Take Marijuana Out of Drug War

Jul 22, 2013

Amer­i­cans like wars: the war on poverty — we lost that one when a big­ger war came along. In 1971, while los­ing the war in Viet­nam, Pres­i­dent Nixon declared a war on drugs. The two wars got mixed together in some unpleas­ant ways. Amer­i­can sol­diers began using drugs in Viet­nam as a way of dead­en­ing the fear and loathing in fight­ing a war where civil­ians were indis­tin­guish­able from enemy sol­diers. Back home, a youth­ful rev­o­lu­tion devel­oped: a rejec­tion not just of the war and the draft that was tak­ing so many young men to death or injury but of the hum­bug that had pre­ceded it. The rev­o­lu­tion rejected apple pie, stars-and-stripes moral­ity with its under­tones of big­otry and over­tones of hypocrisy and embraced the emerg­ing mar­i­juana plant as a prin­ci­pal source of recre­ational plea­sure. The increased sol­i­dar­ity among young blacks and whites, many of whom had been part of the racial rebel­lious­ness that brought about the civil rights acts of the six­ties did not sit com­fort­ably with the older rul­ing class still, par­tic­u­larly in the South, resist­ing the civil rights move­ment. Exag­ger­ated procla­ma­tions regard­ing the dan­gers of drugs, mar­i­juana in par­tic­u­lar, which did not match youth­ful expe­ri­ence, opened the gen­er­a­tional split fur­ther. Birth con­trol pills, newly invented and now widely dis­trib­uted brought a new sense of sex­ual free­dom to Amer­i­can youth leav­ing par­ents aghast. The new youth expressed itself through rad­i­cally new musi­cal pref­er­ences, incom­pre­hen­si­ble or appalling to their par­ents. All this was accom­pa­nied by the expan­sion of mar­i­juana use. The new wave of young men wear­ing long hair as a sig­nal of alien­ation from the expec­ta­tions of the adult world was the last straw. The Estab­lish­ment struck back, a coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion against uppity youth, spot­ting mar­i­juana use as a point of spe­cial vul­ner­a­bil­ity. They had a point. Mar­i­juana is not good for you. Yes, cig­a­rettes are much more likely to kill you. Alco­hol is far worse. It can get you in all kinds of trou­ble as well as short­en­ing your life. Alco­hol and cig­a­rettes are both more addic­tive but if you have been around, you know some­one who has spent too much time in a mar­i­juana haze. That cig­a­rettes and alco­hol, which are dis­trib­uted with minor con­trols, are much worse does not make mar­i­juana healthy. Still, tens of mil­lions used it, often as a sub­sti­tute for alco­hol, largely with­out ill effect. Wide­spread mar­i­juana use was harm­ful but it also pro­vided the tem­po­rary mind-altering sense of good feel­ing, relax­ation and plea­sure that alco­hol could pro­vide, with­out equiv­a­lent dan­ger­ous side effects. Estab­lish­ment anger makes for bad pol­icy. Mar­i­juana was scooped up in the reac­tion to much more dan­ger­ous sub­stances, par­tic­u­larly heroin and other opi­ates. Dra­con­ian laws and enforce­ment poli­cies were soon send­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of mar­i­juana users to prison. Still, a major­ity of Amer­i­cans see mar­i­juana use as rel­a­tively harm­less. Half of Amer­ica is mak­ing war against the other half with dis­as­trous con­se­quences. After nearly half a cen­tury of this failed war, isn’t it time we declared the one on mar­i­juana over — won, lost or a draw? Of course we can’t just throw in the towel. Drug use is a seri­ous prob­lem. We should con­tinue to use the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem for nar­cotics, con­trolled phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and sim­i­lar sub­stances. How­ever, we need to ease mar­i­juana out of the crim­i­nal code and into med­ical mod­els of atten­tion. A peti­tion for an ini­tia­tive to “legal­ize” mar­i­juana is being cir­cu­lated in Alaska, fol­low­ing move­ments under way in other states, but the issues involved in wrap­ping up the war on drugs are broad and require thought­ful con­sid­er­a­tion. The Leg­is­la­ture should take up the issue either directly or through the estab­lish­ment of a com­mis­sion with a short turn­around. In the mean­time, lives are being ruined or dam­aged, mar­riages bro­ken, parental care destroyed, life­time cre­ative employ­ment capac­i­ties are being ruined, not so much by drugs as by the war on drugs. Con­tin­u­ing with the war on mar­i­juana now is like stay­ing in Afghanistan for another decade in the hope that we can declare vic­tory. This is the first of two columns by John Have­lock about the war on drugs. The sec­ond, which focuses on the rela­tion­ship of the drug war to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, will run Tues­day. Have­lock is a for­mer Alaska Attor­ney Gen­eral and, later, while direc­tor of Uni­ver­sity Legal Stud­ies, directed the state’s crim­i­nal code revi­sion project. Read more here: http://​www​.adn​.com/​2​0​1​3​/​0​7​/​2​1​/​2​9​8​3​4​8​2​/​j​o​h​n​-​h​a​v​e​l​o​c​k​-​p​a​r​t​-​o​n​e​-​t​a​k​e​-​m​a​r​i​j​u​a​n​a​.​h​t​m​l​#​s​t​o​r​y​l​i​n​k​=​cpy Source: Anchor­age Daily News (AK) Author: John Have­lock Pub­lished: July 21, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Anchor­age Daily News Con­tact: letters@​adn.​com

 Take Marijuana Out of Drug War

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Take Mar­i­juana Out of Drug War

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