Western Voters Take Steps To Decriminalize 

Western Voters Take Steps To Decriminalize 
Posted by CN Staff on August 18, 2002 at 14:54:58 PT
By J.D. Tuccille
Source: Arizona Daily Sun
Unexpected chinks are appearing in the once seemingly insurmountable legal wall the government has erected against marijuana. Not only are western voters continuing their efforts to ease access to the drug by people with chronic ailments, there are signs that a more laissez-faire attitude may also be extended to recreational users. Even in the halls of power in Washington, D.C., important questions are being asked about the morality and practicality of the federal government's drug prohibition policies.
In a move that emphasized California's resistance to federal marijuana policy, that state's Supreme Court recently ruled that people who use or grow marijuana with a doctor's approval are protected by a voter-approved law from state prosecution. "The possession and cultivation of marijuana is no more criminal  than the possession and acquisition of any prescription drug," the unanimous opinion said. That California is a hotbed of opposition to federal drug laws is little surprise; the state often functions as a world unto itself. But similar sentiments are being voiced very vocally in other jurisdictions. Arizona voters, who have already approved marijuana for medical use, will vote on a measure that would establish a state-administered system for providing marijuana to the ill and decriminalize the possession of two ounces or less of the drug. Drug warriors have responded to the ballot initiative with a measure of their own that would actually toughen penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, setting the stage for a full-scale battle. Nevada voters, who have also legalized the medical use of marijuana, may eliminate penalties for possession of less than three ounces of marijuana and allow the sale of the drug in licensed shops. The initiative, which would have to be approved a second time if it passes, appears to have Nevadans about evenly divided. It briefly enjoyed the support of the state's largest police organization before board members switched positions and ousted their president over the issue. And Seattle voters may direct police to make arrests for marijuana possession their lowest priority. Opposing the measure, officials argue that it's unnecessary, since they already consider marijuana arrests a waste of resources. Obviously, there's been a sea change in public attitudes toward marijuana in recent years. But what's behind this grassroots revolt? For starters, Americans no longer seem to find the drug warriors very convincing. Prohibitionists have tightened laws and massed their forces for years with little discernible effect on the availability or popularity of illegal intoxicants. Marijuana has been used by millions of Americans with little ill effect -- many responsible people happily smoke an occasional joint the way their neighbors sip wine and beer. Opponents of restrictive laws have been vocal with their message that prohibitionist efforts are far more threatening to health and freedom than are drugs themselves. Common Sense for Drug Policy singles out for criticism mandatory minimum sentences that condemn many nonviolent drug offenders to years behind bars. CSDP also points to countries like Canada and the UK, which are moving to ease their own restrictions on marijuana use. Opponents of drug prohibition have also effectively rebutted the drug warriors' heavy-handed propaganda efforts. When the federal government ran TV spots accusing drug users of complicity in terrorism, the Libertarian Party and the Drug Policy Alliance quickly responded with print ads accusing drug warriors of funneling funds to terrorist organizations. As over-the-top as such charges may seem, they have the benefit of being founded in reality. Writing for the conservative Hoover Institution, economist David R. Henderson recently traced the incentives that people with criminal intent have to deal in illegal goods and services. He said, bluntly, "A more informative ad line from the U.S. government would be: 'When you support the drug war, you're supporting terrorists.'" And when the illegal nature of drugs doesn't funnel funds to terrorists through purchases, it does so through outright subsidies. The U.S. government has repeatedly cut checks to unsavory national governments -- many with terrorist ties -- in return for assistance on drug prohibition. The terrorists who have enjoyed the support of prohibitionists in recent years strike Americans where they live in the most visceral way possible. The Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter offers this uncomfortable tidbit: "Perhaps the most shocking example was Washington's decision in May 2001 to financially reward Afghanistan's infamous Taliban government for its edict ordering a halt to the cultivation of opium poppies." Just months later, Taliban troops and their al-Qaida allies faced off against U.S. forces sent to avenge September 11. Even at the federal level, where die-hard prohibitionists have dug in for the long haul, some softening of policy is apparent. John Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, reassured Nevada voters that if they passed their legalization initiative, "I don't believe you'd see federal officials coming into Nevada to enforce possession laws." FBI director Robert Mueller sounded a similar note, saying that the bureau is shifting resources from anti-drug tasks to efforts against terrorism. "Where there were 10 FBI agents on a drug task force in the past, now there will be five." And in an admittedly symbolic effort, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank introduced the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, which would revive federalism by blocking the federal government from opposing state efforts to allow the use of marijuana as medicine. Frank was supported by conservative Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Rep. Ron Paul, a GOP member of Congress with strongly libertarian inclinations. Americans are moving slowly and carefully to dismantle the failed policy of drug prohibition. But when it comes to marijuana, people appear eager to protect themselves and their neighbors from laws that do more harm than any drug ever could. J.D. Tuccille is a Flagstaff-based Senior Editor of The Henry Hazlitt Foundation's Free-Market.Net -- Complete Title: Western Voters Take Steps To Decriminalize MarijuanaSource: Arizona Daily Sun (AZ)Author: J.D. TuccillePublished: August 18, 2002Copyright: 2002 Arizona Daily SunContact: azdsopinion azdailysun.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:CSDP: Institute: Party: Policy Alliance: Backs Initiative To Liberalize Pot Law Candidate Endorses Drug Initiative Marijuana: An Issue of States' Rights
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on August 18, 2002 at 22:06:25 PT
That is so sweet. Life can really get complicated real quick. I know you know that. Does your daughter still go to Berkeley? Tell lookinside hello from me. Today was my Father in Laws 88 Birthday. I hope things are holding there on with your Father. It's hard I know. I think about you and hope all is well.
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Comment #5 posted by Jeaneous on August 18, 2002 at 21:54:51 PT:
Thanks for checking it out. I don't post much anymore but I try to read as much as possible. This is the first time I have made the effort to go to a trial. It is worth the effort. Chris Conrad testified. It felt nice to really be there to back a total stranger, yet kin from our medications. Just like on here but in person. If I see more about his case I will post it. Take care FoM. Miss chatting with ya.... but don't like to take you from all that hard just do it so well!!!!!  :}
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on August 18, 2002 at 21:30:03 PT
Hi Jean
Good to see you and thank you for the link. I didn't know. I don't ever run into the Lodi News in a news search so I missed them all together. I'll read and bookmark the link and check it for future articles.
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Comment #3 posted by Jeaneous on August 18, 2002 at 21:19:54 PT:
Off Subject
Just thought I would post these stories from the Lodi Newpaper in CA. My husband and I attended part of Brian's trial.He has an attorney that isn't afraid to push the envelope and the case is looking great.
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Comment #2 posted by Dan B on August 18, 2002 at 18:00:57 PT
What the . . . ?
Opposing the measure, officials argue that it's unnecessary, since they already consider marijuana arrests a waste of resources. If it is true that they "consider marijuana arrests a waste of resources," why oppose a measure that would insure that such a terrible waste of resources ceases to exist? Doublespeak.Dan B
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on August 18, 2002 at 17:14:36 PT
Progress at hand.
Unexpected chinks are appearing in the once seemingly insurmountable legal wall the government has erected against marijuana. 
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