty drug cartels.

"Arbitrarily imposed prohibitions have ended," he said, "and they 
have ended because they don't work."

Similarly, Justin Trudeau, who could very well be the next prime 
minister of Canada, recently acknowledged having regularly smoked 
marijuana, saying basically that it was no big deal.

Of course, Holland decriminalized marijuana and all other drugs in 
the 1970s. So how did Holland get around this treaty? In a most 
pragmatic way: by ignoring it. And, according to its minister of 
health, Holland has half of the drug usage per capita that we have.

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and found that this 
approach reduced problem drug usage by a full 50%.

Similarly, Switzerland's program to allow medical doctors to 
prescribe heroin to those who are addicted to it resulted in a strong 
reduction in crime and even drug usage in the neighborhoods 
surrounding the doctors' clinics.

A logical next step for our federal government would be to legalize 
hemp, which I define as marijuana in which the active psychoactive 
ingredient THC is only 0.3% or less. You could almost get more of a 
jolt from smoking the shirt you are wearing than marijuana with that 
low a percentage of THC. But hemp is a major industrial product that 
could enrich our nation's farmers and merchants.

For example, we can get more ethanol from hemp per acre than we can 
from corn, and the hemp will not clog a carburetor like the corn 
will. Similarly, we can get four times more paper pulp from an acre 
of hemp than from an acre of trees, and it takes only nine months to 
grow the hemp but 20 years to grow the trees. Legalizing hemp would 
strongly revitalize our farms and our economy.

I challenge you to name any area of life that is important to you, 
whether it be education, health, the economy, teenage drug usage, the 
environment or anything else, and I will show you how it is made 
worse by our policy of drug prohibition. Contact me, and let me prove it to you.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom