Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Contact:  Sunday, 18 Jan 1998
Author: Jeff Meyers
Section: OPED page


It's been several weeks since Thousand Oaks City Council drug warriors
couldn't swing enough votes to close the Ventura County Medical Cannabis
Center. As far as I can tell, Thousand Oaks is still one of the safest
cities in America, drug dealers aren't lurking on every corner, and
civilization as we know it hasn't come to a crashing end.

Not often in politics does the underdog win, but that's what happened at
the city council meeting last month. A diminutive fireball named Andrea
Nagy stood up to the city bureaucracy and pulled an astounding upset
against the forces of darkness. Barraging the city council with
illuminating expert testimony and gut-wrenching testimonials from sick
people, Nagy managed to convince council members Linda Parks and Elois
Zeanah that a tiny pot dispensary in a nondescript office complex wasn't a
threat to the health and safety of the community.

Before the meeting, I'm sure that Parks and Zeanah never would have
imagined themselves championing marijuana, but they had the decency and
diligence to actually pay attention to the overpowering evidence brought
before them. If only all politicians were as open-minded, honest and fair,
we could bring some semblance of reason and sanity to the War on Marijuana.

As a journalist, I've been following this story for 25 years. I know that
politicians and bureaucrats have no intention of changing their demon-weed
ideology. There are too many powerful interests who need to keep marijuana
illegal. The prison lobby. Law enforcement. DARE. Pharmaceutical companies.
DEA. Without marijuana's 11 million regular users, the entire Drug War
crumbles -- the feds could never justify spending $17 billion a year just
to hunt down and arrest this country's 2 million cocaine/heroin addicts.

That's why Janet Reno filed federal civil charges against Northern
California cannabis clubs last week.  The forces of darkness will do
anything -- including denying medicine to sick and dying people -- to
maintain the status quo and keep their jobs. Irrationally sticking to
long-discredited "Reefer Madness" propaganda that has fueled the War on
Marijuana for six decades, these immoral drug warriors are deathly afraid
of us ordinary people learning the truth about pot. And the truth is, pot
is a relatively harmless substance compared with alcohol, cigarettes, most
prescription drugs and many over-the-counter remedies. It is not addictive,
nor does it lead to hard drugs or violence.

While the New England Journal of Medicine supports legalizing medical
marijuana, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet went so far
as to call pot smoking, even long term, "not harmful to health." The DEA's
own administrative law judge, the late Francis L. Young, said marijuana
"was safer than most foods."

These facts are being acknowledged all over the world, with major efforts
underway in Canada, England, France, Germany and Australia to legalize pot
for medicinal and recreational use. But even though notable doctors,
scientists and public figures have endorsed pot's medical benefits,
political power structures in their countries continue to stonewall, which
is nothing new. Every major government examination of marijuana - from the
1894 British Raj study to the 1944 LaGuardia Commission report to Nixon's
1972 Shafer Commission investigation - came to the same conclusion:
arresting pot-smokers causes more harm to society than pot does to the
individual. But these studies were either ignored or suppressed, and so an
estimated 15 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges
since cannabis became illegal in 1937.

In Australia recently, a government council studying marijuana recommended
legalizing it for personal use by adults, but government leaders refused to
act on the recommendation and then did what countless other pols have done
over the years to forestall legalization: they commissioned another study
on marijuana.

That's what Thousand Oaks wanted to do. They wanted to close down the
cannabis center to "study the issue" for 45 days, hoping no doubt that Nagy
would go away and the streets would be safe from marijuana fiends.
Thankfully, Linda Parks and Elois Zeanah did the right thing in voting
against the moratorium.

A Ventura resident, longtime journalist Jeff Meyers is the producer of "The
M Files," a documentary short on the absurd origin of marijuana