Voice of the People: Obama Sends Mixed Message On Marijuana

Voice of the People by James J. Devineby James Devine

The White House stated that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce the marijuana prohibition under the Controlled Substances Act but it said states that have enacted laws to legalize the herb would be left alone if they impose strict regulatory systems.

Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the federal Department of Justice would allow the states to implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults as long as cannabis is well regulated.
According to a three-and-a-half page memo issued to U.S. attorneys across the country, the federal government will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:

  • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • marijuana possession or use on federal property.

After recreational marijuana initiatives passed in Washington and Colorado in November, President Barack Obama said the federal government had “bigger fish to fry” and would not make going after marijuana users a priority.

Drug policy reformers reacted with cautious optimism on Thursday over the Justice Department’s decision to allow Washington and Colorado to regulate recreational marijuana without facing a federal lawsuit.

Critics argue that the federal guidelines leave potential merchants operating within state laws subject to invasive action, including prosecution and imprisonment.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with forty-two percent of American adults reporting that they have used it.

Despite the fact that marijuana’s effects are less harmful than those of most other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, it is the most common drug that people are arrested for possessing.

U.S. marijuana policy is unique among American criminal laws in being enforced so widely and harshly, yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the population.

A New Jersey man was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for growing marijuana and a Somerset County resident who was convicted of growing 17 cannabis plants to treat his multiple sclerosis received a five year prison sentence in 2010, gaining release May 30, 2012 only because he was admitted into an Intensive Supervision Program.

At his trial, John Wilson was not allowed to tell the jury that he grew the pot to relieve his multiple sclerosis symptoms, nor was he permitted to present an expert witness on the benefits of marijuana because the state did not have a medical marijuana law at that time.

The state’s medical marijuana law was signed in January 2010 and Wilson was convicted in November 2009. Gov. Chris Christie refused to pardon the Somerset County multiple sclerosis victim or to commute his sentence to probation.

Marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea induced by cancer chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. There is also appreciable evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders.

Marijuana use rates in the Netherlands are similar to those in the U.S. despite the fact that for more than twenty years, Dutch citizens over age eighteen have been permitted to buy and use marijuana and hashish in government-regulated coffee shops.

More than 800,000 people arrested for marijuana each year, the vast majority of them for simple possession, comprise 52 percent of all drug arrests reported in the United States.

Considering the revenue that would result from a tax on pot sales and the savings that would accrue from not prosecuting and incarcerating people unjustly, you’d have to be high not to consider legalizing marijuana.

It’s time for clarity and common sense so it’s time to end America’s reefer madness.

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