Leaders AWOL In Marijuana Fight


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A Feb. 16 guest viewpoint by Jim Greig, "Marijuana more than medicinal," explored the economic benefits of ending pot prohibition, while making the point that users of medical marijuana are honestly seeking therapeutic effects.

After Oregon citizens voted in 1998 to allowed medicinal use of marijuana, I went to meetings and heard story after story about the therapeutic value of cannabis. Victims of automobile and industrial accidents with severe spinal injuries told tales of how marijuana helped them deal with constant pain while allowing them to continue being productive, whereas their prescription pain medicine left them lethargic and unable to function.

Some stopped prescriptions altogether, while others were able to cut down substantially. Some had never used marijuana before the accidents.

Patients with genetic disorders testified that marijuana helped their disabilities. Cancer, HIV and other patients told of enduring taxing medical treatments with the aid of marijuana - a drug that restored their appetites, helped combat nausea and dispelled depression.

Obtaining this illegal plant was a big problem for these patients. Many could not grow the herb themselves, nor could they afford the street price of $300 or more per ounce. What has developed is a cooperative effort by local patients to supply themselves.

In Oregon, these groups generally have been left alone. But in California, the federal government has spent millions of dollars on police raids and prosecutions.

Why is our federal government so concerned about an herb that for thousand of years has played a beneficial role in human affairs? And why won't politicians - federal, state or local - address this absurd situation?

Is the old and discredited image of the devil-weed still at work? Does propaganda about marijuana being a gateway drug still hold sway?

I am sure there are many reasons, but while organizing an annual marijuana march, I found a reluctance to get involved very vexing. I could find no organization or political figure that would discuss the issue. Every elected official I asked (including some who I know have inhaled) declined. Left groups, right groups, gay groups, Hispanic groups, union folk and others all refused to get involved.

A small, ad hoc group of concerned citizens has been left to call for legalization and to spur local discussion about the civic, social and economic costs of pot prohibition.

Prohibition does not work - never has, never will. Prohibition keeps in place a black market, which corrupts our society from the top down and from the bottom up. Prohibition always leads to more abuse, younger users, civil corruption and criminal enterprise.

Even with voters supporting change, we have lacked politicians with enough gumption to discuss a rational approach. Is it the money involved in the war on drugs?

According to the latest figures from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the official cost of the drug war in the United States is $148.62 billion a year. Much of this pork pie is sent to municipalities and local agencies. Are our local law enforcement agencies and governments more committed to these federal funds than to our unalienable rights, our republican form of government and our collective interests?

Bear in mind that the same office of drug control policy report says that the total economic costs of drug abuse in the United States is $44.73 billion a year - and that includes all related productivity and property losses, as well as costs for health care, social welfare and institutional expenses.

Beyond the enormous savings involved, and beyond the medical and humanitarian issues, the positive economic benefits of a legal (that is, regulated and taxed) cannabis industry are huge. Our grass-growing valley could again become a center of production of fiber and construction products, creating jobs and tax revenues. And hemp may be grown on marginal lands, allowing a regrowth of more mature timbershed.

Let us have real discussion and concerted action toward a regulated, lawful marketplace in place of our current costly prohibition. A significant step would be an official repudiation of cannabis prohibitions and a legal interposition by Lane County officials between higher officials and county citizens. Then, instead of increasing tax burdens and continuing to jail peaceful people, as any despot can do, we can be true pioneers and create an honest, real-world solution.

The civic benefit of teaching our children with truth instead of lies: priceless.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Register-Guard (OR)
Author: Kris Millegan
Copyright: 2007 – The Register-Guard
Website: The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA
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