Efforts To Relax Pot Rules Gaining Momentum in US

Jun 10, 2012

Catharine Leach is mar­ried and has two boys, age 2 and 8. She has a good job with a fed­eral con­trac­tor and smokes pot most every day. While she wor­ries that her pub­lic sup­port for mar­i­juana decrim­i­nal­iza­tion and legal­iza­tion could cost her a job or bring the police to her door, the 30-year-old War­wick res­i­dent said she was tired of feel­ing like a crim­i­nal for using a drug that she said is far less harm­ful than the glass or wine or can of beer enjoyed by so many oth­ers after a long day’s work. Like oth­ers around the nation work­ing to relax penal­ties for pos­ses­sion of pot, she decided to stop hid­ing and speak out. “I’m done being afraid,” she said. “Peo­ple in this coun­try are finally com­ing around and see­ing that putting some­one in jail for this doesn’t make sense. It’s just a chang­ing of the time.” Once con­signed to the polit­i­cal fringe, mar­i­juana pol­icy is appear­ing on leg­isla­tive agen­das around the coun­try thanks to an ener­gized base of sup­port­ers and an increas­ingly open-minded pub­lic. Law­mak­ers from Rhode Island to Col­orado are mulling med­ical mar­i­juana pro­grams, pot dis­pen­saries, decrim­i­nal­iza­tion and even legal­iza­tion. Sev­en­teen states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia now autho­rize med­ical mar­i­juana and 14, includ­ing neigh­bor­ing Con­necti­cut and Mass­a­chu­setts, have rolled back crim­i­nal penal­ties for pos­ses­sion of small amounts of pot. Rhode Island is poised to become the 15th state to decrim­i­nal­ize mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion. The state’s Gen­eral Assem­bly passed leg­is­la­tion last week that would elim­i­nate the threat of big fines or even jail time for the pos­ses­sion of an ounce or less of pot. Instead, adults caught with small amounts of mar­i­juana would face a $150 civil fine. Police would con­fis­cate the mar­i­juana, but the inci­dent would not appear on a person’s crim­i­nal record. Minors caught with pot would also have to com­plete a drug aware­ness pro­gram and com­mu­nity ser­vice. Gov. Lin­coln Chafee has said he is inclined to sign the leg­is­la­tion. One of the bill’s spon­sors, state Rep. John Edwards of Tiver­ton, has intro­duced sim­i­lar pro­pos­als in past years but the idea always sput­tered in com­mit­tee. Each year, though, he got more co-sponsors, and the bill passed the House this year 50–24. The state Sen­ate passed it 28–6. Some sup­port­ers of decrim­i­nal­iza­tion say they’d like to go even fur­ther. “America’s 50-year war on drugs has been an abysmal fail­ure,” said Rep. John Sav­age, a retired school prin­ci­pal from East Prov­i­dence. “Mar­i­juana in this coun­try should be legal­ized. It should be sold and taxed.” Oppo­nents warned of dire con­se­quences to the new pol­icy. “What kind of mes­sage are we send­ing to our youth? We are more wor­ried about soda — for health rea­sons — than we are about mar­i­juana,” said one oppo­nent, Rhode Island state Rep. John Carnevale a Demo­c­rat from Prov­i­dence. A sur­vey by Ras­mussen last month found that 56 per­cent of respon­dents favored legal­iz­ing and reg­u­lat­ing mar­i­juana. A national Gallup poll last year showed sup­port for legal­iz­ing pot had reached 50 per­cent, up from 46 per­cent in 2010 and 25 per­cent in the mid-’90s. Med­ical mar­i­juana helped bring mar­i­juana pol­icy into the main­stream back in 1996, when Cal­i­for­nia became the first state to autho­rize the use of cannabis for med­i­c­i­nal use. Other states fol­lowed suit. “It’s now polit­i­cally viable to talk about these things,” said Robert Capec­chi, leg­isla­tive ana­lyst with the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project, a Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based group that sup­ports the reduc­tion or elim­i­na­tion of penal­ties for med­ical and recre­ational pot use. “The pub­lic under­stands that there are sub­stances that are far more harm­ful — alco­hol, tobacco — that we reg­u­late. Peo­ple are real­iz­ing just how much money is being wasted on pro­hi­bi­tion.” Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton state will hold fall ref­er­en­dums on legal­iz­ing mar­i­juana. A bal­lot ques­tion on legal­iza­tion failed in Cal­i­for­nia in 2010. This month, Connecticut’s gov­er­nor signed leg­is­la­tion to allow med­ical mar­i­juana there. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pro­posed cut­ting the penalty for pub­lic pos­ses­sion of small amounts of pot. Lib­eral state poli­cies on mar­i­juana have run into con­flict with fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tion. Fed­eral author­i­ties have shut down more than 40 dis­pen­saries this year in Col­orado, even though they com­plied with state and local law. In Rhode Island, Gov. Lin­coln Chafee blocked three dis­pen­saries from open­ing last year after the state’s top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor warned they could be pros­e­cuted. Chafee and law­mak­ers then rewrote the dis­pen­sary law to restrict the amount of mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries may have on hand. Robert DuPont, who served as the nation’s drug czar under pres­i­dents Richard Nixon and Ger­ald Ford, said Amer­i­cans should be wary of a slip­pery slope to legal­iza­tion. While mar­i­juana may not cause the life-threatening prob­lems asso­ci­ated with heroin, cocaine or metham­phet­a­mine, it’s far from harm­less. “It is a major drug of abuse,” he said. “Peo­ple ask me what the most dan­ger­ous drug is, and I say mar­i­juana. Other drugs have seri­ous con­se­quences that are easy to rec­og­nize. Mar­i­juana saps people’s moti­va­tion, their direc­tion. It’s a drug that makes peo­ple stu­pid and lazy. That’s in a way more dan­ger­ous.” Source: Asso­ci­ated Press (Wire) Pub­lished: June 10, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 The Asso­ci­ated Press

25eb428897TITLE2.gif 150x112 Efforts To Relax Pot Rules Gaining Momentum in US

Go here to see the orig­i­nal:
Efforts To Relax Pot Rules Gain­ing Momen­tum in US

Related Posts

Leave a Comment