6 REASONS TO LEGALIZE POT

This post was published in November of 2007.  Reposted on this date, with comments included.

SIX REASONS TO LEGALIZE POT

Posted on November 30th, 2007 by Marshall Frank in Criminal Justice, Edit

The War on Drugs is lost. Our nation has spent nearly a trillion dollars since the 1970’s trying to enforce unenforceable laws, which have only served to fuel the black market and incarcerate millions of otherwise non-violent offenders.

If a football coach sends in a losing play, game after game, and never gains ground, he must either change the strategy or find another job. Lawmakers in America continue with the same losing strategy, year after year, while we pay for it with billions in tax dollars and human life. Tell me please, how much sense that makes.

The drug laws are in dire need of revision. Sitting atop the list: Marijuana.

In an open letter to the president, congress, governors and state legislatures, Harvard Economist Professor Jeffrey A. Miron called for the legalization of marijuana and replacing it with a system of taxation and regulation. More than five hundred distinguished economists from around the nation signed off on that letter, including the most notable, Milt Friedman.

In essence, he claims the combined savings from enforcement and revenues would reap upwards of $14 billion a year.

I think…more.

During my thirty years in law enforcement, I was never in a position to jail anyone for disputable statutes, i.e. prostitution, gambling or drugs. I was lucky. Murder, rape and robbery are indisputable crimes. But drug possession, prostitution and gambling, outside of man’s subjective determination, does not necessarily constitute criminal behavior.
It is more of an abomination against humanity to incarcerate human beings for years upon years in stinking cages and destroying lives for behavior that can be treated in more constructive, and less costly ways. We are a vengeful society who believes the only solution to undesirable behavior is to lock ‘em up and throw away the key. We are supposed to be civilized?

After seven decades of deeming these acts illegal, we should ask the question: Have laws prohibiting these behaviors produced the desired effect? Has it deterred people from engaging in the use of marijuana? We all know the answer.

Alcohol prohibition of the 1920s not only failed to stop people from drinking, it fostered the emergence of organized crime syndicates as we still know them today. Black markets can only exist at the behest of law makers. Cartel leaders and crime syndicates thrive on laws that keep drugs illegal. I know. In the 1950’s, my bookie stepfather funneled big money to state politicians every election year for one purpose: To keep gambling illegal.

I am not an advocate nor a user of marijuana. I abhor drugs. My own family has been touched with the horror of drug addiction. Well-intended but ineffective laws that kept marijuana illegal did him more harm than good. It certainly prevented nothing.

I concede, that marijuana may damage short-term memory, impair judgment, alter heart rates and has the potential to create anxiety, paranoia and lethargy. But there is no data available to suggest one death has been caused by cannabis. Diseases related to nicotine are responsible for over 430,000 deaths a year, yet cigarettes are not only legal, the tobacco industry has been subsidized by the government for many years.

I am among the groundswell that is growing in America to decriminalize marijuana. So are more than five thousand former law enforcement officers and prosecutors that belong to an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Visit: www.leap.cc

Besides the economists lobby, there are six solid reasons to legalize marijuana:
1 – Taxpayer waste. The direct costs involved in the federal enforcement of marijuana laws extend beyond $7.5 billion annually. That doesn’t mention the huge costs to state and local law enforcement which is double that. Add: the costs of court, prison and parole. At a time when a real war is being waged around the globe to protect our nation, we are chasing around after pot-heads and pot sellers who, in reality, present little danger to anyone except themselves.

2 – Wasted lives. With less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States houses 25 percent of the world’s prison inmates. Nearly 60 percent of inmates are in prison for drug related offenses, more than half of them, marijuana possession and/or smuggling. The annual cost for housing over two million inmates is $50 billion per year. This does not include ripple effect costs, such as lost wages, welfare to their families, broken homes, single-parent kids, plus the cost of courts, defense lawyers, probation and parole.
The true cost is more than $100 billion a year.

3 – The law is meaningless. Despite all the tax monies spent for interdiction, enforcement and incarceration, marijuana remains the third most popular recreational drug of choice behind alcohol and tobacco products. After seventy years of criminal prohibition, 15 to 20 million Americans are users of marijuana, while 70 million have inhaled pot sometime in their lives.

4 – The law creates criminals. Laws against marijuana fuel the black market and keep the criminals in business. And with those laws come the inherent dangers to police officers in every jurisdiction in America. They clog the court system, cost billions, incite corruption and create cynicism among the general public. With new laws that regulate and permit sale, marijuana smugglers and dealers will be out of business.

5 – It sets a poor example to the young. Opponents invariably argue that legalizing marijuana will send the wrong signals to kids. That doesn’t happen. Kids in every high school in America know how easy it is to buy a joint or an ounce of grass. It’s at their beckon call. It sends a signal that the law is impotent and easily broken. Those who believes that the illegality of marijuana has been a deterrent to pot smokers are living in dreamland.

6 – Medical marijuana. Twelve states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, with more to surely follow. Yet, the federal government continues to usurp states rights by enforcing federal statues prohibiting doctors from prescribing cannabis to patients suffering from disease-related pain, nausea, eye disease, epilepsy and other diseases. There can be no other explanation, other than corruption in government and intervention of the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. Visit:Factbook: Medical Marijuana

I could tell horror stories about young men and women who are needlessly spending many years behind bars, people who made mistakes, people who needed treatment for their own foibles, people who otherwise could contribute to society and bring joy to others in this world, people who are basically harmless to you and I, but will not see the light of freedom for much of their lives, detached from families and relegated to dependency on the state — you and me — for sustenance.

Milt Friedman and the 500 plus economists are correct. Will anyone lend an ear?

I’m not holding my breath.

53 Responses to “SIX REASONS TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA”

  1. Outstanding article and 100% correct. Those that want to fry their brains, via alcohol and/or drugs, have at it. Take the profit margin away from the cartels and organized crime groups. Legalize certain drugs and cut costs, saving taxpayers billions of dollars in a war we cannot and never did have a chance to win.

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  2. the attitude toward pot use of kids under 18 is too casual among adults who believe it is not a big deal. There are inadequte responses to the use of it by teens and preteens., It is a BIG PROBLEM in terms of learning and academoic attitudes, and school performance. Pot heads lose precious years of developmental growth. … and costly later in terms of corrective measures when people need to find work and have healthy relationships and careers. After 21 I guess we “choose” to be addicts??? But we need a much crisper response to teen use…as we have to other drug use.Many former pot head parents identify with their kids use…after all…they turned out ok,,,,,many do not know how to take an honest and firm position with their kids. get help for the kids!!!!

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  3. Right on Marshall! All that money spent to no avail. If people in government are intelligent, they would know that if the demand is high, people will find a way to satisfy that demand.
    We have made rich people out of criminals and keep on doing it. Tobacco is next on the list of banned drugs and this will create more millionairs and up the cost of drug enforcement.
    Will we learn? I doubt it.

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  4. For years I have been in favor of legalization of marijuana, but have never set down my reasons as you have so effectively done. Here’s hoping you and the 500 economists will continue to campaign for it. Can we all help by writing our congressmen?

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  5. While preparing dinner last night, I had the boob tube on as background noise. Dr. Phil does provide some noise, as do his whining guests needing his help. But one thing he said remained with me. “I hope this is the year that common sense prevails.” Legalizing marijuana is one of the common sense acts that we need to make in this country. I also read the fact a while back that you refer to about the ratio of the US population to its prison inmate population and the percentage of those who are in for drug-related offences, many of them just for pot possession. I don’t use or advocate usage of pot, but do classify it in the same category as alchohol. Too many lives are broken as a result of these draconian laws and the costs to all of us are too high. As our national budget drains spiral out of control, citizens need to become vocal about where our tax dollars go. This is one area we should reign in.

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  6. If we legalize marijuana Ricky Williams would have been playing football for the past two years!

    If we also legalized the use of steoids, Barry Bonds would get into the Hall of Fame (or shame)?

    If we also legalize prostitution, either straight or gay, many of our politicians would still be in office.

    WOW what a thought!

    If we recognize illegal aliens we can let them take full advantage of our social security system, health care, schools, etc.

    We legalized abortion so the population is ot growing out of control (better than war maybe but we have that to)

    Hey, I was in law enforcement also, and I do not agree that we make things easier by changing moral and ethical values to satisfy the minority.

    Wow, what a thought

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  7. Marshall,
    The only way I would support legalization of pot is if all the drugs coming across the border were captured, taxed and treated like any other import, with an import tax. Then people could buy it legally and use it at their discretion.

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  8. I agree completely. As you know, the cost of keeping a person in prison is far more than the cost of living for nearly all others. If we could get rid of the drugs we would nearly empty the prisons. If marijuana was decriminalised the millions saved in law enforcement costs, jail and prison expense would be more than what the illegal stuff is costing us today. A double savings. Volunteering at the sheriff’s office I am aware of the dollar costs of enforceing the unenforceable.

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  9. I agree, as an evaluations researcher and an individual, that current approaches have not led to the desired outcome. Perhaps, as you suggest, we really don’t want marijuana illegal, we just want to make the most money possible out of the deal. $14 billion is nothing compared to the money being made between importing, growing, selling, arresting, trying, incarcerating, lawmaking, law-enforcing,…need I say more?

    Laws exist to create an environment that allows people to live together in a way that works. As John (11/30) suggested, they often reflect the values of the culture. But that is not their intent. In fact, it is actually backwards. The intent of laws and rules is to protect the integrity of the culture – its ability to remain whole and complete, the ensure the survival of itself. Over time, it seems like the laws and rules are actual truth — as humans we have a propensity to forget that we made it all up.

    The question is – “Does the law making marijuana actually cause the outcome that it is intended to cause?” Is the intended outcome to eliminate the sale, distribution and use of marijuana in our society/culture? If so, then NO, the law is not producing this outcome. If the overall intent of the law is to preserve the culture itself, then perhaps it is effective. Consider that we are not a culture that has become enlightened enough to embrace diversity as the ultimate means of group (genetic) survival. We are an elitist run society where very few of those at the top are subject to the same laws that the rest of us face. For example, a felony conviction for drug possesion results in the removal of your right to vote. How convenient, no? Thus, from the view point of the lawmakers, the law is effective at preserving their culture.

    Many argue that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug. However, could the use of any illegal substance or participation in any illegal activity create a new environment which is more likely to foster the use of others? What I mean is “Is the gateway effect actually caused by the nature of it being illegal instead of the actual substance itself?”

    Marijuana’s illegalization may have nothing what-so-ever to do with the part of the plant that is smoked!!! “When companies such as Kimberly-Clark and the Hearst newspaper corporation found out their vast interests in paper could be undercut by this alternative (according to a 1938 article in Popular Mechanics — not to mention dozens of subsequent newspaper stories, books, and private communiques — marijuana can produce four times as much raw material per acre as trees for paper and similar uses, without contributing to soil depletion and the greenhouse effect), they teamed with bigot and director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry J. Anslinger to combat pot. DuPont and other companies that had invested heavily in the very things marijuana would replace joined the battle. The movie Reefer Madness was released in 1936;” AND “In 1942, five years after marijuana was banned, the world was at war. With the pressure on, the government was forced to fight the hype of the mid-Thirties that led to pot’s prohibition and admit that the weed was our last, best hope. The film is called Hemp for Victory, and you’ve probably never heard of it. No one in the U.S. government wants you to.” (Miami New Times, The Need for Weed, May 11, 1994).

    From, “First the Seed, Then the Weed” in Miami New Times (1993)”…the money from taxes on legal dope would reduce the national debt; beleaguered farmers would be given a new lease on life; countless hemp products could be cheaply and efficiently manufactured in this country; trees would be spared; fuel prices would plummet; air pollution would be greatly reduced; the critically ill would be spared a measure of suffering; world hunger would be cut; drugs that actually cause pain and crime could be more adequately controlled;…”

    The simple fact is very few – if any – banks, homes or businesses have been robbed at gunpoint so someone could get their next marijuana fix, right?! The issue of morality is moot in a discussion about the legalization of marijuana. It’s about money. Show the elitist snobs making laws how they can continue to grow their bank accounts (and only interact with ‘the other half’ as the help or work) and it will be legal. It’s all and only about money.

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  10. MF,
    If it’ll make them happy, legalize it. After all, that’s what we want in the world… happy people.

    Why not substitute terms such as child pornography, credit card fraud or even Radical Islam in America every time you use the term cannabis or marijuana in the following quotes from your article?

    “But there is no data available to suggest one death has been caused by cannabis.”

    “Have laws prohibiting these behaviors produced the desired effect? Has it deterred people from engaging in the use of marijuana? We all know the answer.”

    Yea, let’s legalize it. Then we can start working on coke, meth, child porn, credit card fraud and Radical Islam in America.

    If you were just a couple of days younger, maybe you’d be more conservative.

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  11. Very interesting article,Marshall, and interesting replies. I think everything was covered in those responses. I don’t think there’s a chance it will ever be legalized, however.

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  12. Hi, Marshall;
    As an aging broad, I have never tried marijuana or any other hallucinogenic drug. I’ve always gotten high on life. But with a son with AIDS and many pain-inducing debilities, and a daughter with end-stage renal disease, RA, neuropathy and a host of of other diabetes-related ailments, it seems that pot is the only thing that relieves her proneness to vomiting. For these people especially, it should be legalized. Her state does not permit even medical use of the drug.

    Thanks for your interest, your research, and your willingness to share the information.

    DHC

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  13. “Why not substitute terms such as child pornography, credit card fraud or even Radical Islam in America every time you use the term cannabis or marijuana in the following quotes from your article?”

    Comparing things that are known to harm people other than oneself automatically discredits your argument. Perhaps you should try again. :)

    Great article. I live in Canada where they’re a little less harsh when it comes to weed (though, thanks to our recent Conservative government, they’re getting a little harsher), but these are great points. The problem down in the US is that the prison-industrial complex will continue to lobby for keeping drugs illegal and I don’t expect to see a change in such laws down there anytime soon.

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  14. Marshall,
    Legalizing Illegal substances won’t eradicate the problems associated with them any more than the problems associated with alcoholism did with the legalization of alcohol. I agree that tons of money is wasted in our attempts to combat marijuana but the issue falls in the laps of our politicians,i.e., legislators, senators, congress men and women, the supreme court and any one else that legislates our laws.
    I take exception to your claim that not one death can be attributed to the use of Marijuana. Yes, Maybe the smoking of a joint won’t kill you but it damn well sure will cause you to do things that can produce death.
    One of your responders mentioned that marijuana is a gateway substance and I agree. That was the first illegal substance my son experimented with. It led to other substances that eventually cost him his life. Oh, I’m not alone as a suffering parent. Hardly a family exists that has not experienced a negative episode with illegal substances. Legalizing whatever is not the answer. Insisting on proper conduct and a good work ethic from our elected officials would produce much better results.
    Is the fact that you keep mentioning your experience in law enforcement supposed to impress us? I was in law enforcement longer than you were and I certainly do not consider myself an expert on illegal substances. Those that choose drugs as a way of life should make better choices. Once you are hooked try to find a decent drug rehab program that truly has good results. While you are at it check their fees which make them prohibitive for the average family.

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  15. We are a Christian nation as the fundamentalists like to say. We live by the Protestant ethic of personal responsibility, hard work and sobriety. We believe strongly in
    PUNISHMENT! The “Christians” would never endorse SIN, the politicians won’t propose legalization and risk losing the votes of the
    sanctimonious. Costs, harmlessness, need,etc don’t enter into the calculation. Being good and right is what we care about and that’s why we won’t let pot heads or anybody else have pot.Don’t try to confuse us with the facts, Marshall, our mind is made up and we’ll go on paying with borrowed money no matter how well less virtuous nations succeed with decriminalization.

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  16. First to the lady complaining about the teens using illegal drugs. There is an answer to that, it’s called parents. Granted it doesn’t always work, but the law certainly doesnt.
    Second I think there is a difference between de-criminalizing drugs & making them legal.
    Marshall is right about this & many of his other ideas.
    Keep up the good work.
    I’ve also read your books & think they are great.

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  17. Marshall: People who think like this one above from RBC: ” I take exception to your claim that not one death can be attributed to the use of Marijuana. Yes, Maybe the smoking of a joint won’t kill you but it damn well sure will cause you to do things that can produce death.” says it all>

    Hey, RBC, exactly WHAT is it that these pot heads are doing that ‘ produces death ?” Can you answer that? There is NO death associated with cannabis, none. The black market is THERE, and will not go away by ignoring it..saying things like some of the blind people above makes me wonder about America. How ignorant can some people get?

    the drug war is a FAILURE but some here would say ” Oh well, better that than admit defeat and try something that WORKS “..not that it makes any sense!! If everyone would read Jack Herer’s book, ” the Emporer Wears No Clothes ” about hemp and the truth, we would see far fewer ignorant and ridiculous statements by the anti- sense crowd.

    Rape and such being compared to pot? My God some people must Watch fox news so much that their brains fry. The intellectuals all agree: legalize and tax and control: The morons want to keep the same old failed Nazi regime way of doing things going…sick.

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  18. I agree with everything you said. Sending people to prison for using drugs is such a waste. The money should be spent on rehab programs.
    I am also in favor of legalizing prostitution and requiring the prostitutes be licensed and have health checks.

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  19. have long thought putting people in prison is a terrible waste of lives and money. rehab programs would be a better use of the money. But my son, who with his wife, is very active in the N/A program tells me that rehab will only work if the person wants it. Just as A/A will only help if the person wants to quit drinking. I think if we legalize drugs all those billions going out of our country to the cartels will end. and hopefully people will not rob to get the money for drugs. And the money for law enforcement can be use for rehab. And the drug money will not tempt and corrupt cops and politicians. I once read that law makers are afraid to vote to legalize drugs. the cartel threatens them.

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  20. Marshall,
    I agree with most of your articles, however, I disagree with: “The War on Drugs is lost”, “We are a vengeful society who believes the only solution to undesirable behavior is to lock ‘em up and throw away the key”, “while 70 million have inhaled pot sometime in their lives(not sure how you got this one, must be the economists again)”, “people who are basically harmless to you and I, but will not see the light of freedom for much of their lives”.

    You know, and I remind you, that drug users are not taken away “for much of their lives” and often even the street pushers are granted a variety of options before they are ever incarcerated beyond the initial arrest and bonding procedure.

    When you say there are more than five thousand former law enforcement officers and prosecutors that belong to an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), I say thank God for the other hundreds of thousands that do not.

    Finally, regarding Siobhan M.’s response about “First the Seed, Then the Weed” in Miami New Times (1993)”; it’s absurd for one to believe that taxes on legal dope would in some way reduce our national debt, save the farmers (who apparently can’t grow legal stuff for profit), save the trees, reduce fuel prices at the pump, reduce air pollution, save the ill from suffering and pain and I have to put this last one in upper case because it’s the best one, CUT WORLD HUNGER.

    I think some of the responders to your article have been getting a little close to the ’smoke’.

    Although flawed it was a good article, keep the fire burning.

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  21. Sorry, I was so intrigued with the article and responses I neglected one other thought, legalize ‘medical marijuana’.

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  22. Got em thinking on this one….Good article, some good responses, some others need to get a life….Keep up the good work.

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  23. I whole heartedly agree. Pot is no more harmful than boozing.

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  24. “the money from taxes on legal dope would reduce the national debt; beleaguered farmers would be given a new lease on life; countless hemp products could be cheaply and efficiently manufactured in this country; trees would be spared; fuel prices would plummet; air pollution would be greatly reduced; the critically ill would be spared a measure of suffering; world hunger would be cut; drugs that actually cause pain and crime could be more adequately controlled;…”

    The above is from Siobhan’s very eloquent comments. I don’t think I understand how fuel prices would plummet, nor how air pollution would be greatly reduced and world hunger would be cut. I DO support the legalization and taxation as a concept whose time is long past due. But, I wonder if sometimes over-claiming the benefit can have an opposite effect on the ultimate goal.

    I look forward to the day when common sense prevails in Congress. Given the track record, I can only think of the old joke “What if I was an idiot, and what if I was in Congress? But then, I repeat myself”.

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  25. I agree 100%. I am a sophomore in college, and I see more drug and alcohol abuse on a daily basis than most people can say they’ve seen in their whole lives. I have seen people’s lives ruined all because they got caught sitting harmlessly in their apartments smoking weed. However, I’ve also seen kids my age kill and be killed by the abuse of alcohol. Not long ago, 2 boys were killed because they both attempted to cross a busy intersection drunk. No one does anything to prevent people from drinking themselves to death, but the government goes as far as they possibly can to prevent people from smoking weed. I got high and no one died. It has been proven that pot is not addictive, is far less harmful than cigarettes, and not a single human being has ever been reported dead from smoking too much weed.Legalizing marijuana would have a huge impact on decreasing the crime rate, and it could be used for medical purposes. In my opinion, there are far worse things in the world than marijuana. people make smoking weed out be a horrible thing to do. If the worst thing a person ever did was smoke weed, then I’d say they lead an extremely successful life. It has nothing to do with ethics and/or morals, it’s got to do with common sense. Come on now.

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  26. Look, I can speak from immediate experience. I got picked up in July for having a parking ticket warrant outside my favorite bar…for leaving my car when intoxicated. I was unaware because the ticket was snagged off. I got arrested for it and had a gram of commercial weed on me. I was stopped while waiting for a ride from my sister mind you. Since then I have been to court several times, have a probation officer who I visit every month. I can have my house, person, car, and property searched at any time without reason. This will go on for a year. I then got sent to a firm for a “substance abuse evaluation”. This company only makes money if they recommend treatment. Three hours a night three outs a week. Also costing the state. I am not an addict and no longer use for fear of trouble. I am a young man(24) and am also not allowed to have a drink or go to a place who makes the majority of their money from alcohol…even as a DD. Mind you, this is not an alcohol related offense….they might as well have taken away my television. Any way, long story short, I will be in the “system” for a year. There is no “victim” in my crime. This is a huge waste of everyones time. Also, I find in incredibly ridiculous that people who have never tried the product(weed) can say its not legal..and if they have tried it…why are they being taking seriously in the “anti-weed” campaign. I am absolutely astonished at my treatment and feel as if “my” country has more than failed me. BOND TOGETHER…GET SERIOUS…AND LETS GET IT RIGHT…LEGALIZE IT NOW!! IT WILL TAKE WORK, BUT RATHER THAN BE A “POTHEAD” BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION. DO YOUR PART!!

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  27. Thank you for posting this Marshall. I couldn’t agree with you anymore. Smoking marajuana shouldn’t be a crime. It isn’t any more harmful to you than drinking alcohol. In fact it’s much safer. I just wish that more people in this world would understand that.

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  28. The people who comment and try to compare cannabis legalization with real crimes that affect others is totally disengenuous and they know it. ALL of the offenses that they list are cause for complaint from some other person; The private use of herb does NOT in any way, shape or form affect anyone else negatively. It is just a cash cow for the system and the people who drool over Fox news every night have no idea what the truth is.

    The Czech Republic has a sensible policy towards cannabis, as does the Netherlands. ALL the statistics, all of them, show that LESS young people use cannabis where it is readily aavilable legally. Our system is a total failure for the intended purposes, and a great success for its hidden ones.

    All it takes is a little research into WHY it was made illegal back in 1938…the political chicanery, the lies and hidden hearings..the head of the AMA was outraged at the trickery to demonize a well known medicine and product. The ignorant are the only ones against pot: Adult use should NEVER be the business of the cops or courts..not in a free society.

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  29. […] think if we legalize drugs all those billions going out of our country to the cartels will end. …https://mfrank.effexhost.com/?p=18Yes, I’m A Medical Marijuana Patient. No, I’m Not Sorry.I can’t understand why anyone would look […]

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  30. Marijuana has only been deemed illegal for 1% of its existence.

    That should really mean something in terms of it truly being compared to much more serious crimes.

    Great article!

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