It’s time to legalize marijuana


Saturday July 31, 2010

USFlag Of all of the claims in print about marijuana, this is the most revealing, yet the most ignored quote of all: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” — administrative law, Judge Francis L. Young (1988), Drug Enforcement Administration.

I envy the day when we can say with certitude that freedom, though inconvenient to the powers that be, has found its way into the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. That day is not now. Instead, we live under an entrenched and tyrannical coalition of prevention, prohibition, incarceration and probation that continues to dominate U.S. drug policy despite the fact that the majority of marijuana consumers are moderate and responsible adults.

We need to recognize that a person is either an adult or they’re not. Once society empowers adults, whether young or old, to be responsible for their own actions, no group or authority has the right to prohibit their intrinsic pursuit of commerce and happiness that is not injurious to others. At any adult age, we need close-at-hand, unbiased and accurate information to help inform our choices.

If we propose a particular area of greatest harm to Americans and identify it as our current prison population, what can we say about a prohibited drug that helps to fill up those prisons?

First, let’s look at what’s harmful about marijuana prohibition. A staggering portion of Vermont’s and national

tax revenues, more than we spend on schools, goes toward maintaining our expanding prison population and related costs. Dan Riffle, a Legislative Analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project ( reports that “Last year there were over 870,000 U.S. marijuana related arrests or, one every 36 seconds, nearly 90 percent of which were for simple possession.” It stands to reason that the majority of the aforementioned 870,000 marijuana prisoners cannot be all that bad. Yet, many of these otherwise law-abiding Americans, now burdened with criminal records, will be denied jobs, student financial aid or possibly housing.

Only coldhearted people could believe that this many Americans are heinous criminals deserving of cruel and unusual dispossession. The gigantic numbers are indicative of a system gone-bad. In Vermont alone 50-60 percent of all arrests are for nonviolent marijuana consumers, with no-sale offenses.

In April of this year, people in the Brattleboro community formed an association that became Marijuana Resolve, a Vermont nonprofit organization. Our members have opened a new dialogue about marijuana that has been too long kept in a dark corner on the table of public discussion. In our community outreach we have found (anecdotally) that when asking the person on the street about decriminalizing marijuana, so many of them replied, “I don’t use marijuana, but why decriminalize? We should just legalize it.” In our four months of public outreach for decriminalization we expected a handful of people to say that. But not well over a hundred people.

Can we say anything good about a drug that drives so much prosecutorial madness? All of this marijuana bashing makes us yearn to show others what’s on the other side of the fence.

Here’s a glimpse: It has long been known, as reported by the Vermont Drug Threat Assessment, that marijuana is the most commonly used drug in Vermont and it “constitutes a lower threat” because marijuana effects are “less debilitating and not commonly associated with violent crime.” A Johns Hopkins study in 1999 reported that there is “no significant differences in cognitive decline between heavy (marijuana) users, light users and non-users.”

Additionally, the Washington Post reported on the largest marijuana case-control study ever done, funded by NIDA, that “While no association between marijuana smoking and cancer was found, the study findings, presented to the American Thoracic Society International Conference did find a 20-fold increase in lung cancer among people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day.”

Moreover, Mitchell Earleywine, Professor of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany, reports that “Multiple ingredients in the (marijuana) plant have helped battle tumor growth in the laboratory.”

Louis Armstrong, who had a “lifelong fondness” for marijuana, once said, “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell ‘em.”

Marijuana Resolve would like to tell them anyway. One way, is by our sponsorship of a free and open community meeting to be held at UVM on Aug. 10. We also have more community events planned for Windham County. You can write to the signers below at or call 802-579-1377 for more information.

Daryl Pillsbury, Vidda Crochetta and Paul Bennett are on the board of directors for Marijuana Resolve. Dan Riffle is on the board of advisors for Marijuana Resolve.

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