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

- President Jimmy Carter, August 2, 1977

The following passage is from an 1887 speech by Roger Q. Mills of Texas. It was quoted more than once during the December, 1914 debate in Congress:
"Prohibition was introduced as a fraud; it has been nursed as a fraud. It is wrapped in the livery of Heaven, but it comes to serve the devil. It comes to regulate by law our appetites and our daily lives. It comes to tear down liberty and build up fanaticism, hypocrisy, and intolerance. It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. It comes to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments. It comes to dissipate the sunlight of happiness, peace, and prosperity in which we are now living and to fill our land with alienations, estrangements, and bitterness. It comes to bring us evil-- only evil-- and that continually. Let us rise in our might as one and overwhelm it with such indignation that we shall never hear of it again as long as grass grows and water runs."

- Roger Q. Mills, 1887

I don't personally smoke marijuana but my friends do and i don't have any problem with it. I wish the gov't would legalize it simply because currently it is grown in national forests where the growers like to destroy natural habitats and shoot at hikers. But anyway, i wanted to add that the government DOES beneifit from making marijuana illegal. Tax money comes from the citizens not the government.. but the government gets to use this drug war crap to give their friends jobs, hoard money, and confiscate marijuana which 'mysteriously disappears'. The politicians and beaurocrats (sp?) who get jobs through the drug war arent the ones paying for it. As far as i'm concerned, it doesnt matter what other people do as long as it doesnt hurt people who dont want to be involved. If people wanna smoke out every day, that should be fine as long as they dont force its consequences on others through second hand smoke, duis, etc. This is why i also say that the government should regulate smoking in public areas (many people are allergic to the smoke, and second hand smoke IS harmful, so its not fair that every restaraunt and store is full of smoke) But.. if people want to smoke in their own homes.. who cares? Its their lungs.. and the world is overpopulated anyway. (brutal logic but hey, its true. if someone wants to live a shorter life which they percieve as better, its their choice to make.) Also, the gov't needs to lower the drinking age. It is silly that people are in college or wherever, on their own, and legally could be drafted, punished as adults, etc.. but they cant (legally) drink a beer.

      Most of the above have a point, however a few things were omitted. When Marijuana was illegalized in the 1930s, it was merely a government action to suppress the subculture which was causing trouble (hippies.) Ever since then, it's been on the same shooting range in the war on drugs as heroin, cocaine and MDMA. There was no greater philosophy behind it, they didn't want to 'protect' the individual or 'free' society from this drug - it was merely a reason to throw some key people in jail.
      On the flipside, hippie said that it does nothing to people but slow them down. I beg to differ. The affects I observed in myself and friends included not only thought proccesses turned to syrup but also apathy. We didn't care about getting stuff done, we were chill. The gateway factor is another thing I was starting to think about. Before you start throwing things, hear me out - I used to argue that the gateway drug thing was bullshit, since no one starts with LSD or mushrooms. If you were to ask someone who is in rehab for a 'hard' drug, nearly 100% would have started with marijuana; those who smoke a few joints a month are never questioned or included in the statistics. After quitting, I look around. About ten of my friends smoke/d weed. One has quit after doing only it, one still solely smokes it and is considering doing mushrooms, three do mushrooms, one does coke, three do MDMA and one has done codeine and quit. It just makes people less resistant to other drugs, hell, you're already doing something illegal, why not try something different.
      Legalization, to a large part, would put an end to the gateway drug phenomenon. Kids would no longer be taking an illegal substance, other drugs would be in a whole different category.

      Mat_C: That is one way to look at it. However, in europe there is a lot being done with cannabis in the agricultural sense. Ironically enough, I can't remember the name of the species, but they have raised a cannabis plant with little to no THC. Who's to say that Exxon or the textile industry can't include this in their production process? Especially now that we're running out of oil, cultured cannabis would be a considerable solution.

After writing this essay in order to pass Higher English, I decided it might make a decent writeup. Reposted here after my too hastily created Legalization of Cannabis node was (rightly) zapped.

Legalization of Cannabis

Cannabis is a variety of the hemp plant (cannabis sativa) found naturally in India. It can also be grown in other warm climates; or indeed, with enough care and attention, it can be grown indoors almost anywhere. The plant itself has many uses: the hemp seed can be eaten to provide a highly nutritious source of protein; the stalk of the plant can be woven in to cloth, or pulped and turned into paper; and, of course, the flowers, buds, and leaves of the cannabis plant (known as marijuana) are often smoked, mainly due to their psycho-active effects. In this country (the UK), along with many others, the possession of cannabis is illegal, but people have been campaigning for the decriminalization of cannabis for some time now and recently there has been a lot of public debate about the legalization of cannabis.

Marijuana/cannabis has thousands of possible uses as a medicine – before the United States criminalized marijuana in 1937 cannabis extract was legally available there as a medicine. It is a very powerful medicine, and smoking marijuana can help people suffering from AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy, depression, asthma, severe pain and many other problems. By using cannabis to produce other medicines, even more illnesses could be cured or treated. However, current laws prevent even purely medicinal uses of cannabis, and there are often stories in newspapers about people who have been arrested for growing their own cannabis to treat a long-term illness from which they suffer.

Moreover, the legalisation of cannabis would allow it to be regulated by the government, making it even safer. An age limit could be set, allowing people who are old enough to understand all the issues involved to make their own choice, just like alcohol and other legal drugs. It would also mean that supplies of cannabis could be properly controlled to ensure that it is not ‘cut’ with anything, such as harder drugs.

Yet, two drugs used legally by a large number of people are alcohol and nicotine. Every year, these drugs kill thousands of people. However, no death has ever been directly linked to marijuana, although some people have obviously died whilst ‘high’. One study attempted to show that a large number of people killed in road traffic accidents were under the influence of marijuana. This study, like many similar studies, was flawed, however, as it failed to take into consideration which driver was responsible for the accident, or if the driver was also under the influence of alcohol.

Even assuming you manage to ignore all the reasons for legalising cannabis – which is something that a lot of politicians seem to be very good at – there is still the fact that making it illegal simply doesn’t work. The USA has some of the harshest cannabis possession laws in the world, yet they also have one of the highest drug abuse rates. Imprisoning people for possession of cannabis is also overloading their prison system – at any one time, almost 1 in every 200 Americans is in jail. In this country, Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary, recently made a controversial speech where she stated that if the Conservative party was elected, they would have a zero tolerance policy on cannabis possession. Even police chiefs said that Widdecombe’s plan was unfeasible, not least because of the huge burden it would place on police officers.

There are many arguments against the legalisation of cannabis, but most of them are myths, or propaganda created by governments. Lots of people believe that cannabis leads people to harder drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. However, the Dutch partially legalised cannabis in the 1970s, and since then there has been a substantial decline in the use of heroin and cocaine. If marijuana was really a ‘gateway’ drug, more people using it should have resulted in more people using harder drugs, so something is obviously wrong with that theory. It is also commonly believed that marijuana is more dangerous than tobacco. In fact, tests have proven tobacco is just as dangerous as an equal amount of marijuana when smoked, and the nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive whilst THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – the active drug contained in marijuana smoke) is less addictive than caffeine. This means tobacco smokers are likely to smoke much more tobacco than a marijuana smoker would smoke marijuana, making tobacco more harmful in the long-term. Also, there are other ways to use cannabis that allow you to avoid inhaling the majority of the cancer-causing particles, while still getting the full effect of the THC.

On the other hand, I do accept there are a few valid reasons against smoking marijuana, one of which is that the medical effects are not yet fully understood, and there is some unverified evidence that smoking marijuana in adolescence can cause ‘amotivational syndrome’, making the smoker unmotivated and less willing to work. But, these effects have never been proven as yet, and are thought to be only short term.

In conclusion, I think that cannabis is less harmful than many other drugs, which are currently legally used by almost everyone; and more positively it also has many medicinal values. In any case, even if it is harmful, it should be up to the individual whether or not they choose to smoke cannabis – the only person who could be harmed by smoking cannabis is the person who uses it, so why is it illegal? People are capable of weighing up the arguments and then making an informed decision on their own, without the government prohibiting it for everyone.

Bibliography
www.hempfiles.com, by Lennart Hengstmengel and others (2000-)
The alt.hemp FAQ’, by Brian S. Julin (1994)
Marijuana Myths’, by Paul Hager Chair, ICLU Drug Task Force<br> ‘History of the Medical Use of Marijuana’, from the National Commission of Marijuana and Drug Abuse

At present, in Canada it is legal to grow your own marijuana plants for personal consumption, provided a doctor has prescribed such. Our Federal Health Minister has stated, however, that the claim that pot is good for some patients (usually the terminally ill) is supported entirely by anecdotal evidence, and highly-placed medical establishment figures have publicly doubted whether any doctor could reasonably make such a prescription, given the lack of scientic research on the subject.

This situation is pretty indicative of the mindset of the current government here, which seems determined to be just progressive enough to avoid being mistaken for American legislators (whilst apologizing and equivocating for "being forced" to take such liberties with the taxpayer dollar), and just conservative enough to keep the rural vote.

On January 2, 2003, Justice Douglas Phillips ruled that Canada's law on possession of small amounts of marijuana is no longer valid when he dismissed two drug charges against a 16-year-old local boy in Windsor, Ontario.

This follows years of debates, struggles, and appeals on both sides of the issue.

In July 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck a blow to a federal law prohibiting the possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. "Banning marijuana for medicinal purposes violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," it was ruled.

Just one year later, Canada became the first country to begin a system for the regulation of medicinal marijuana.

However, the debate over recreational use still needed to be addressed. The Canadian Medical Association estimated that 1.5 million Canadians smoked marijuana recreationally, and over 600,000 Canadians had criminal records for possession of marijuana. About 20,000 people were arrested annually on marijuana-related charges.

In May 2001, a committee was established to decide what, if any, changes should be made, and were to report back in eighteen months. In May 2002, they presented a summary of scientific evidence on marijuana. The following points were included:

In September 2002, the committee released its final report saying, in part, that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and should be governed by the same sort of regulations.

"Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue," said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, head of the committee.

In addition, "Our current drug laws fund organized crime, they fund terrorist groups around the world," Eugene Oscapella, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, told CBC Newsworld. "Our policies that we build around this drug are far more harmful than the drug itself." --- CBC Newsworld

Just before the 2003 new year, rumours of decriminalization in January were spread by way of local newscasts nationwide, and Judge Phillips' ruling is the beginning of this.

If further steps are taken, the possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana will no longer result in jail time or a criminal record - just a fine, as if it were a traffic ticket. Justice Minister Martin Cauchon has said that this is exactly what he intends to do.


Sources:
CBC Newsworld
Vancouver Sun

Over 11% of all federal penitentiary inmates are there merely because they wanted to have some fun. What crime could be so benign and yet so prolific? Possession, selling, or trafficking Marijuana (Thomas 1). You might think that it is fine that they’re there: Marijuana use is a horrible social disease, because it has adverse health effects and leads to use of ‘harder’ drugs and crime. It should therefore be stamped out immediately with lots of explosions. But that stance is in error. Recreational marijuana use should be made as legal as alcohol.

Does marijuana lead to crime? Generally, no. The ‘crime’ is usually just possession of small amounts, for personal use. Violent crimes, such as murder or theft, are caused either by users trying to steal enough to support their addiction, or by drug dealers battling over the lucrative underground drug market, neither of which are nearly as prevalent with Marijuana as with Cocaine and Heroin. Very little violence is associated directly with marijuana use (since the high generally brings calmness). What if this logic was applied to, say, poaching? Owning a gun would be illegal. Or jaywalking? Walking near intersections would be banned. If someone commits a crime that injures another person, punish them for that. There is no reason to punish anyone who don’t hurt anyone else.

Does marijuana lead to harder drugs? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it is, but only because of fuzzy math. They derive that marijuana leads to cocaine through use of the statistic that 17% of marijuana users have used cocaine. But what they do not point out is that 83% of marijuana users have never tried cocaine (Connelly 62). “(Marijuana) does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association” (Common Questions…2). People who use marijuana might use other drugs, but marijuana does not cause them to. So, no: marijuana is not a gateway.

Another misconception is that marijuana has horribly lethal and unavoidable health effects. Marijuana’s health effects are roughly on par with alcohol’s and tobacco’s (Connelly 42-57). Marijuana cigarettes, or joints, are slightly more dangerous than tobacco cigarettes (NIDH) but this would be reduced if industries were allowed to refine the product. Legalization would allow government regulation and joints would be less damaging. In any case, vaporizing the marijuana (with a specially made appliance}carries almost no health risk.

If alcohol and tobacco remain legal, why is marijuana, which is no worse, illegal? Marijuana is by far less addictive than either alcohol or tobacco: Reefer has a 9% addiction rate, compared to 15% for alcohol and 32% for tobacco (Common Questions…1). The loss of motor control and inhibitions is similar to inebriation caused by alcohol, but less likely to result in violence (Connelly 42). Of course operation of a vehicle while high is dangerous (as stated by propagandic government anti-drug commercials), but no more dangerous than driving drunk. Smoking marijuana could fairly remain illegal in public, so second-hand smoke is not an issue.

There is thusly no foundation for those who want to continue to criminalize marijuana. To continue to include marijuana in the war on drugs would be foolish, for many reasons. Primarily, it is costing too much money. Our short-sighted policy of total prohibition of all drugs costs the government $75 billion each year (Drug Legalization Why Legalize), plus crime, plus health costs from poorly refined drugs, plus lost revenue by legitimate industry and taxation- that could add up to over $200 billion per year! So how effective is this $75 billion, anyway? Mostly it’s not doing any good. Drugs are easily accessible (NIDH Extent of Use). Jail is not an effective deterrent to drug use. This money could be much better spent on treating addicts, like for alcohol (Connelly 65). All that the drug war is doing is making drug trafficking more rewarding by causing inflation of drug prices. Thus the dealers fight each other for turf, just like during Alcohol prohibition of the 1920’s. Legalizing marijuana would not solve that problem, but it might help alleviate it by moving some cocaine and heroin addicts to marijuana. To see this dream world in action, merely look to the Netherlands, where marijuana has been legal since the 70’s. Drug use there is a fraction of use here in the U.S. (Connelly 62) (which admittedly is probably only correlation, but we should seek to emulate a successful system). Government regulation and taxation has lead to a higher standard of life for the average Dutch.

Finally, marijuana legalization is an issue of freedom. Marijuana use is a victimless ‘crime’. The users enjoys themselves- who are they hurting? Laws are designed to protect us from others, not from ourselves. The government can recommend that we do or don’t do certain things to ourselves, but to ban it in unconscionable. People must be allowed to do stupid things and make bad decisions- it our right.

In summation, marijuana is no worse than alcohol and tobacco in terms of health effects and banning it is costing us too much futilely and results in unjust imprisonment. Kucinich 2004!

Sources

“Common Questions about Marijuana” excerpted from a report by the NIS. Marijuana Policy Project. 1999. http://www.mpp.org/common_q.html.

Connelly, Elizabeth Russell, et al. Through a Glass Darkly: The Psychological Effects of Marijuana and Hashish. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.

“Drug Legalization”. Issues and Controversies. September 27, 2002. http://www.2facts.com/ICOF/temp/70100tempi0702080.asp

Macintosh, Sara. “Marijuana: Health Effects”. Oct. 2001. Do It Now foundation online. http://www.doitnow.org/pages/126.html

United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “NIDA Infofacts: Marijuana”. June 25, 2003. http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofax/marijuana.html

Thomas, Chuck. “Marijuana Arrests and Incarceration in the United States” excerpted from the “FAS Drug Policy Analysis Bulletin” (June 1999). Marijuana Policy Project. http://www.mpp.org/arrests/fas61699.html

Other sources

Achong, Andre. “Legalize it, don’t Demonize it”. Yellowtimes.org. March 8, 2002. http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=159

“By the Numbers: Drug Legalization”. Issues and Controversies online. Sept. 27, 2002. http://www.2facts.com/ICOF/temp/70879tempin071801.asp

Jeffrey, Scott. Legalize.com Platform. 1996-2001. http://www.legalize.com/platform/.

Node your homework

What a peculiar notion, that Nature could be declared illegal: that some DNA codes are allowed to populate the planet, and some ain't. There is, at least, a biblical precedent for the legalization of marijuana, and all plant-based psychotropes for that matter.
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

- Genesis 1:29, New International Version

A straightforward argument for the legalisation of marijuana

What follows is an article I was asked, as President of THC, to write for our student newspaper at the University of Canterbury. As it was for an issue based almost entirely around drugs, I left out all the information and provided an argument that I believe works whether or not you think pot is a deadly drug (if you do, please get a clue. There's plenty of places around this site to do so).


I know a few people who don't think we should legalise marijuana. I have friends who can look me in the eye and say that they think pot should be illegal. Yet at the same time they don't think that I should be penalised for my usage. "You're a responsible user" they'll say, "It's not a problem for you." What they seem to be saying is that it's not right to penalise people who don't have problems caused by their drug use. I agree, but I also have a question: if I were fucking my life up on drugs, would it then be right to send me to jail?
Our position at The Higher Cause is that it wouldn't be. It wouldn't be right to fine them either. If people have problems caused by their drug usage, you aren't going to help them by jailing them, fining them, giving them a record or whatever. You're just going to make things worse. And as for the responsible users like me (which, incidentally, includes about every user I know), obviously things are going to be made worse if you take someone who's more or less fine and prosecute them.
I'm not going to argue about what the real effects of cannabis are, the research is available to anyone who wants to take a look for themselves (for those who don't: it's nowhere near as bad as you've probably been led to believe), all I have to say is that it's not appropriate to use the threat of the law to try and stop people from using cannabis. Not only does it not help anyone who needs it, it also harms many who would be best left alone. A far saner strategy would be a regulated, unadvertised market for the drugs, to supply users (and tourists) who can't produce their own, with the proceeds put into education and rehabilitation, and permission for people to grow for their own usage in a manner similar to the restrictions on home-brewing alcohol.
We aren't necesarily in favour of more people using weed, we just can't see how taking money or liberty from those that do is helping.

A few more brief arguments for the legalization of marijuana:

1, In America right now, marijuana distribution and usage is one of the most often committed crimes. Huge amounts of funding go anti-marijuana law enforcement. From a strictly financial standpoint, marijuana should be made legal because the U.S. government would save large amounts of money in law enforcement. This cash could then be spent on more dangerous drugs.

2, If marijuana were legal, a tax could be placed on it. The market for marijuana is gigantic. Thus the United States government could collect even more money. This money could also be spent on more serious drugs. You might argue that marijuana taxation is an unachievable aspiration because, if marijuana were legal, those who wanted it could grow it themselves. I would argue that people as a whole would be far to lazy to grow anything for themselves; the human race doesn't minde spending outrageous amounts of money for services and products they could produce themselves for free. A perfect example of this is the restaurant buisness. Food is 200% to 900% less expensive if you cook it yourself, and yet people still go out to dinner and lunch.

3, If alcohol is legal, then marijuana should be legal for the following reason: People under the influence of alchohol can have a tendency to commit domestic abuse. People under the influence of marijuana have no violent tendencies.

4, If cigarettes are legal, then marijuana should be legal because: a) Cigarettes are chemicaly addictive. Marijuana is not. b) Some people smoke up to fourty cigarettes daily often causing terrible damage to their lungs. While smoking marijuana can cause damage to the lungs, nobody ever smokes fourty joints a day. Thus there are usually fewer lung problems associated with smoking weed.

5, If cigarettes and alcohol are legal, marijuana should be legal because hundreds of thousands of people die each year solely from smoking cigarettes and drinking alchohol. Today, the total number of people who have died solely from smoking weed is a whopping 0.

6, Right now, marijuana is considered the number one "gateway drug". Among those 21 and over, alcohol is not considered a gateway to other more harmful drugs, because the most harmful other drugs (other than inhalants) are illegal; and drinking, for adults, is not. Thus if marijuana were made legal, it would cease to be a gateway into more harmful illegal substances.

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