NYTimes.com Article: Make Peace With Pot

The article below from NYTimes.com
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Dear Everyone;

A nice OP/Ed in NY Times on making " Peace with Pot " and definitely an anti- War on Drugs article.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian


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Make Peace With Pot

April 26, 2004

Starting in the fall, pharmacies in British Columbia will
sell marijuana for medicinal purposes, without a
prescription, under a pilot project devised by Canada's
national health service. The plan follows a 2002 report by
a Canadian Senate committee that found there were "clear,
though not definitive" benefits for using marijuana in the
treatment of chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and
other ailments. Both Prime Minister Paul Martin and Stephen
Harper, leader of the opposition conservatives, support the
decriminalization of marijuana.

Oddly, the strongest criticism of the Canadian proposal has
come from patients already using medical marijuana who
think the government, which charges about $110 an ounce,
supplies lousy pot. "It is of incredibly poor quality,"
said one patient. Another said, "It tastes like lumber." A
spokesman for Health Canada promised the agency would try
to offer a better grade of product.

Needless to say, this is a far cry from the situation in
the United States, where marijuana remains a Schedule I
controlled substance, a drug that the government says has a
high potential for abuse, no accepted medical uses and no
safe level of use.

Under federal law it is illegal to possess any amount of
marijuana anywhere in the United States. Penalties for a
first marijuana offense range from probation to life
without parole. Although 11 states have decriminalized
marijuana, most still have tough laws against the drug. In
Louisiana, selling one ounce can lead to a 20-year prison
sentence. In Washington State, supplying any amount of
marijuana brings a recommended prison sentence of five

About 700,000 people were arrested in the United States for
violating marijuana laws in 2002 (the most recent year for
which statistics are available) - more than were arrested
for heroin or cocaine. Almost 90 percent of these marijuana
arrests were for simple possession, a crime that in most
cases is a misdemeanor. But even a misdemeanor conviction
can easily lead to time in jail, the suspension of a
driver's license, the loss of a job. And in many states
possession of an ounce is a felony. Those convicted of a
marijuana felony, even if they are disabled, can be
prohibited from receiving federal welfare payments or food
stamps. Convicted murderers and rapists, however, are still
eligible for those benefits.

The Bush administration has escalated the war on marijuana,
raiding clinics that offer medical marijuana and staging a
nationwide roundup of manufacturers of drug paraphernalia.
In November 2002 the Office of National Drug Control Policy
circulated an "open letter to America's prosecutors"
spelling out the administration's views. "Marijuana is
addictive," the letter asserted. "Marijuana and violence
are linked . . . no drug matches the threat posed by

This tough new stand has generated little protest in
Congress. Even though the war on marijuana was begun by
President Ronald Reagan in 1982, it has always received
strong bipartisan support. Some of the toughest drug war
legislation has been backed by liberals, and the number of
annual marijuana arrests more than doubled during the
Clinton years. In fact, some of the strongest opposition to
the arrest and imprisonment of marijuana users has come
from conservatives like William F. Buckley, the economist
Milton Friedman and Gary Johnson, the former Republican
governor of New Mexico.

This year the White House's national antidrug media
campaign will spend $170 million, working closely with the
nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The idea of
a "drug-free America" may seem appealing. But it's hard to
believe that anyone seriously hopes to achieve that goal in
a nation where millions of children are routinely given
Ritalin, antidepressants are prescribed to cure shyness,
and the pharmaceutical industry aggressively promotes pills
to help middle-aged men have sex.

Clearly, some recreational drugs are thought to be O.K.
Thus it isn't surprising that the Partnership for a
Drug-Free America originally received much of its financing
from cigarette, alcohol and pharmaceutical companies like
Hoffmann-La Roche, Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds and

More than 16,000 Americans die every year after taking
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and
ibuprofen. No one in Congress, however, has called for an
all-out war on Advil. Perhaps the most dangerous drug
widely consumed in the United States is the one that I use
three or four times a week: alcohol. It is literally
poisonous; you can die after drinking too much. It is
directly linked to about one-quarter of the suicides in the
United States, almost half the violent crime and two-thirds
of domestic abuse. And the level of alcohol use among the
young far exceeds the use of marijuana. According to the
Justice Department, American children aged 11 to 13 are
four times more likely to drink alcohol than to smoke pot.

None of this should play down the seriousness of marijuana
use. It is a powerful, mind-altering drug. It should not be
smoked by young people, schizophrenics, pregnant women and
people with heart conditions. But it is remarkably
nontoxic. In more than 5,000 years of recorded use, there
is no verified case of anybody dying of an overdose.
Indeed, no fatal dose has ever been established.

Over the past two decades billions of dollars have been
spent fighting the war on marijuana, millions of Americans
have been arrested and tens of thousands have been
imprisoned. Has it been worth it? According to the
government's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, in
1982 about 54 percent of Americans between the ages of 18
and 25 had smoked marijuana. In 2002 the proportion was . .
. about 54 percent.

We seem to pay no attention to what other governments are
doing. Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium
have decriminalized marijuana. This year Britain reduced
the penalty for having small amounts. Legislation is
pending in Canada to decriminalize possession of about half
an ounce (the Bush administration is applying strong
pressure on the Canadian government to block that bill). In
Ohio, possession of up to three ounces has been
decriminalized for years - and yet liberal marijuana laws
have not transformed Ohio into a hippy-dippy paradise;
conservative Republican governors have been running the
state since 1991.

Here's an idea: people who smoke too much marijuana should
be treated the same way as people who drink too much
alcohol. They need help, not the threat of arrest,
imprisonment and unemployment.

More important, denying a relatively safe, potentially
useful medicine to patients is irrational and cruel. In
1972 a commission appointed by President Richard Nixon
concluded that marijuana should be decriminalized in the
United States. The commission's aim was not to encourage
the use of marijuana, but to "demythologize it." Although
Nixon rejected the commission's findings, they remain no
less valid today: "For the vast majority of recreational
users," the 2002 Canadian Senate committee found, "cannabis
use presents no harmful consequences for physical,
psychological or social well-being in either the short or
long term."

The current war on marijuana is a monumental waste of money
and a source of pointless misery. America's drug warriors,
much like its marijuana smokers, seem under the spell of a
powerful intoxicant. They are not thinking clearly.

Eric Schlosser is the author of "Fast Food Nation" and
"Reefer Madness."