HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Withdraw From This War
Pubdate: Sun, 22 Sep 2002
Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)
Copyright: 2002 The Providence Journal Company
Author: Froma Harrop
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The Bush administration seems to have gotten its war all right -- only it's
on California. The natives are in full revolt over marijuana, inhaling for
all to see, especially U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft. They say his raids on
California marijuana clubs will not stop them.

The first skirmish took place in Santa Cruz, the university beach town known
for open-mindedness (within politically correct boundaries). In bold
defiance of federal policy, Mayor Christopher Krohn stood before City Hall
and directed a distribution of medical marijuana to allegedly ill citizens.
People smoked pot on the lawn. (Cigarette smokers were steered to the
sidewalk.) The unrest has since spread to other California cities.

Although nine states have approved the use of medical marijuana, Ashcroft
has concentrated the weight of the anti-drug bureaucracy on California. His
agents have busted marijuana clubs in West Hollywood, Oakland, San
Francisco, Sebastopol and, most recently, Santa Cruz. California Atty. Gen.
Bill Lockyer characterized the raids as "punitive expeditions."

Some of you might think that federal law enforcement would have its hands
full chasing down terrorists bent on mass destruction. Stoned Californians
could wait for another day. Well, Ashcroft says he's on to both. He is
perfectly capable of flicking on the orange terrorism alert, then sending
federal agents to weed out marijuana plants in hostile California territory.

Perhaps the two wars could be combined. For example, Ashcroft could work up
a profiling system for pot users. Was the passport issued in Austin, Madison
or Portland? How about background checks for schools attended, subjects
studied, libertarian leanings?

Certain states of origin should raise red flags. California, Colorado,
Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Alaska, Nevada, Maine and Hawaii have all
approved medical use of marijuana. Their residents might harbor the
subversive view that states may make their own drug laws. And they may not
appreciate that the Office of National Drug Control Policy spends $11
billion a year on marijuana prohibition. That kind of budget must be

As in most conflicts, no side is without fault. Yes, in a rational world,
the Justice Department would transfer its passion for eradicating marijuana
to finding anthrax. But it would also be nice, for reasons of elevating the
discussion, if the pot advocates would diversify their interests. Marijuana
is not exactly the staff of life, and some honesty in discussing its legal
status would be much appreciated.

There's much righteous talk about medical marijuana -- patients' urgent need
to ease their discomforts with pot. The medical issue is just a wedge for
letting anyone smoke pot for any reason. That's fine with me, but let's just
say it and dispense with the dramatics. "I have to have marijuana to stay
alive," a 35-year-old American, sitting in a cafe in Vancouver, British
Columbia, tells a reporter. He asserts that pot alleviates pain from spinal
injuries suffered in an Army parachuting accident. Surely his doctors have a
pill that would do the same job, but he has applied for asylum in Canada.

Pot-smoking Americans who move to Canada often portray themselves as
political refugees. Some compare their plight to slaves escaping to freedom
via the Underground Railroad. Not quite. Many are fleeing drug charges in
the United States.

Steve Kubby, Libertarian Party candidate for California governor in 1998,
counts himself among the persecuted. He says he suffers from adrenal cancer
and asserts: "If I don't smoke pot, my blood pressure goes through the roof
and would either burst a blood vessel or cause a heart attack."

Canada, by the way, has not fully legalized marijuana, though a committee in
the Canadian senate has recommended that course of action. The government
has sensibly decided not to spend precious resources going after pot smokers
who aren't bothering anyone.

On this side of the border, meanwhile, citizens still chip away at punitive
marijuana laws. Nevadans will vote this November on letting adults possess
up to three ounces of marijuana, whether they are sick or not. They just
wouldn't be allowed to smoke in public or drive under the influence of pot.
Voters in Ohio, Michigan and Arizona will consider proposals to ease
penalties for possession of marijuana.

No one here is calling marijuana a wonder drug. But the weed doesn't seem so
awful that we have to arrest 700,000 Americans a year on pot charges.
America's law-enforcement personnel have other battles to fight. Let's bring
the boys home from California.
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