Pubdate: Tue, 30 Sep 2014
Source: Alaska Dispatch News (AK)
Copyright: 2014 Alaska Dispatch Publishing
Author: Mike Dingman


Now, hypocrisy and contradictions in politics have always existed.
However, what we are seeing this year is so blatant, it's as if they
think they can hide it in plain sight.

This type of extremism leads to a dishonest discussion about how we
should handle marijuana and poses an obstacle to understanding how we
can best help those struggling with addiction, rather than
criminalizing them.

These same marijuana fearmongers, however, often discuss alcohol in a
very dismissive way. Dave Stieren, a local radio talk show host who
has railed against marijuana as something that will bring down our
democracy, as we know it, often discusses alcohol in a very playful
and dismissive matter.

When a caller asked him on Monday's show, "Which scotch are you
drinking?" Stieren replied, "Whatever you are pouring." He then
insinuated that if scotch is being poured, he is free anytime.

He and fellow talk radio host Dan Fagan have also has railed against
the "nanny state" tactics of laws that forbid tobacco use inside
buildings that are open to the public. So his opinion on tobacco is
that it's "nanny stateism" to forbid him to smoke his "stogie" three
feet away from me in a bar. However, the future of the city depends on
ensuring that people are not allowed to purchase marijuana and smoke
it in their home.

While many Republicans have come out in support of "Yes on 2," some
Republican organizations have come out against it. When did these
Republicans stopped believing Ronald Reagan's words: "Government is
not the solution to the problem, government is the problem."

In his speech Reagan was talking specifically about taxes, but that
attitude was, at one point, a Republican belief. The private sector
could do most things better than the government, and the best place
for government was out of our lives.

Rather than following blindly -- we should ask, "Why?"

I believe the same is true for all of us. When I decided to start
thinking this way, I began with a central foundation. All of my
beliefs should be based on this guiding principle --government should
be small and laws should only exist to restrict people's freedom when
it's absolutely necessary.

This belief is shared with many different Alaskans, who are certainly
more libertarian-minded than conservative-minded. This is exactly why
the anti-marijuana people are trying to make you believe that
marijuana is as dangerous as more serious drugs, even though there
simply is no truth behind that conclusion.

We have all heard the arguments on the pro and con side on this issue,
and as Stieren said on his KFQD show Monday, most of us have made up
our mind on this issue.

However, the arguments from the "Vote No" side may have an unintended
consequence that they haven't considered. Comparing marijuana to more
dangerous drugs downplays the serious danger of drugs such as crystal
meth, heroin, cocaine and many others.

When we make these drugs equal to marijuana in the minds of many, we
don't only inappropriately scare people away from marijuana; we ignore
the serious dangers these other drugs create.

Nobody can argue, with a straight face, that marijuana has the same
effect on its users or on society as these harder drugs. In fact, by
many standards, it's much safer than alcohol, which is legal and
acceptable in almost all circles.

Addicts, however, are being forgotten in all of this. We criminalize
those who are addicted to harder drugs, stick them with felony charges
and prison time all while failing to provide them with affordable
treatment, and then we wonder why it's so hard for them to be successful.

We don't understand addiction because we aren't addicts. We don't
understand the immediate need for release or why someone can be clean
for years and in seconds be found lying in an alley overdosed on
heroin. We don't understand this because we aren't addicts. Rather
than try to understand this, society has just criminalized it and
written off the lives of many addicts.

When you are thinking about this issue, please don't forget those who
truly need help.

Marijuana is not crystal meth or heroin, regardless of what the
fearmongers on the No side want you to think. Don't let fear make you
believe that marijuana is more dangerous that it is, or that addicts
need prison rather than treatment. Let's strive for an honest and
productive discussion on both topics.

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in
Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked,
studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late 90s. The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily
endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of
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