Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kudos to ?grass roots? movement


By DICK DORWORTH

It was a "grass roots" movement in the right direction (up) last week when the small Idaho city of Hailey passed three out of four pro-marijuana initiatives that were on the ballot. Hailey citizens have thereby chosen to help bring some sanity into the drug laws of America and into the lives of the people impacted by them, starting at home.

They voted to legalize the medical use of marijuana, to make enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest priority and to legalize industrial uses of hemp within the city. Unfortunately, an initiative to regulate and tax marijuana sales and establish a Community Oversight Committee did not receive enough votes. Marijuana is not going to go away, and having the elected government of the community tax and regulate it is a far better system for society than the one in place.

Well, these things take time. It's only been a bit more than 70 years since Prohibition failed for the same reasons the war on drugs will fail, has failed and is failing.

Bravo, citizens of Hailey. May the communities of America catch up with you as soon as possible. May the state and federal governments learn (re-learn?) what they learned (or not) more than 70 years ago when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and prohibition of the sale and consumption and possession of alcohol to drink was repealed.

Not likely that the country will catch up to Hailey (and a few other communities), some will say.

Not in my lifetime, say many.

Over my dead body, say a few.

Eventually, the sooner the better, say others, including a majority of the voters of Hailey.

Good for them.

A lot of the drug laws of America are absurd, none more so than the ones covering marijuana, and not only because they don't work. Marijuana is far less destructive than alcohol, which inspired the 18th Amendment.

Prohibition failed, as anyone with the slightest common sense could have predicted. Prohibition ensured that a few people, some of them not very good people, made a great deal of money; and too many people, most of them good people, had their lives destroyed by the law, not the drug. As a drug, alcohol destroys all too many lives with an incalculable physical, emotional, mental, social, economic and ecological cost to the world, but that is a different story. The destruction it causes cannot be legislated away, as the country came to recognize in 1933.

1933!

The court, jail, police, probation and legislative resources being used up to no good end in pursuit and punishment of marijuana criminals are enormous. Those resources could be and should be devoted to more significant criminals whose activities do far more damage to society than those whose crime is smoking (and, sometimes, baking) a weed. The toll on the lives and productivity of people convicted of using a substance that is less damaging, both personally and socially, than the legal-to-use alcohol (or, for that matter, nicotine, which kills even more people than alcohol) is beyond measure. It is the law, not the drug, that takes the toll; and, as in the days of prohibition, the law rewards a few, some of them very bad people, who get enormously wealthy breaking that law, and damages the lives of many others, most of them quite good people.

Marijuana for medical purposes is a no-brainer, even for teetotalers, prohibitionists and others of like mind except perhaps for those who do not mind or are not aware of the pain that others bear and that marijuana relieves, cheaply, safely and reliably. Marijuana has proved to be the best relief for many medical conditions, including but far from limited to the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy.

Hemp is grown and used in a variety of products in virtually every country in the world except the United States, giving "Only in America" another of several current embarrassing connotations. Hemp is used to make clothing, fabric, twine, rope, bags, paper and many other useful products, only not in America.

The Office of the National Drug Control Policy describes marijuana thus: "Short-term effects of marijuana use include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, and anxiety." In this context, it is beyond funny that this office is run out of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, but it makes one wonder what those who make the marijuana laws of America have been smoking. Whatever it is, they would do well to pay attention to the clear-minded, problem-solving democratic voters of Hailey, Idaho.




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