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Should Marijuana be Legalized

April 9, 2012

Recently (4/1/12) there was an column in the Glendale News-Press that had the opinions of seven different people responding to the question: Should marijuana be legalized.  The column was titled “In Theory.”

I wrote to the newspaper, responding to their opinions, and here is my response, slightly altered to make sense without the original column.

I believe marijuana should be legal.  I understand the feeling that it must be kept from minors and do not object to that.  However, its use is a personal choice, and does not victimize anyone other than the user, any more than watching tv or eating a cheeseburger.  Bear in mind that marijuana was made illegal in the U.S. only in 1937, and it was done so using a series of lies and propaganda.  Many elderly people may still be influenced by the widely disseminated propaganda of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as their own discomfort with the behavior of the so-called “hippies” of the 1960s and 1970s and that group’s association with marijuana.

One writer, who is billed as a reverend, mentions that his wife, a psychologist “has seen the harm that drugs can do.”  This is very general.  Has she seen harm that marijuana, specifically, does?  He doesn’t tell us.  Besides that, although psychologists cannot prescribe drugs, psychiatrists can and do.  Of course, these are legal drugs.  Which is what marijuana was before 1937. 

Michael White of LDS says “The immediate high from casual drug use impairs judgement.”  I cannot entirely fault him for such a vague and wide-reaching statement, as the amount of space he was allowed probably did not allow him to write in as great detail as he may have liked, but again, he refers to “drug use”, and is not specifically addressing the use of marijuana.  Also, he offers no source for his opinion.  Does the use of marijuana “impair” judgement?  Many musicians and writers have, for more than a century, spoken of heightened sensitivity in creative realms.  Mr. White also thinks it “unlikely that marijuana can be isolated from the flow of other substances, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, into our communities.”  But that is exactly what can happen.  If marijuana were legal it would be as separate from the commerce in illegal drugs as bubble gum or running shoes.  However, I laud Mr. White for saying “I have no interest in imposing that religious perspective on others.”  Thank you for that, Mr. White.

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Stephen Gibson says “The local petty crime statistics in a community may increase as an effect of use.”  One could as easily say that the local petty crimes statistics may DECREASE.  Without offering the results of any studies on the matter, his opinion is, literally, baseless.

I am sorry to take the Reverend Griem to task, but when he says “Part of the American cannabis cringe is in its Mexican name….  It sounds like Tijuana, something foreign, seedy….”  I’m afraid he is simply exposing his own prejudices.  Are there parts of Tijuana that are seedy?  Certainly.  As are parts of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit and many other U.S. cities.  However, I applaud him for pointing out that doing something “just to make a healthy person feel good” is perfectly okay, and for pointing out that many people are doing themselves more harm by their eating habits than they’d likely do by smoking pot.  Also for pointing out the oppressive behavior of government in trying to dictate personal habits. 

Marijuana was made illegal because former prohibition agents needed employment, and, possibly because Wm. Randolph Hearst owned forests that he wanted used for making paper, something that can also be made from hemp, which marijuana is.  At the time of its criminalization, 1937, marijuana was principally used in the U.S. by Mexican-American laborers and by Jazz musicians, most of whom were African Americans, two groups that suffered a great deal from discrimination and whom the government agencies involved found easy to villify.

Its use should be entirely a matter of personal choice.  Are people afraid that users will commit crimes?  No problem.  Those “crimes” are already crimes.  No need to arrest them for using marijuana.  Arrest them for the crimes they commit.  To arrest them for behavior that you fear will lead them to commit crimes, makes as much sense as arresting people for using alcohol or for being out of work.  Being out of work sometimes leads people to steal.  So, should being out of work be illegal?  Should marijuana be illegal because it might lead to overindulgence?  Then ice cream, pizza and watching football should be illegal too.  Should marijuana be illegal because it’s pleasureable?  Uh-oh, then we’d better make sex and sunsets illegal.

The government has good reason to be involved in behavior that negatively effects other people:  Pollution, improperly made medical pharmaceuticals, false advertising, theft, murder, fraud.  However, individual behavior that does not impact others should be decided on by the individual or individuals involved in the behavior.

If we’re going to continue to celebrate the USA as a land of liberty, lets make sure that we actually have some.

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