Pubdate: Thu, 02 Jun 2016
Source: Daily Californian, The (UC Berkeley, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily Californian
Author: Karina Pauletti
Note: Karina Pauletti writes a column on breaking down quotidian 
political and social issues.


His left hand was pressed firmly into his temple as he leaned in and 
whispered, "Okay, once I finish this goddamn computer science project 
I'm going to make some Amsterdam tea." I muffled my naturally 
thunderous laughter as we we sat in the center of the Engineering 
Library. A moment of comfortable silence between friends followed, 
with only keyboard sounds filling the space. I didn't resume 
studying, for I was distracted by his plans, and it wasn't because of 
his choice of euphemism.

I began to reflect on his announcement. It would not have been any 
different had he said he was going to smoke a cigarette or take a 
shot when his work was complete. Nothing would have changed.

No matter what you refer to this substance as: weed, pot, grass, 
George Kush or Amsterdam tea, there's no reason why its use, sale or 
production should be illegal. The War on Drugs has been a massive 
systemic failure of policy. Nixon's 1971 metaphor for violent 
confrontation has only culminated in an unenforceable legal framework 
where violence, corruption and other social ills run amok. We're 
being soundly defeated in this war by enemies that prohibition itself 
has created, chiefly a saturated prison system and organized crime.

The body count in this war is continually rising. Every minute, 
someone is arrested for marijuana possession in the United States. By 
the time you reach this sentence of my column, at least one life will 
be altered forever. Seven-hundred thousand of the 1.5 million people 
detained for drug law violations in 2014 were arrested for 
marijuana-related offenses. No drug could be more harmful than a 
prison sentence, where one's educational and career prospects dwindle 
in an instant.

A young single mother of four in Oklahoma was arrested for marijuana 
possession and sentenced for 10 years; most of her career 
opportunities evaporated. HSBC bank is caught laundering billions in 
drug money and is imposed a fine. No one is jailed and a hierarchical 
social structure based on prohibition becomes salient.

Cannabis users are thus the low-hanging fruit of the drug war, as 
their arrests are relatively easy. It's a fairly taxing task for law 
enforcement to pursue cartels and money launderers.

This situation occurs much to the delight of the for-profit prison 
industry. It is no coincidence that the private prison system lobbies 
for prohibition. Defying freedom has become profitable. This is 
antithetical to everything this nation initially stood for. The 
practice is particularly irresponsible when there are various legal 
drugs that are far more noxious than marijuana.

Many people do not understand that entirely legal substances such as 
refined sugars, alcohol and caffeine are highly addictive drugs. This 
is a notable part of the campaign of misinformation on illicit drug 
use that has spread throughout the public consciousness like 
fertilizer. Where's the war on alcohol? It is the substance most 
responsible for violent crimes than any other. The idea that legality 
guarantees safety is a dangerous precedent.

Every 20 minutes, someone dies of a prescription pill overdose. There 
aren't any numbers or bodies for marijuana overdoses, none 
whatsoever. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug that is lumped together 
with heroin and bath salts, yet causes fewer deaths than various 
prescription Schedule 4 drugs that are regularly advertised on 
television, such as Ambien.

The sky-will-fall scenario regarding marijuana is becoming a tougher 
sell when legal items pose greater dangers to our health. I grew up 
very familiar with the rhetorical demonization of this "gateway 
drug," from programs such as D.A.R.E. I even recall a moment when a 
parent explained to my friends and me that her son got gynecomastia - 
man breasts - from smoking too much weed.

These assertions are just laughably untrue. There are more people 
dying as a result of consuming sugar, nicotine and alcohol every day, 
yet there is no alarm. I would be extremely concerned if I had 
children taking prescription methamphetamine regularly or drinking 
soda excessively. I see no nationwide program comparable to D.A.R.E. 
that is educating kids on how to eat properly. Michelle Obama's Let's 
Move campaign is a nice start, but it is not nearly as comprehensive.

Obesity and poor health are actual epidemics in this country, yet 
there is no major inflection point toward their resolution. Our 
priorities appear perverted and it's costing us gravely.

Proponents of prohibition have blood on their hands. We demonstrate 
great concern regarding terrorists who reside 3,000 miles away, yet 
we ignore the kidnappings and beheadings occurring right at our 
doorstep as a result of the drug war. Not only are we losing people 
to our prisons, we are losing law enforcement officials, innocent 
civilians and children to the senseless violence of the drug trade. 
One trillion dollars later and the War on Drugs has helped establish 
an elaborate infrastructure where criminal syndicates thrive. It has 
accomplished little else. Legalizing and regulating marijuana 
sensibly are our final options.

Prohibition is a dead corpse walking. There is a profusion of process 
and setbacks, but I firmly view legalization of Amsterdam tea as 
inevitable, with public opinion evolving each day.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom