Pubdate: Thu, 03 Feb 2005
Source: Good 5 Cent Cigar (U of  RI: Edu)
Copyright: 2005 Good 5 Cent Cigar
Author: Micah Daigle


To the Cigar,

I am glad the Cigar took me to task in its editorial column last Friday
("Marijuana possession is no longer a crime?" Jan. 21). While the Cigar
raised several notable concerns, its arguments were surprisingly
inconsistent with past editorials and also relied on a critical
misunderstanding of my argument.

First, the inconsistency: In its challenge to my request that the University
lower its enforcement priority for marijuana possession, the Cigar argued
that, "Asking police to exercise judgment regarding arrests flaunts the will
of the people. Politicians who are elected by the people create laws..."

As any avid reader knows, the Cigar often editorializes in opposition to
many laws and policies that our elected officials make. It is a naive
assertion to claim that all policy perfectly reflects the will of the
people; a point that I'm sure the Cigar has pointed out within its editorial
columns countless times.

Federal marijuana legislation was passed in the 1930s, and since then, we
have pursued a relentless war on the users of a non-lethal organic
substance. And today, 74 percent of Americans (according to a survey by the
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press) believe that the War on
Drugs is not working.

If the Cigar plans to hold on to its assertion that marijuana laws reflect
the will of the people and that the "will of the people" must be enforced,
then it must necessarily discount every criticism that its ever made of this
country's administration. I doubt that it is ready to do that.

It was suggested that Students for Sensible Drug Policy should try to change
the laws. As an advocacy organization, this is our main focus. In
mid-November, the Cigar reported hundreds of SSDP activists (including 14
from URI) traveled to Washington DC to directly lobby their members of

However, laws change slowly, especially when those who benefit from those
laws are given taxpayer money to uphold them (in fact, the White House Drug
Office received $522 million last year, a good portion of which was used to
directly combat drug policy reform efforts).

The Cigar must realize that while we wait for top-down reform from the
legislative branch, we must rely on the discretion of community leaders to
do what is the best for their community.

Surprisingly, the Cigar challenged the idea of discretion itself. The Cigar
claimed: "The police enforce the laws, not what they personally think the
laws should be." Is the Cigar suggesting that next time students are pulled
over by an officer they should demand he write them a speeding ticket
instead of a warning?

Discretion is not only a common occurrence, but also an important practice
that stems back to the Constitution's establishment of checks and balances
between the three branches of government.

Though it unfortunately seems to be less and less the case every day, this
country still allows the judiciary branch the discretion to interpret
legislation, and the executive branch the discretion of priority in

The point of my letter was clearly not to urge the university to legalize
marijuana within its boundaries, nor was it to place blame on the
administration or police for following the law. Rather, my point is that the
university can and should do everything within its power to lessen the
amount of lives that are ruined by marijuana laws.

The university has an obligation to maintain a campus environment conducive
to learning and growing as an individual. This process is severely disrupted
(and in many cases, destroyed) when a student is arrested for marijuana.

According to the Cigar, four marijuana arrests are trivial for a community
the size of URI. After seeing the consequences of marijuana arrests, I can
confidently say that one is too many. It's time for URI to de-prioritize

Sincerely, Micah Daigle Students for Sensible Drug Policy
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