Pubdate: Mon, 28 Apr 2008
Source: Rebel Yell, The (U of NV at Las Vegas, NV Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Rebel Yell
Author: Zach Townsend


Decriminalizing, Regulating Cannabis Would Eliminate Black Market As 
Well As Alleviate Misuse Of Tax Dollars

An act in the House of Representatives would decriminalize the 
possession of 30 grams of pot, with further restrictions under 
certain conditions, such as when the possessor is driving.

The vast majority of marijuana imported in the U.S. comes from 
Mexican drug cartels that supply mostly to inner-city street gangs. 
The herb is then distributed to neighborhood dealers before it seeps 
out to the surrounding areas and the rest of the country.

For the first time in 24 years, a bill has been proposed in the House 
of Representatives that is the first step to breaking this supply 
chain of depravity. The "Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal 
Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults" is sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul 
and Rep. Barney Frank.

The zero tolerance policy for driving under the influence of 
marijuana will, of course, remain. If the bill passes, it will 
decriminalize pot only at the federal level. The states will be left 
to decide whether or not they want to legalize marijuana.

This is the way the founding fathers intended it, when they wrote in 
the Constitution that any power not granted to the federal government 
is thus a power of the states. There is not a single mention of drugs 
in the Constitution.

Stretching the Constitution to include commentary on drugs achieved 
disastrous results. In regards to marijuana offenders, there are more 
people incarcerated in the U.S. than all of the rest of the world's 
prisons combined.

The amount of revenue spent on prisoners convicted of marijuana 
crimes is astronomical. From the police spending hours on tedious 
paperwork, to the prosecutor, the judge and the prison guards working 
to put these people away, an insane amount of our tax dollars go up 
in smoke. Not to mention, poor and minority populations suffer a 
disproportionate amount of convictions, even when the higher usage 
rates in those groups are taken in to account.

Minorities and the poor are not the only ones unfairly affected by 
the marijuana laws. If a student is caught possessing pot, he or she 
is no longer eligible for financial aid from the government. 
Stripping students of their financial aid for possessing marijuana is terrible.

What better method than education is there to encourage good 
decision-making and to help people understand the harmful effects of 
their actions?

Prohibiting cultivation also has harmful consequences. It is illegal 
to grow hemp in the U.S., even if the plant doesn't have the active 
ingredient of the drug, tetrahydrocannabinol. There are many more 
uses for hemp besides smoking it, such as clothes, rope and body 
creams, just to name a few. There is even a hemp body shop that 
carries products exclusively made from hemp.

Though it is illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., it is not illegal to 
import products made from hemp. This is clearly an inconsistency. 
Countries around the world, from Canada to Great Britain are filling 
the niche of this growing market while the U.S. stands down. The 
U.S., however, is increasingly sending more money overseas to pay for 
these imports.

We should not discount American farmers. Hemp is also easier to grow 
in arid climate and is less water-intensive than most crops, such as 
corn. In a time of economic slowing, disenfranchising the U.S. from 
this rapidly growing market is insensible.

An undeniable argument put forth by opponents of decriminalization is 
marijuana being a cancer causer. It is true that pot has known 
carcinogens and smoking anything is harmful to your lungs. However, 
research from the University of California, San Francisco shows that 
the carcinogenic effect is virtually eliminated when a smokeless 
method known as vaporizing is used.

Over the weekend I spoke with Rep. Shelly Berkley at a fundraiser for 
the American Cancer Society. Berkley represents the greater Las Vegas 
area in the U.S. House of Representatives. I asked for her opinion on 
the bill proposed by her colleagues. She immediately replied, "I've 
always favored decriminalization."

She went on to explain that unless "Ron Paul convinced some of his 
fellow Republicans," the bill will surely die before it reaches the 
floor of the House.

Let us not be discouraged by the opponents of this measure. If 
nothing less, a proposal like this forces people to open their eyes 
to the failure of the status quo. The benefits of this idea cannot be 
ignored for much longer.

There is one outcome of this bill passing that is more beneficial 
than all others combined. Think back to when you were a teenager. How 
hard was it for you to get a hold of marijuana? How hard was it for 
you to get a hold of alcohol? The truth of the matter is that it's 
easier for kids to buy pot than it is for them to buy beer.

The reason for this is simple: drug dealers don't card. This bill is 
the first step to setting up a legal distribution system of 
marijuana. If marijuana was allowed to enter the free market, the 
criminal market would be unable to compete.

It is proven that the most harmful effects of this drug are on 
developing minds. 86 percent of high school seniors admitted to the 
federal government that marijuana is easy to obtain. It's high time 
we lower that figure.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom