Pubdate: Sun, 14 Dec 2014
Source: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, The  (IA)
Copyright: 2014 The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
Author: Christinia Crippes


WATERLOO | As lawmakers consider expanding medical marijuana laws and
cities like Cedar Falls debate decriminalization of the drug,
anti-drug advocates are urging Iowans to think of the children and
proceed with caution.

"When you say, 'I'm not going to enforce these sets of laws,' there's
potential unintended consequences to that, and I just want people to
think it all through and have a thorough debate on these issues and
not make any decisions =C2=85 without being fully informed," said Steven
Lukan, director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy.

Lukan and Peter Komendowski, president of Partnership for a Drug Free
Iowa met with The Courier to stand up for strong drug laws as other
states have turned to decriminalization or allowed for medical usage.

"I think there's a lot of people who are very well-intentioned,
citizens, voters, that don't want to send people to prison for no
reason. They don't want to use up a bunch of public resources for no
reason, but I'm just trying to help get the word out where I can that
there's purposes to some of this," Lukan said.

Lukan and Komendowski called into question arguments supporters use to
promote more lax marijuana laws, including the true incarceration rate
for marijuana possession alone and the racial disparity in drug arrests.

"There isn't one white guy in the marijuana business that hasn't
brought up race as a reason we should =C2=85 legalize marijuana,"
Komendowski said. "Race has nothing to do with what they're trying to
do, but they like the argument because it helps get some of that
liberal sort of mindset."

He agreed there is discrimination in society, but he said it's
short-sighted to think of drug policies as discriminatory.

"I don't think that good healthy laws or standards for protecting our
communities affect anybody disproportionately badly," Komendowski said.

Lukan also questioned whether the numbers add up in a 2013 study from
the American Civil Liberties Union that said Iowa had the highest
racial disparity in marijuana arrests, with blacks 8.34 times more
likely to face arrest for possession than whites despite the fact
studies show both races use the drug at about the same rates.

Komendowski said even if people look at the reports from other states
and come to the conclusion there's little to fear from easing Iowa's
marijuana laws, he cautions about the impact on children.

He points to a 2013 survey from the University of Michigan's
Monitoring the Future project that shows as perceived risks from
occasional use of marijuana go down, 12-graders are more likely to
have tried marijuana in the past year. He said society has gotten lax
about warning children of the dangers of drug use, leaving it to
television ads and websites.

Komendowski urged Iowa lawmakers to study the impact of marijuana
legalization before trying to pass bills allowing expanded use of the
drug. He also suggested waiting for U.S. Food and Drug
Administration-approved marijuana-based pharmaceuticals rather than
allowing the use of medicinal marijuana.

"I watch how much time is wasted ... fighting to legalize marijuana
that it would be nice if a voice of reason said, 'Time out,'"
Komendowski said. "I'm thinking how much money is wasted, how much
time, when we've got hungry kids, we've got social services issues,
we've got water quality issues."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt