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"Yes, We Cannabis!"

US Representative Ron Paul of Texas, a candidate for the 2012  Republican nomination for president, has introduced a bill calling for removing marijuana  (cannabis sativa)  from the federal list of controlled substances and eliminating all federal criminal penalties for possession and sale of the drug. (1)   Rep. Barney Frank (D, MA)  is co-sponsoring the bill.

Are Paul and Frank right?   Marijuana, unlike cocaine and heroin, does  not  cause withdrawal symptoms, although some users become psychologically dependent on it.  Long term heavy use can cause dementia and lung disease, but  occasional  use  is virtually harmless.  Unlike alcohol, "pot" does not make people  more violent, so  users are not a danger to others, unless they drive under the influence.   In summary, marijuana is closer in its toxic effects  to the legal drugs  tobacco and alcohol than to  other currently illegal drugs like  cocaine and heroin.  Moreover, it has the beneficial effect of reducing  the side-effects of  chemotherapy, and  several states have permitted  its use for medicinal purposes.

According to the US  Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), about 11.5 million Americans smoke marijuana illegally every year.  but only about  872,000 per year are arrested on marijuana charges, over 80%   for possession alone. (2)  About  41,000  Americans are in  state and federal prisons for marijuana convictions, at a total cost of more than  $1.2  billion annually.   Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also seeking the GOP presidential nomination,  admitted using pot in the 1960's, but has not yet  supported legalization.   Former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore also smoked  the "weed" as young men, but Clinton did not inhale. 

My conclusion is that this country is paying a very high price for trying unsuccessfully to ban a drug that is not very dangerous.  If I were in Congress, I would support the Paul-Frank bill.  I consider all forms of smoking dangerous and stupid, but believe that adult Americans should be permitted by law to do some pretty stupid and harmful things to themselves. 

But will this bill help Ron Paul win the Republican presidential nomination?   I would estimate that of the 11.5 million Americans who smoke marijuana, very few participate in Republican primaries or caucuses.  So, if  Rep. Paul thinks he has any chance of winning the nomination, he is already smoking something besides  Virginia Slims.

Gerald S Glazer

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(1) Reuters, June 25, 2011

(2) US Department of Justice statistics.

 

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Talkbacks

sandstorm | June 29, 2011 at 6:54 a.m. (report)

based on all the long, rambling, near-incoherent talkbacks on this matter, i'd say posting while high is already a problem.

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Duncan20903 | June 28, 2011 at 1:17 p.m. (report)

It's not like any of this is new for either Mr. Frank or Mr. Paul. I voted for Mr. Paul for POTUS in 1988 and his current political dogma matches his 1988 campaign platform. I know, a politician who's been consistent in his beliefs for at least 2 decades, go figure that one out.

Mr. Paul does not think that heroin needs to be re-legalized per se. He wouldn't have any problems with State level laws which criminalize it. He believes that it's inappropriate and unconstitutional for the Feds to be in the business of criminalizing MADs. Except for the legal fiction embraced by the SCOTUS in Wickard v Filburn, 317 US 111 (1942) he would be correct. His position is most certainly shared by a large cohort of some pretty hardcore conservatives. E.g. Justice Clarence Thomas who sits on the SCOTUS.

quoting from Justice Thomas' dissent in Gonzales v Raich, 545 US 1 (2005):

Respondent's local cultivation and consumption of marijuana is not "Commerce ... among the several States."

Certainly no evidence from the founding suggests that "commerce" included the mere possession of a good or some personal activity that did not involve trade or exchange for value. In the early days of the Republic, it would have been unthinkable that Congress could prohibit the local cultivation, possession, and consumption of marijuana.
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and:

"If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress' Article I powers -- as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause -- have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to "appropriate state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce."
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and:

If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madisons assurance to the people of New York that the powers delegated to the Federal Government are few and defined, while those of the States are numerous and indefinite.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZD1.html

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solitarius | June 27, 2011 at 6:45 p.m. (report)

I certianly agree with Mrs Glazer and Paul on this and have for over 40 years. However, Mr Paul favors this because he is a libertarian and all libertarians do not want the government controlling their personal behavior. They also favor legalzation of sex acts for consenting adults, e.g, prostituton.
Interetingly and contrary to Mr Glazer's assumption that this is not a Rpublican issue, the staunch Republican, William F.Buckley, Jr. was for legalization of marajuana decades ago.

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Christian1976 | June 27, 2011 at 12:26 p.m. (report)

Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family members home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. Its time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.
Next step: How about $100 for a permit to grow a dozen plants? We can use the money to fix our roads, and it will put the drug gangs out of business for good!

Email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom-loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! Youre doing a great service for all of America!

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jakkalope | June 27, 2011 at 9:28 a.m. (report)

35403 This country is very hypocritical. Of course marijuana should be legalized. Alcohol is by far a more deadly and dangerous drug. We tend to forget that alcohol IS a drug but because we see commercials on tv and ads on every billboard, we tend to think of alcohol as water.

If every state is in debt then tax the drug and sell it in specialized shops. I believe crime would decrease and the overall demeanor of people would increase (hopefully). Trying to convince these idiots we call politicians is a different story. Big part of the problem is the average politician is 100 years old so trying to change their minds on a stance is quite difficult, unless of course there is a little kickback for them.

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