Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jun 2005
Source: Courier-Journal, The (KY)
Copyright: 2005 The Courier-Journal
Note: Only publishes local LTEs
Author: Michael E. Slider
Bookmark: (Gonzales v. Raich)


Perhaps we are missing the point in the discussion over medicinal
marijuana. I do not smoke marijuana, and I am not a "pot-head." I am a
high school teacher who works with young people every day, and I
completely oppose our nation's failing war on marijuana. This
so-called "war" being waged by pompous politicians who want to look
tough on crime is a well-documented disaster that is draining our
hard-earned tax money and making a mockery of the individual liberties
on which our country was founded.

On the federal level, $4 billion is spent annually on the arrest,
prosecution and incarceration of marijuana offenders. Kentucky spends
over $7 million eradicating cannabis plants every year. There is no
solid evidence that extended prison sentences and eradication efforts
reduce the use of drugs in our society. Our hard-earned money, which
is sorely needed for local infrastructure, community development and
education, is literally going up in smoke.

Ever since the passage of mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug
offenders (including marijuana) in the 1980s, the prison population in
the U.S. has exploded. We now incarcerate a larger percentage of our
population than any other country in the world. Often, first-time,
nonviolent marijuana offenders are serving longer terms than violent
criminals. These laws completely violate the Eighth Amendment to the
Constitution that protects us against cruel and unusual punishment.

Make no mistake: Marijuana is not harmless, as some would claim. It
does impair judgment, and it causes some of the same long-term health
issues as cigarettes. However, vilifying its use distracts us from a
much more important question: Do our current policies truly make our
state and our country a better place to live? If we cannot answer this
question with certainty, it is time to put aside shallow "get tough"
slogans and at least open a dialogue on other possibilities.


La Grange, Ky. 40031 
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