Marijuana became illegal in the United States in 1937. The plant has been
grown here since 1611, primarily for the hemp products made from the stalk
of this hearty, naturally occurring weed.

George Washington, raising support in France for the American Revolution,
gave this excuse for cutting his visit short: "I wouldn't miss the hemp
harvest in Mount Vernon for all the tea in China." Pot plants weren't
magically discovered in some hippie's dorm room during the '60s, as popular
culture would have us believe.

Neither can growing marijuana plants be associated with criminals who tend
to use the buds or leaves of the plant to get high any more than with
farmers who plan to use the stalk to make rope, paper or clothing. Thomas
Jefferson wrote the original draft of the Declaration of Independence on
hemp paper. As to whether he used any other part of the marijuana plant
during this process, your guess is as good as mine.

After graduating from high school, I moved out of my parents' house and
worked for a roofing contractor for eight months before attending college.
During this period, I experimented with much more serious substances than

I am not proud of this, nor do I continue to use drugs, but I can tell you
from personal experience that lumping marijuana in with harsher drugs is
sending the wrong message to youth. Smoking marijuana acted as a gateway
drug for me specifically because our society does not differentiate it from
addictive, life-threatening drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine.

When I did not keel over from trying one illegal substance, I began to
think that other drugs were probably not overly dangerous either. Now, I
know differently. I have had many traumatic experiences as a result of
engaging in a lifestyle that included drug use, most of which only resulted
in temporary physical and emotional suffering for myself.

But I have been around people for whom drugs have been a way of life for
years or even decades. Their addictions affect everyone they meet. I knew a
mother who gave methamphetamines to her 12-year-old son. I know people who
were born addicted to drugs.

One time I was riding in the back seat of a car with a 10-month-old baby on
my lap when his mother, age 17, had her boyfriend hold the wheel so she
could smoke methamphetamine while driving. I asked her to stop the car, but
she refused. I tried to roll down the window so the baby would not have to
breathe the smoke, but she locked the window from the driver's side console.

If you use methamphetamines or other drugs that are as harmful and
addictive, you will eventually do things that affect not only yourself but
also those around you.

We must do everything in our power to educate against drug use and
decisively punish people that perpetuate the problem in our society.
Focusing on truly harmful drugs will increase our chances of success.

If the young men and women of this nation are old enough to vote and old
enough to be drafted for service in the armed forces at age 18, they are
old enough to decide for themselves whether or not to use marijuana.

Legalization has decreased the rate of marijuana use in Holland by 40
percent. There is simply no reason to think that marijuana use would
increase in the United States if it were legal, and at any rate, 83 million
Americans have already tried it.

Efforts to suppress marijuana use are simply not working. Let's spend our
time and money fighting the war on drugs, not a war on plants.

Pubdate: Wed, 27 Nov 2002
Source: Oregon Daily Emerald (OR)
Copyright: 2002, Oregon Daily Emerald