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Monday, July 20, 2009

Bad Policy Grows Like A Bad Weed

An interesting article on the debate over legalization of Marijuana from the New York Times. There are several interesting viewpoints other than the one I have posted below contained in the article. My interest stems from previous experience mostly.

I come from a region where the grow scene had, in my opinion, over the last twenty years corrupted many of the public's authority systems as well as created a close-knit reliance on social capital amongst the growers. The effect of the economic power the drug had on the more rural area created a death grip on the community of the big power cartel size growers. Smaller growers were bullied into silence because of their own quasi-legal activities, and needing an organized distribution for their own bud, while the local "cartel" attracted more and more criminal elements in. The risk taking in the grow community expanded right along with the profit margin. The "big fish" in charge of the local cartel increasingly turned their pot profits into investments in the cocaine, meth, and heroine trade. Daughters and sons were raised in the culture and took up the family business instead of going to college. Just like the movies only they weren't Italians. The cartel, over a period of years, had the increasingly public support, less tacit, of the local authorities including the District Attorney, Sheriff's Department, Planning Commission, etc.

Essentially this process robbed the regular citizens of political power in their own communities as the grow community became the majority. I've served in a unique position where I've seen all views on this issue without having to immerse myself in the trade. It is one of the reasons I decided to leave.

When asked I generally refer to myself as neither pro or anti-pot. I am a "fix the policy so it works for someone" type person. It doesn't seem to be working well for any side of the issue any longer but it certainly manages to consume a lot of taxpayer dough to keep up the facade. It was hell to try to counter the effects of the local drug trade on your work force from a management perspective. How do you hire a reliable janitor for $12 an hour when they can go into the hills and trim weed for $40 an hour--tax free. Basically, you don't. From an individual perspective though, although I am not a user, I have no more problem with the drug than I do with Prozac or Zoloft, etc. My devout Mormon Aunt died a couple years ago from Cancer and the hospital, in the last three months, was charging her an outrageous $120 per weed capsule she had to take to control pain. At 86 and on a fixed income she struggled to pay the fee to avoid the agony of her disease. Her healthcare plan, almost nonexistent to begin with, did not cover Marijuana. A local grower came to her rescue, free of charge. I considered it the grower's "penance" for not paying taxes on his annual $300,000 profit. He considered it his duty in the community.

On the other hand I once had a staffer who lost her father, a grower, in a bad deal with a Mexican drug cartel. The grower who helped my aunt is also dead now. The murder goes unsolved. In the meantime his exwife (they were married for three weeks) continues to dig up his seven properties with a backhoe looking for buried treasure.

For what my opinion is worth. I say legalize it, tax it, control it, and focus on the cocaine, meth, and heroin trade. I'd rather run into someone stoned in a dark alley at midnight than a drunk. The hypocrisies of days gone past should end.

If Marijuana Is Legal, Will Addiction Rise? - Room for Debate Blog - NYTimes.com
The Tobacco Precedent
Norm Stamper

Norm Stamper was Seattle’s police chief from 1994 to 2000. He is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the author of “Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.”

Any law disobeyed by more than 100 million Americans, the number who’ve tried marijuana at least once, is bad public policy. As a 34-year police veteran, I’ve seen how marijuana prohibition breeds disrespect for the law, and contempt for those who enforce it.

Let’s examine arguments against legalizing marijuana: use and abuse would skyrocket; the increased potency of today’s marijuana would exacerbate social and medical problems; and legalization would send the wrong message to our children.

Stronger strains of marijuana are already out there, unregulated by anything other than market forces.

It’s reasonable to expect a certain percentage of adults, respectful or fearful of the current prohibition, would give pot a first try if it were made legal. But, given that the U.S. is already the world’s leading per capita marijuana consumer (despite our relatively harsh penalties), it’s hard to imagine a large and lasting surge in consumption. Further, under a system of regulated legalization and taxation, the government would be in a position to offer both prevention programs and medical treatment and counseling for those currently abusing the drug. It’s even possible we’d see an actual reduction in use and abuse, just as we’ve halved tobacco consumption through public education — without a single arrest.

Potency? Users, benefiting from the immutable law of supply and demand, have created huge market pressure for “quality” marijuana over the past few decades. Legalization opponents are correct that “today’s weed is not your old man’s weed.” But the fear-mongers miss the point, namely that stronger strains of marijuana are already out there, unregulated by anything other than market forces. It’s good that responsible consumers know to calibrate their consumption; they simply smoke less of the more powerful stuff. But how about a little help from their government? Purchase booze and you have access, by law, to information on the alcoholic content of your beverage, whether it’s .05 percent near-beer or 151-proof Everclear.

Perhaps the biggest objection to legalization is the “message” it would send to our kids. Bulletin: Our children have never had greater access to marijuana; it’s easier for them to score pot than a six-pack of Coors. No system of regulated legalization would be complete without rigorous enforcement of criminal laws banning the furnishing of any drug to a minor.

Let’s make policy that helps, not handcuffs, those who suffer ill effects of marijuana or other drugs, a policy that crushes the illegal market — the cause of so much violence and harm to users and non-users alike.


Comments :

4 comments to “Bad Policy Grows Like A Bad Weed”

mowdy5gs said...
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When it comes to such a thing as left hand Mary I am suceeded only by what has become of the justice system as compared to more harsh substance. There is a bias toward minorities as users far more often than there white counterparts. As is in most instances of drug cases of all types. There is a black market for more than criminals alone. There exists one for our government and law community as well. I must first pose this question. Why are prisons privately owned for profit?
Shall I delve? What good would a prison for profit be without so many things illegal for people to be housed for? Who would pay then the salarys of those companys who house, run, and maintain such facilities? Pot [as it were] is an easy mark when you look at mandatory sentancing for such small offences as possession especially in in the lower states from the north. It gives need as did prohibition for more law enforcement employment and facilitates its jusification. When it is quite easy to see the harm done on a much more broader scale by white collar crimes as of late indeed.
Yet why are there no more C.E.O's going to the clink? Instead they continue to be rewarded with bonus at the tax payer expence why the youth continues to be locked up for petty offences at an alarming rate. What are the stat's of youthfull offenders on minor infractions? Is it nessassary to envole children in the judicial system so young on such a scale? It seems to me buisness is more of a gateway drug than pot could ever hope to be. Yet I digress..

Jane Paudaux said...
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Well Mowdy you sent me looking for information. If I remember correctly I remember a political theorist talking about how wealthier societies build the capacity to lock up their prime grade male citizens who are unemployed to keep them from fostering others into dissent. Racial baiting politics has been alive and well in America for a long time. The drug wars help foster the political bounty reaped by politicians willing to label the nationality of the drug dealers as the real issue come election time and to drive nativistic reforms--all for the sake of being reelected rather than deal with the underlying poverty and lack of decent access to educational systems as a possible suspect in the overall trends. I found a wealth of it here on this site. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm Here is one small portion "...an estimated 1 of every 20 persons (5%) can be expected to serve time in prison during their lifetime. The lifetime chances of a person going to prison are higher%) than for women (1%) and higher for blacks (16%) and Hispanics (9%) than for whites (2%). At current levels of incarceration newborn black males in this country have a greater than a 1 in 4 chance of going to prison during their lifetimes, while Hispanic males have a 1 in 6 chance, and white males have a 1 in 23 chance of serving time.

mowdy5gs said...
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A great man by the name of Mr. Mike Myers [A.K.A. Fat Bastard] once said,.. "I eat because I'm unhappy. And I'm unhappy because I eat. It's a vicious cycle".
What better way to describe the rational behind the thought's that meditate on the word that "Most minorities commit crime so therefore we target them". Or even, "Not all Arab's are terrorist but all terrorist are Arab".
I preytell, must one actively try to be that stupid or is it quite natural? The stat's you point out elude to my points and comments panning out as it were. So therefore we move to profit. Profit in the suffering and downfall of others. That is not even touching those who are unjustly targeted, entrapped, set up or just plain profiled. I myself have been profiled and pulled over in Greeley 7 times in nine months. To bore you I will tell you twice was two day's in a row while two other times were a week a part. Four were within a Block from my home while one was in front of my home. Two were unmarked unit commanders and one happened coming from Lincoln park during the Muslim ralley held by JBS employees. Seven times in nine months. And the justification is? Mind you NO charges ever. One ticket. [the first time I was stopped] it was a seatbelt ticket [the only kind the city refuses to plea] and it was falsified. I fought it in court and the ticket then became $280.00 worth of freshly minted city revenue. Now imagine the cogency in the arguments of others claiming profiling for smoking weed? Profit does exist for dealers and cartels but it seems to me it exists on a greater scale for those who house the damned. The fact that Black's seem to be even more unevenly targeted than other minorities is not suprising. The Black mans history is more than just mistreatment it seems. 37% of blacks are represented in the prison system and they don't even make up but 12% of the country. Thats disperportionate and as a good man once said "Its not by coincidence or happenstance, it's by design". By the year 2015 there going to have at this rate 70% of blacks locked up within there community. Like warsaw, Ghetto. And for what?
Drug offence is a main culrprit written upon the the D.A.'s pad next to PLEA. Again, how does one except a court appointed attorney appointed by the court whom the D.A. works for arguing in front of a Judge who sits in judgement? The deck is always stacked and the poor are set up to fail. As you can see even in the case of Pot or it's legalization there is more at hand than simple law.

Jane Paudaux from Greeley, Colorado said...
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I wish I had a fix for the institutionalized racism and the various other forms that abound, passively and not so passively, in our society. I am helped by the knowledge that as I grow older I become more aware of my own biases and how they play out in things like language. For instance as of late I notice when friends talk about another person they often categorize for me what color the person is. I like to ask them "Why did I have to know that piece of information--it isn't related to what we were talking about. Why does it matter?" It has started good conversations and has ended a date or two early. But my point is that racism is so embedded our culture that unless we experience it first hand we don't even notice it. Personally I have tried to train my brain not to notice color at all but to just think "Human" when I see someone interesting. It has changed how I perceive the world and made me much more objective, I think, in thinking about government policy. It is a small change I know but the big problem is so big I just don't have any great ideas on how to tackle it except confront it when I see it and don't vote to perpetuate it. I taught my sons, both now in their twenties, the same approach. Time can move so slow to erase the past though. It is frustrating. I'm Irish/Danish. I have not been pulled over for any reason in about twenty years in any town I have lived in. Although some towns have had more progressive minded authorities than others.

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