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The War On Marijuana is Expensive

LdyLunatic

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West Virginia -- It's times like these that I wish I had been alive when prohibition was coming to an end in America. I'd like to know if the folks who believed that the attempt to eradicate alcohol in America was not working were labeled immoral drunks.
After all, those of us who believe marijuana prohibition isn't working are labeled "potheads" or worse. No matter what they think, the war on marijuana isn't working. It's costing billions and it's giving criminal records to thousands of people who don't deserve it.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report for 2005 was released earlier this week and it shows that police arrested an estimated 786,545 persons for marijuana violations.

The total is the highest ever recorded by the FBI and is about 42 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.

Of all those charged with marijuana violations, about 88 per cent were charged with possession only. The rest were charged with "sale/manufacture," which includes cultivation of the plant for personal or medical use.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, noted that the number of marijuana arrests for the United States in 2005 far exceeded the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

What's just as troubling, St. Pierre said, is that marijuana arrests have more than doubled since the early 1990s.

Admittedly, many of those arrested never spent a day in jail. But the criminal record follows most of them through their lives.

St. Pierre would like to know why America doesn't "tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol or tobacco." So would I. And so would millions of Americans who smoke the weed, many on a regular basis, but do it in secret and keep their opinions to themselves lest they suffer the stigma of being called a "pothead."

In case it matters, and whether or not you believe me, I haven't smoked marijuana in years, although I know people who do. And frankly, they are much friendlier and seemingly better adjusted than people who drink to excess.

Years ago, when I brought up this issue in a column for the Huntington newspaper, I heard from a probation officer who agreed with me.

He said he saw scores of folks who were placed on probation for possession of marijuana.

They were normal hard-working people who didn't need to make weekly visits to his office. It complicated their lives and clogged his calendar, preventing him from spending more quality time with people who had committed serious crimes and needed his help.

But he wasn't ready to go public with his belief that marijuana should be decriminalized. If he did, he'd be labeled a "pothead" himself.

St. Pierre claims that enforcing the marijuana prohibition "costs taxpayers between $10 billion and $12 billion annually and has led to the arrest of 18 million Americans."

Every time I see those helicopters circling overhead in late summer looking for pot patches, I can believe the high cost of marijuana control and eradication.

Taxing and regulating cannabis won't solve all the problems associated with marijuana use.

But prohibition isn't working at all, just as alcohol prohibition didn't work. And I suspect the 94 million Americans who acknowledge using marijuana (and the millions more who use it and don't admit to it) would gladly submit to the taxes and the regulations rather than feel like common criminals every time they light up.

Marijuana Arrests For Year 2005 -- 786,545 Tops Record: http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7040

Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Author: Dave Peyton, Commentary
Published: Friday, September 22, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Charleston Daily Mail
 

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