Put This In Your Pipe And Smoke It!

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Last week, rock legend Art Garfunkel was arrested. He didn't hit
anyone; he wasn't carrying a gun. But when a police officer pulled his
limo over for speeding in upstate New York, that officer found a small
amount of marijuana in Garfunkel's shirt pocket.

I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you, that such a thing could happen.
After all, I grew up listening to my parents' Simon and Garfunkel
classics like "Mrs. Robinson" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

How could a man that sang songs like "Feelin' Groovy" ever do anything
like smoke weed?

But while I was in line to return my Simon and Garfunkel CDs out of
protest, I got to thinking. Why is our society so obsessed with
marijuana use? Is it really that bad for you? And why does Attorney
General Ashcroft care what you do in your own home?

When I realized that I didn't have any good answers, I got out of line
and headed home to find them. But after some reading, I just had more
questions.

Why does the government have the right to tell adults not to use
something, even when we're not hurting anyone else?

Studies are inconclusive about whether pot even really hurts the user.
According to a New Scientist article published in 2002, you would have
to smoke at least five joints a day to equal the lung damage done by a
pack of cigarettes, and alcohol destroys your liver. Yet you can buy
both of these in the grocery store.

Chemically, coffee is more addictive than weed, according the New
Scientist magazine. And while pot may be mentally addictive, so is
shopping and gambling.

Of course, you could answer that question by just saying that
marijuana is a "gateway drug." That is, that using it will cause you
to do harder drugs, like cocaine and heroin, which are bad for you.

But over 76 million Americans have tried marijuana. Most of them never
became regular users, and even fewer ever tried anything harder.

It's true most people that use cocaine used pot at one time. But it's
also true that they all breathed air -- that doesn't mean that
everyone that breathes air will become a coke head.

But even if pot were bad for you, why do you need the government to
tell you not to do it? As long as it doesn't hurt others, why can't a
reasonable adult decide whether or not the risk is worth it?

And why is the punishment for marijuana related crimes so
extreme?

According to former President Jimmy Carter, "Penalties against drug
use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the
drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against
possession of marijuana in private for personal use."

Over 700,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges last year.
In the last decade, almost 5 million Americans were arrested for marijuana.

When convicted, these offenders are denied financial student aid,
welfare, food stamps and are often removed from public housing.

Other offenses don't carry these penalties. If you kill someone, you
can get a Pell Grant, but if you're caught with a joint, you can't.

But surely, I told myself, there's nothing in it for the government,
right?

There's just no reason for them to legalize pot.

No reason, except, perhaps, the $1.2 billion dollars that taxpayers
pay a year for 60,000 individuals currently in prison.

Or the $7.5 billion, that, according to the U.S. Department of
Justice, we spend arresting and prosecuting stoners.

Not only would legalization help save money, it would make money for
the states.

According to NORML, a pro-legalization website, marijuana is the
fourth largest cash crop in the country. If states could tap into that
market, and tax it, Measure 30 would be a thing of the past.

So we must be doing it for the children.

Except the children currently get their pot from dealers trying to
push harder drugs. They can get marijuana laced with chemicals because
there is no regulation.

Besides, society already recognizes that there are some things that
adults can do that children can't, like drinking, skydiving and
renting a car. That distinction can be made with marijuana too.

Maybe what Garfunkel did wasn't that bad after all. And while I won't
advocate breaking the law, maybe its time to recognize that there's
nothing wrong with changing the law.

Maybe its time we all started "Feelin' Groovy."

Elizabeth Meyer is a columnist for The Daily Barometer. The opinions
expressed in her columns, which appear every Thursday, do not
necessarily represent those of The Barometer staff.


Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jan 2004
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2004 The Register-Guard
Contact: rgletters@guardnet.com
Website: Breaking local news, news updates, sports, business and weather | Eugene, Oregon
 
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