This past weekend two Brown students, Benjamin Kintisch '02.5 and Avery
Rosen '01.5, were arrested for smoking the buds of a plant that grows
naturally around the world, including in the United States. Although they
posed no harm to themselves or others, both could face prison terms -- "the
felony charge levied against Rosen carries a sentence of up to 30 years in
prison and/or a fine of $3,000 to $100,000" ("Two students arrested for
marijuana possession," Nov. 12).

Meanwhile, other students around campus feared for their safety while
walking back from the library or a party.

Several students have been robbed and others sexually assaulted this semester.

The perpetrators of these crimes, unlike Kintisch and Rosen, presented a
significant threat to the safety of other individuals. In other words, the
arrest of Rosen and Kintisch was a serious misuse of police resources and
is one example of the serious flaws in the drug laws of this country.

The crime of getting stoned hardly makes Kintisch and Rosen dangerous
criminals who pose a threat to society, In fact, one could argue that these
two individuals are among the stars of their peer group: they performed
excellently in high school, were accepted to a prestigious Ivy League
university and are both close to graduation. Are these people who belong in
jail? While pondering this, imagine the others serving time in prisons
across the country for the same crimes, many the victims of mandatory
sentencing. Do they belong behind bars anymore than two Brown students?

No, but at present, individuals charged with marijuana possession (not
trafficking) make up 12 percent of the total federal prison population and
about 2.7 percent of the state prison population. In fact, 87 percent of
marijuana-related arrests in 1997 were for simple possession. How many
other crimes went uninvestigated and unsolved while these thousands of
individuals were being arrested, processed and tried?

Moreover, how much of our tax money was used to pay the arresting officer
and maintain lives in prison? It costs $23,000 a year to keep a prisoner in
jail; therefore, those imprisoned for marijuana possession cost taxpayers
at least $1.2 billion dollars a year. This figure does not include
pre-sentencing costs.

Seventy million Americans have admitted to trying marijuana, and I don't
think anyone would argue they all should be in prison.

Except perhaps for the corporations that run for-profit prisons in the
United States and make money for each imprisoned individual. TWA, AT&T and
other corporations who cheaply employ prisoners to perform customer service
duties might not mind it either. "Cheap pot would also pose a serious
challenge to the alcohol industry, a powerful political interest, whose
products are over ten times as expensive." (National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws) However, in my mind, aiding corporations is not
much of a reason for doing anything, especially not denying otherwise
upstanding citizens of their lives.

There is another pressing reason for the legalization of marijuana; and
again, large corporations are the ones who stand to lose. With
decriminalization, hemp would also become legal.

What many consider the wonder plant would revolutionize the production of
important goods and aid the ailing environment. "Hemp can be used as the
raw material for products that are currently produced out of cotton,
petroleum and timber.

The seeds are also a high-quality balanced source of all the amino acids
and essential fatty acids our bodies need as well as dietary fiber.

Unlike its market competitors, hemp can be cultivated, manufactured and
consumed with a fraction of the chemicals or pollutants that are used in
the processing or utilization of cotton, petroleum, and timber products."
(Hemp advocates of Texas)

At present, paper is produced from trees, which have a long growing cycle
making them difficult to replace.

Hemp, upon which the Declaration of Independence was written, could produce
the same amount of paper at a lower cost, using considerably less land.
Additionally, a new hemp crop can be produced every 100 days, far quicker
than growing new trees.

Deforestation, which presents a significant environmental problem, would be
solved with the legalization of industrial hemp. Believe it or not, there
is even a perfect place in which to grow hemp: Kentucky. Tobacco is the
major cash crop in the state, but its sales are dropping.

Hemp could gradually replace the tobacco crops and save the region's economy.

However, the legalization of hemp will negatively affect DuPont, the
company that patented the chemicals involved in bleaching and softening
tree pulp, and major paper manufacturers. Cotton and oil companies would
also face heavy competition from a plant that not only is far more durable
and economically sound than their raw materials, but also was the world's
largest agricultural crop for 3,000 years until its prohibition in 1937.

Marijuana also has amazing potential in the medical arena for increasing
the quality of life for millions of Americans. Marijuana has been used as a
medicine for at least 5,000 years, and only in 1941 did American doctors
cease prescribing it. Marijuana can be used for a multitude of ailments,
including "pain relief -- particularly neuropathic pain (pain from nerve
damage), nausea, spasticity, glaucoma and movement disorders.

Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients
suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia.

Emerging research suggests that marijuana's medicinal properties may
protect the body against some types of malignant tumors and are
neuroprotective." (American Medical Association) A recent federal study
demonstrated the medicinal power of marijuana, and 75 percent of Americans
support its use as medicine.

A civilized society cannot, in good conscience, allow seriously ill
individuals to suffer needlessly when there is a medicine available that
could relieve their pain.

Who could deny a suffering human being relief?

Pharmaceutical companies for starters. This industry makes a killing with
expensive medicines prescribed for various diseases and ailments.

These companies would be seriously affected if marijuana were prescribed
instead of chemical medications, despite the fact that pot contains far
less serious side effects.

This column does not attempt to definitively describe the case for
marijuana legalization. However, it has aimed to show that the illegality
of marijuana does not merely affect those you may consider to be reckless
drug offenders, but all Americans. Additionally, very few citizens profit
from the war against marijuana, namely large corporations. Individuals
should no longer consent to a drug war that does not serve our interests,
does not protect us, leaves the police force unable to deal with more
serious crimes and aids the interests of only the richest members of society.

Victoria Harris '03 wishes BUPS would spend more time catching the sketchy
guy who used to peer in her window at night.

Pubdate: Fri, 16 Nov 2001
Source: Brown Daily Herald, The (RI)
Copyright: 2001 The Brown Daily Herald
Author: Victoria Harris, Herald Opinions Columnist