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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WAS LINCOLN A RACIST?

Not everything is as it seems, as many of us have learned during our lives.

Here’s a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln:

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”

Certainly a profound statement by a political leader who has been lionized over the last 144 years as the greatest president in American history and certainly, the beacon for establishing equal rights among the races.

But, is this all true, or simply an image? Was Lincoln that much ahead of his time? Did he really feel that blacks deserved parity with whites?

There is always more to the story, as we have learned about many idolized people of history. Many idols have been worshiped and adored only for us to learn later there was another side to him, or her. May we start with Bill Clinton? Rep. William Jefferson? Mayor Marion Barry? Men of the cloth, like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. Sports: O.J. They all have one thing in common: Another side people didn’t see because they were blinded by awe.

We all need to bear that in mind.

The human psyche has a need to admire, to seek leadership and to adore. Just as our new president is riding the wave of unprecedented popularity today, buoyed by a love affair with the sensation-seeking media, history has bestowed divine-like reverence upon Abraham Lincoln, with memorials, biographies, movies, plays, and worshiping services that invoke his name as synonymous with humanity itself. He is a Jesus-like figure, particularly to the blacks of America.

But wait. Are we seeing what we wish to see? Or what he really was?

Here’s one of his quotes from a debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858:

“I will say, then, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race.”
Hmmm.

Was Lincoln — the great emancipator — a racist after all?

Try another quote, well into the first term of his presidency, — Spoken at the White House to a group of black community leaders, August 14th, 1862:

“Why should the people of your race be colonized, and where? Why should they leave this country? This is, perhaps, the first question for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated.”

But what are we to make of the Emancipation Proclamation?

According to everything I’ve read from history, the proclamation was more a war tactic than it was an act of humanity. It required that any slaves that escaped to the north would no longer be considered as “fugitives,” but rather, refugees and eligible for employment in the Union military. As such, following that date, blacks streamed above the Mason-Dixon line.

Contrary to lore, the proclamation did not reflect Lincoln’s desired solution for the slavery problem. He continued to favor gradual emancipation, to be undertaken voluntarily by the states, with federal compensation to slaveholders. The Emancipation Proclamation was chiefly a declaration of policy, which, it was hoped, would serve as an opening wedge in depleting the South’s great manpower reserve in slaves and, equally important, would enhance the Union cause in the eyes of Europeans.

Should this diminish our admiration for Abraham Lincoln as one of the great presidents? Absolutely not. We must still realize he was a man of his time, not of his choice, when slavery and the concept of white supremacy was not considered ignorance in America, it was mainstream American thinking. Kids from all sides of the nation were born, bred and raised with that level of thinking, including Honest Abe himself. Thus, his actions which ultimately did free slaves and put the scourge society to rest for all time, turned out to be more inadvertent, it seems, than deliberate.

I’m sure many well-read people of all races know these things, including Barack Obama. Thus, I was pleased to see the new president use the Lincoln Bible during the swearing-in ceremony, as it acknowledged his respect and understanding of American history and put to rest all the unfounded fears that he would use a Koran, or some other document of questionable symbolism.

Finally, one more Lincoln quote: “Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.”

Amen.

 

 

 

SCORE ONE FOR DEATH WITH DIGNITY

 

 

On a summer afternoon in Portland, Oregon, 68 year-old Margaret Sutherland kissed her five grown children one by one, listened to her son read the 23rd Psalm, gazed out the window toward the Williamette River a final time then hoisted a glass of water to help her swallow ten, 100 milligram capsules of Seconal. Within five minutes, she was unconscious. In fifteen minutes, she was dead…as she wished.

Cancer had already claimed one of her lungs and eaten her ribs. She had lost control of her bowels and coughed blood constantly. The pain was so intense, she could hardly walk.

Doomed to two, three or four more months of suffering before arriving at death, she also considered the hardships being imposed upon her loved ones. Sutherland decided to take advantage of Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, received confirmation of her doom from two doctors and asked for the needed prescription to end her life. When the day arrived, she put on a dress, a little make-up and said her last goodbyes to friends and family. Love abounded, suffering ended. Everyone was at peace, including Mrs. Sutherland.

How can anyone argue with that?

Obscured amid major political issues this year was the outcome of a controversial referendum put to Washington State voters on November 4th. Following the lead of Oregon, Washingtonians overwhelmingly approved a Death With Dignity Act by a vote of 59% to 41%, thereby giving rights to the terminally ill to end their suffering, and the suffering of loved ones.

Safeguards against abuse are built in to the new law which is very similar to Oregon, providing that:

* Patient must be of sound mind.

* Must be a resident of that state, over the age of eighteen.

* Patient must be declared terminally ill by two independent physicians, and have less than six months to live.

* Patients are prescribed lethal medication which can be taken at their choice of time and place. Patients can elect to decline using the medication.

* Patient must provide a written request to physicians, signed in the presence of two witnesses.

* Physicians must inform the patient of alternatives, including hospice care and pain management.

In the ten years since it went into effect in Oregon, there has been no evidence or reports that the law has been abused or applied frivolously. Between 1997 and 2007, 341 death-bound citizens of Oregon have opted for physician assisted suicide. Another one-hundred received prescriptions, but elected not to use them.

I see nothing wrong in this.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the senior population over 75 will rise from 18 million to 31 million in twenty years. Florida is home to the largest per capita population of elderly citizens. With that, comes the inevitability of terminal sickness and suffering among thousands, making this state ripe for such a law. It’s time that Florida and other states consider a referendum, a la Oregon and Washington giving terminal patients who face irreversible suffering, a choice.

America is supposed to be a compassionate society. What are we waiting for?

When we euthanize pets that suffer from agonizing and incurable disease, we call that the “Humane” thing to do. Yet, in forty-eight of our states, helping our human counterparts to alleviate suffering is called “Inhumane,” even when the patient is the most willing party.

We are a nation who champions the rights of people, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But we do not champion the rights of those who suffer. Instead, society makes the rules which require sufferers to take medicine, go to pain management, hang on until nature take it’s course, no matter the agony.

Should I learn that I have a terminal illness, doomed to nightmarish torture and agony, I don’t want pills, psychological counseling or preaching. If Florida hasn’t come of age, I’m moving to Oregon or Washington. I’ll do it, not only for myself, but for the people I love so they don’t have to watch my decline any longer than necessary, and to help save the mounting medical costs.

The pursuit of happiness also includes the right to death with dignity, much in the manner of Margaret Sutherland. Washington and Oregon got it right.

 

 

WELFARE ABUSE; DRUG ABUSE: A COMMON MARRIAGE

For the story, I’ll call him Billie.

Little Billie was one of those bright, hyper kids with an I.Q. approaching genius. He dazzled adults with his sharp wit, toothy smile and exuberant charm. He managed straight A’s without effort. Like many kids of the 1960’s, Billie was the product of divorced parents. Mother Dorothy remarried when he was three, and he grew to love his new stepfather. When he was ten, that stepfather suddenly disappeared never to return again.

The year was 1970, the age of Aquarius, Viet Nam, hippies, rebellion against the establishment and a new culture that would change the complexion of America in future generations: Drugs.

Now liberated, Dorothy thought marijuana was no worse than having a cocktail. Billie watched as Mama’s behavior changed. Pot seemed to make her mellow, and more sociable. A new circle of friends visited. She made no secret of her lure to cannabis, openly toking up with her guests. She kept a hearty supply around. She even offered a toke to little Billie, saying, “Here, I don’t want you doing this behind my back.”

Billie found her stash one day and brought a handful to school where he promptly lined his pockets with enough cash for a month of lunch money. Billie was now the center of attention, a popular kid. His world changed overnight. Each day, he would bring more to sell, and to smoke it. He became a genius at playing hooky.

Changes in his behavior were remarkable. Exuberant charm turned into paranoia. Those straight A’s plunged to D’s and F’s. He was cunning now, deceptive and detached, easily agitated by authority figures, extremely nervous. By the time he reached his teens, Billie was a full-fledged addict, stealing, buying and selling drugs. Unable to handle the turmoil now as a single mom, Dorothy sent him to live with his natural father, but that stopped nothing. He thieved, he lied and he rebelled, impervious to discipline.

His new home didn’t last very long before he ran away, the first time. The foundation was poured and then it cracked. His future was cast in stone.

Though he found employment from time to time as a short-order cook, Billie rarely kept a job for long. By the age of nineteen, he had been arrested for several minor offenses, but because his father was a cop, he managed to keep his record clean. Now a slave to any drug he could afford, he entered hospitals and rehab programs to pacify his father, but he never intended to clean up. Drugs had become the dominant factor in his life, his God, his obsession. He saw love from family as a weakness, a tool when he needed temporary shelter, a burger, some new duds perhaps, and a couple bucks.

Then he discovered America’s social systems. All Billie had to do was demonstrate a certifiable handicap and he would be eligible for monthly disability payments until he was rehabilitated. Billie was truly a psychological disaster, barely able to care for himself all because of drugs. But the precious I.Q. was still intact and Billie knew all the right cliches and the buzz words. He certainly didn’t want to work. The government obliged. Billie knew how to feign a handicap. The medical profession was right there to help him dig into the Medicaid grab bag.

One doctor called him manic depressive. Another said he was agoraphobic. Some simply referred to him as psychologically disabled due to a nervous condition. Then… Bi-polar? Name it, he managed every diagnosis known to man. Thus, he was deemed eligible for monthly SSI payments. If he could hold a job for six months, the payments would cease. He made sure that didn’t happen.

Billie mysteriously disappeared to netherland somewhere and the SSI checks that were sent to his father’s house were sent back marked, “Moved. No Forwarding Address”.

Billie had married a multi-tattooed, topless dancer and went off to the back country of the Hawaiian Islands where they could grow their own pot and use other drugs to their hearts content in isolation. Three years later, Social Security caught up with Billie saying they were holding all those monthly the checks for him and promptly turned over fifteen thousand dollars. Not only that, Billie was happily reinstated on the public teat once again. The checks kept coming.

The couple bore two children, a boy and a girl, though they had no suitable place to call home nor any earned income with which to raise them. Children had value. That meant extra dough each month from Uncle Sam. Billie taught his wife the welfare ropes, how to scam social services, sell food stamps, rake the state and county for free money and continue drawing the disability income, now enhanced by the presence of the children. That included…Medicaid. Free health insurance. Free doctors. Free…(you guessed it)…drugs!

Thank you, taxpayer.

Billie discovered that accidents and physical pain translated into doctor’s visits and hospital emergency rooms. Ergo, prescription medicine. Over the years, Billie would lose all his teeth to extractions, each worth more refills of pain medicine. More than half the pills prescribed to him were sold on the streets.

Fast forward. Billie is forty-eight years old today living in a far-away place, divorced and sharing quarters with another woman on welfare to double the income. His kids were raised by grandparents from the time they were ten and eleven. He had spent some of his time at expressway ramps, holding cardboard signs.

Though he’s clean from the hard stuff and using prescription medicine only, (which, alas, he now needs) he is still surviving on the public teat. He hasn’t worked at a job in over ten years. In fact, years of drug abuse finally rendered him, as he declared years before: Disabled. Fried brains will do that to anyone. His toothy smile is gone, his mind dimwitted.

The eight hundred of your tax dollars that he collected every month not only helped him to remain unemployed, but hooked to his habits. To date, Billie has gleaned nearly $500,000 in cash payments plus many thousands more in medicaid benefits. In truth, Uncle Sam didn’t help someone to become productive, it enabled an addict. Taxpayers and politicians continue to feed into the handout scam thinking it’s worthwhile when, in fact, they are helping millions to remain dependent, rather than independent.

No doubt, we can multiply Billie’s story by ten or fifteen million. The costs are incalculable, not only in money, but in the waste of human potential.

It is a sad life, to be sure. This tragedy probably would never have occurred if it hadn’t been for an ignorant young mother who was too open with her drug of choice. She cannot turn back the clock, and neither can I. But that doesn’t abate the anger and the pain.

This is a true story, though the name has been changed. Billie’s path not only stunted his own life, it impacted many others around him who tried to care. I know quite a lot about the plight of that bright, toothy little boy called Billie.

 

LEGALIZE ASSISTED SUICIDE

 

On a summer afternoon in Portland, Oregon, 68 year-old Margaret Sutherland kissed her five grown children one by one, listened to her son read the 23rd Psalm, gazed out the window toward the Williamette River a final time then hoisted a glass of water laced with nine milligrams of Seconal and drank it all. Within five minutes, she was unconscious. In fifteen minutes, she was dead…just as she wished.

Cancer had already claimed one of her lungs and eaten her ribs. She had lost control of her bowels and coughed blood constantly. The pain was so intense, she could hardly walk.

Doomed to two, three or four more months of suffering before arriving at death, she also considered the hardships being imposed upon her loved ones. Sutherland decided to take advantage of Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, received confirmation of her doom from two doctors and asked for the needed prescription to end her life. When the day arrived, she put on a dress, a little make-up and said her last goodbyes to friends and family. Love abounded, suffering ended. Everyone was at peace, including Mrs. Sutherland.

How can anyone argue with that?

Early in the Bush II term, the so-called “states rights” president dispatched Attorney General John Ashcroft to issue an injunction against the new “state” law to prevent any more suicides. . That decision was overruled by a federal judge citing a Supreme Court ruling in 1997 which concluded that states had the right to legalize physician assisted suicide.

When that ruling came, the people of Oregon voted “yes” to a state referendum — two times — which legalized Death With Dignity. Specifically, a patient must be a resident of Oregon for six months, able to make conscientious decisions, and be diagnosed with a terminal illness with less than six months to live. The bases were covered to prevent abuse or frivolous deaths.

The only other nations that legally permit doctor assisted suicide, are Belgium, Switzerland and Netherlands.

We are supposed to be a compassionate society. What are we waiting for?

Twenty years ago in Florida, 74 year-old Roswell Gilbert shot his wife of fifty years in the head to end her long suffering from arthritis, severe osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s. The shooting was an act of love. He was sent to prison for life. Had a Death With Dignity law been in existence, Mrs. Gilbert could have exercised her choice, and Roswell would never have set foot in a prison.

During my tenure in Homicide, I investigated two or three hundred suicide cases. All were tragic. I saw kids who shot themselves over parental strictness, drug addicts who could not handle life any more, bankruptcy, alcoholics out of control, love affairs gone wild, jealousy, rage, fear, guilt…the emotions ran the gamut. But the most compelling scene, was finding two elderly people embraced in the back seat of a Cadillac, inside a closed garage with the ignition on but the gas tank depleted from the engine running all night. They had been married 55 years. The woman was terminally ill; the man wouldn’t live without her. It was their choice.

We are a nation who constantly champions the rights of people…rights to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to choose life liberty and the pursuit of happiness in any way we want, so long as it is legal. But we do not champion the rights of those who suffer. We say…take medicine! Hang on as long as you can. Let nature take it’s course, no matter the agony. Rights? What rights?

Florida is home 3.1 million people over 65, or seventeen percent of the state. California has slightly more, but their overall population is double Florida’s. As time passes, we will see the median age of Florida rise as more seniors retire from the north to soak up the winter sunshine. Down the road, some will be destined to great pain as they battle terminal illnesses, but have no choices other than the field of medicine. Why? Because we say so.

I’m one of those who considered Dr. Jack Kevorkian a national hero, a trailblazer who had the guts to stand up to conventional moralists and help people who pleaded for an end to torment. Perhaps someone else come along and champion the rights of the suffering and spearhead a drive for more laws all over the country like the one in Oregon.

I realize that more religious people will argue that it is against God’s will as prescribed in the Bible, or that miracles can always happen. That may be true. when it comes to endless pain, I’m a chicken, and death doesn’t scare me. I fully respect those who elect to exercise the right to die.

If I ever learn that I have a terminal illness and doomed to nightmarish torture and agony, please do not tell me about pain management, or hospice care, or psychological counseling. Please don’t preach to me or make me take pills and more pills. If Florida hasn’t come of age, I’m moving to Oregon in plenty of time so I may follow in the idyllic path of Mrs. Sutherland, or that couple in the Cadillac. And like Mrs. Sutherland, I’ll do it, not only for myself, but for the people I love.