Pubdate: Tue, 29 Jul 2014
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2014 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Tony Norman


Everyone reading this column must know someone who currently smokes 
or has smoked marijuana. They're family members, friends, loved ones, 
acquaintances, bosses, employees and people we sit next to on buses 
commuting to work every day.

We don't spend a lot of time worrying about whether these people will 
become hard-core addicts. We'd be more worried about them if they 
were binge drinkers. They're not criminals, despite the shady ways 
many of them go about procuring what has been an illegal product for 
nearly half a century.

The law sees it differently, of course. If people we know intimately 
or even casually are inclined to overindulge, we're more likely to 
accuse them of being lazy or lacking ambition, but we're not going to 
call the cops on them. No one deserves a second of jail time for 
smoking a product the Founding Fathers grew as a cash crop.

That doesn't mean that the "pursuit of happiness" language in the 
Declaration of Independence was some sly reference to hemp crop 
yields in 1776, but who's to say that exotic party animals like Ben 
Franklin and Alexander Hamilton weren't all about figuring out how to 
wring more THC out of hemp when they weren't committing sedition 
against the British?

These days, people smoke grass for reasons that run the gamut, but 
mostly for recreation. It has medicinal value, though glaucoma 
probably isn't as common as those claiming to have the degenerative 
eye disease would have us believe. There's no doubt that marijuana 
helps patients deal with nausea from chemotherapy and other other procedures.

If not for the fear-mongering that has accompanied every national 
discussion of marijuana since the advent of that ultimate buzz kill 
known as "The War on Drugs" four decades ago, there would be nothing 
controversial about allowing pot to take its place next to alcohol, 
fructose corn syrup, tobacco, pornography and Internet addiction as 
uniquely modern distractions that also happen to be legal.

A case can be made that there's a legitimate place for marijuana in 
our society. We know that it doesn't make people belligerent, though 
occasional bouts of paranoia can be a drag. Mostly, it makes people 
boring. Anyone who believes that smoking dope gives the user unique 
insight into the nature of the universe is probably an idiot, but it 
doesn't mean that person is a menace to society, as long as he's not 
behind the wheel of a car.

The fact that marijuana is illegal, despite the science that proves 
it is less destructive than alcohol, says a lot about the cravenness 
of modern American politicians. What would be easier for a rationally 
functioning democracy to do: treat drug use as a public health and 
safety issue, or maintain a morally bankrupt policy in which billions 
are spent prosecuting and warehousing thousands of Americans? Anyone 
comfortable with the militarization of the police and the siege 
mentality and corruption it engenders has got to be loving this 
Second Coming of Prohibition.

The New York Times over the weekend published an editorial that was 
startling in its clarity and bravery given the demagoguery around 
this issue: "There are no perfect answers to people's legitimate 
concerns about marijuana use," the editorial board wrote. "But 
neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we 
believe that on every level - health effects, the impact on society 
and law-and-order issues - the balance falls squarely on the side of 
national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow 
recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs - at 
the state level."

"The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast," the board 
continued. "There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 
2012, according to FBI figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, 
heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, 
falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives 
and creating new generations of career criminals."

You don't have to inhale when saying "Amen" to such common sense.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom