The Times May Be Changing on the Marijuana Issue

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—– Original Message —–
From: "Cher" <cneufer@neo.rr.com>
To: <affiliates@mail.norml.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2008 6:43 PM
Subject: NON: Fw: Re: The Times May Be Changing on the Marijuana Issue

> Ron Paul interview: This is a "common sense" approach to government. The
> use of science to understand how to deal with issues facing America.
>
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js2Z4b2PMTo&feature=related
>
> Kris
> The Times May Be Changing on the Marijuana Issue
>
> Jay Root
> January 28, 2008
> Star-Telegram
>
> AUSTIN – A few years ago, politicians who dared to suggest anything other
> than jail time for marijuana users were considered pro-drug fringe
> candidates.
>
> Not anymore. Now all the major Democratic presidential candidates are
> offering more lenient stands on medical marijuana, and White House hopeful
> Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, has made ending the federal drug war a
> centerpiece of his campaign.
>
> "There has definitely been a change in the political climate for
> liberalization," said Tim Lynch, a criminal justice expert at the Cato
> Institute, a Washington-based think tank. "I think the people are ahead of
> the politicians, especially of the Washington, D.C., politicians, on this
> issue."
>
> Polls have consistently shown that Americans support marijuana for
> medicinal purposes: a whopping 80 percent said so in a 2002 Time/CNN
> survey. In the same poll, about a third approved total legalization, but
> 72 percent said recreational users should be fined, not incarcerated.
>
> Even in Texas, where medical marijuana legislation has never gotten off
> the ground, the Legislature recently passed a law that allows prosecutors
> to bypass the jail booking process for certain marijuana offenses. It
> doesn’t change the penalty, but the legislation marks Texas’ first lenient
> approach to marijuana in years.
>
> Experts say the more tolerant approach has its origins in California,
> where in 1996 voters made it legal for people to smoke marijuana with a
> doctor’s recommendation. More than a decade later, 12 states permit some
> use of medical marijuana, and several others, including Michigan, Arizona,
> New York and Illinois, are likely to consider initiatives in 2008, said
> Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. A ballot
> initiative in Massachusetts aims to go further by decriminalizing
> possession of small amounts of marijuana, making it similar to a traffic
> ticket.
>
> "I think in 10 years, people will look back at the laws that prevented
> people from using marijuana as a medicine and say, ‘What the hell were
> they thinking?’" Mirken said.
>
> Of course, not everybody is leaping on the bandwagon. All of the top
> Republican presidential candidates have expressed opposition to the use of
> medical marijuana, and the White House drug czar continues to sound the
> alarm about making it legal under any circumstance, much as it was before
> California voters approved the landmark referendum.
>
> Research has shown that teen drug use has declined steeply nationwide. A
> study released in December showed that illicit teen drug use has dropped
> sharply from levels a decade earlier, with marijuana use in particular
> showing steep declines.
>
> In testimony before Congress last summer, Dr. David Murray, chief
> scientist in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy,
> hailed the positive trends among teens but said medical marijuana had
> sparked violence and robberies in California. He also warned about the
> negative health effects from inhaling smoked marijuana.
>
> Murray described marijuana as "a substance without medical utility" and
> expressed concern about the wave of state referenda allowing its use.
>
> "The medical marijuana movement is at best a mistake, at worst, a
> deception," Murray said. "The people pushing for this are cynically
> manipulating tragic tales of suffering."
>
> Don’t tell that to Tim Timmons. The Garland resident, who has multiple
> sclerosis, says politicians are the ones manipulating the marijuana issue
> to appear tough on crime.
>
> Though he takes $3,000 worth of prescription drugs a month – between 18
> and 23 pills a day – he says marijuana is the only thing that calms the
> debilitating spasms in his legs and lets him sleep at night.
>
> Timmons has sent scores of letters to state lawmakers, inviting them to
> see for themselves how marijuana visibly calms his spasms.
>
> Otherwise, he has repeatedly issued this public challenge to state
> lawmakers who oppose medical marijuana: take him to jail themselves if
> they think what he’s doing is wrong.
>
> "Come arrest me. I’m here waiting for you," Timmons said in the presence
> of a Star-Telegram videographer, after smoking marijuana from a pipe at
> his home. "You can put the handcuffs on me."
>
> State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, has twice failed to pass a bill
> designed to help seriously ill people who use marijuana for things such as
> pain and nausea relief.
>
> Last year, the politics of the issue were so toxic in the Legislature
> that Naishtat didn’t even get a public hearing on his bill.
>
> The lawmaker stresses that his bill would "not legalize anything"
> Instead, it would give an affirmative defense in court for people who use
> marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.
>
> That way, courts could release those who have a medical reason to smoke
> it.
>
> "It gives these individuals, if they happen to get arrested, a chance to
> go before a jury and say, ‘I’m not a criminal. I’m sick. My doctor
> recommended it. It helps me live. Please let me go home.’ And juries could
> say, ‘Go home.’"
>
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