The war on drugs, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars during the
past 30 years, has been ineffective at best. At worst, it has clogged the
legal system with an unending and unabated flow of offenders who are
attracted to the trade in illegal drugs by the promise of ill-gotten
riches. The drug economy is created by prohibition, which has in turn
promoted a police apparatus that feeds on our national crusade to rid the
country of illegal drugs. The money flows both ways, and that's why the war
on drugs has failed.

That's not to say there's anything sinister about police participating in
the system set up to catch and punish drug criminals. After all, it's their
job to enforce laws. It's the notion that law enforcement will solve this
societal problem that needs to be overhauled.

A group of local advocates of decriminalization of marijuana, generally
held to be among the less-harmful of illegal substances, gathered the
necessary signatures to put the proposition on the ballot. Thus, Columbia
voters on April 8 will consider whether to require city police to write a
municipal summons to possessors of 35 grams or less and to allow the
medicinal use of pot upon the recommendation of a doctor.

On Page 1 of this section you'll find Liz Heitzman's report on the issue.
She found that Ann Arbor, Mich., a city that decriminalized the possession
of pot years ago, has suffered no apparent ill effects.

In Columbia, police have had the option of arresting suspects under either
state or municipal statutes. Among other objections, critics of Proposition
1 say law enforcement must retain that discretion to effectively deal with
circumstances that the general public might not know about. Also, they say,
we should not encourage drug use by decriminalization.

Proponents say passage would preserve eligibility for federal financial aid
for students caught with pot. Currently, students who are guilty of felony
pot possession are in danger of losing federal student aid. If we
effectively prevent potential college graduates from completing their
education, how does that contribute to rehabilitation?

The most tricky part of this proposition is the provision that allows
possession of marijuana for medicinal use. Some research suggests patients
in treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses will find relief in a
joint that they can't get with conventional prescription drugs.

The science on this is inconclusive, and though a few physicians agree with
the therapeutic value of pot, most contend there are other effective
options. In addition, the proposition doesn't create a means by which
physicians can prescribe the drug and patients can acquire it under
controlled conditions, such as a pharmacy. The doctor "recommends," and the
patient/buyer takes his chances in the alley.

Add to those the fact that a local medicinal-use law is in conflict with
state law, and you've got a potential problem. The proposition's writers
recognized the danger, though, and crafted the language so that the
medicinal-use provision drops off in the event of a successful challenge,
leaving decriminalization for possession intact.

We can't easily fix three decades of inefficient use of resources and
national frustration, but on April 8 we can do our part in getting the
process started by voting yes on Proposition 1.

Pubdate: Sun, 16 Mar 2003
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Copyright: 2003 Columbia Daily Tribune