Over 100 million Americans have tried and used marijuana including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Clarence Thomas, Al and Tipper Gore, Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sarah Palin, Howard Dean, George Pataki, and Michael Bloomberg. You could probably add to that list most rock musicians, Hollywood celebrities, many high school and college students, a majority of baby boomers like myself, and quite a few police officers and judges who now enforce laws against marijuana.
A recent Rasmussen poll revealed that 43% of Americans say that marijuana should be legalized, and 65% predict it will be legal in ten years. Gallop polls show that support for marijuana legalization has grown from 25% in 1995 to 46% in 2010. And last month Californians almost voted to legalize of marijuana use by adults in the Golden State.
California Proposition 19 failed by a 46 to 54 margin but the measure won the support of a greater percentage of voters than any previous state marijuana legalization referendum, received more votes than Meg Whitman’s $160 million campaign for Governor, and had union, civil rights, and law enforcement support. The measure might have easily won if greater financial backing had been found, more young adults had bothered to vote, and certain provisions were drafted differently.
Significantly, just before Election Day, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took the wind out of Prop 19’s sails by enacting a state law that makes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana an “infraction” — like a parking ticket — rather than a “misdemeanor.” This is similar to New York law which makes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana punishable by up to a $100 fine for the first offense.
So at least in progressive states like New York and California, marijuana possession penalties have been reduced. Decriminalization is good but legalization – which would also address production and sales — would be better.
Popular culture accepts marijuana and most people who have tried it will say privately that the prohibition against “weed,” “cannabis,” or “pot” is unjust, unwarranted, or downright silly. Yet, in 2009, 850,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges and 88% of those just for possession. Our treatment of marijuana doesn’t make sense but fortunately change is on the horizon.
Less Dangerous than Alcohol and Tobacco
For years our government has been wasting billions of tax dollars on a bizarre propaganda scare campaign
against marijuana, an enjoyable and relatively harmless drug. While smoking marijuana, like cigarettes, is not good for your lungs, an objective evaluation of the adverse health impacts of marijuana shows that pot is substantially less harmful than alcohol and tobacco – legal drugs many people enjoy whose dangers are well-established, substantial, and undeniable.
Alcohol is associated with alcoholism, drunk driving, and violent behavior. And cigarette smoking is causes deadly diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and stroke. While no deaths are attributed to marijuana use, alcohol consumption results in 80,000 deaths annually and tobacco smoking 440,000.
Excerpts for credit to Walter Simpson of whylegalizemarijuana.com