Source: Ventura County Star (CA) Contact: Sunday, 18 Jan 1998 Author: Jeff Meyers Section: OPED page UNDERDOG BATTLES FORCES OF DARKNESS 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 prohibition.