Five and Counting

Five states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana to varying degrees. In my state’s last election cycle we legalized pot for medical purposes and this cycle we just legalized it. In spite of the law not taking effect until December 6th, King and Pierce counties, the most populated in the state, both dropped the charges against a total of 248 people already arrested and awaiting trial, and stated that they would not be prosecuting possessions under an ounce. “The people have spoken.” said both prosecutors, and they agreed. The release saved the counties hundreds of thousands of dollars in prosecution costs and saved the state upwards of a million dollars. It is depressing to me that our own city prosecutor announced that he would continue to prosecute those found in possession of quantities of an ounce or less regardless of the will of the people. This begs the question of how he plans to prosecute under federal law when he has no jurisdiction to do so and no state judge will hear a local case. However, the prosecutor indicates that manufacture or transport of the drug is still unlawful, and may intend to prosecute possession cases as trafficking cases. There is also no change to workplace drug bans as a result of the change in law, employers are still able to deny employment based on testing. Clearly, there is a long way still to go in the battle to overturn prohibition.

Canada has legitimized marijuana, and now our South American neighbors are strongly considering the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana. The reasons are simple; too many people are getting killed and too much money is being spent on laws that are unsupported by the vast majority of their citizens. The marijuana trade is responsible for the support of many of the criminal enterprises which would collapse if pot were treated the same way alcohol products are. If the United States would follow suit –or better yet, lead the way, it would be a huge revenue source and would remove a large element of organized crime in exactly the same way the repeal of prohibition did. Actually, there is a fair amount of support for federal legalization in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate. Ron Paul even called attention to it as a part of his presidential campaign platform, explaining the tremendous waste of money the War on Drugs expended on marijuana. Economically speaking, an end to the prohibition would not only save more than a billion dollars a year in enforcement costs, but produce tremendous revenues through taxation, as much as 20 billion dollars annually. More than twice that is gained through taxation of alcohol and tobacco products. It makes economic sense to legalize marijuana, but it also has medicinal benefits for the ill.

As I was suffering from peripheral neuropathy, marijuana was the only analgesic I used that had any effect at all. No, it didn’t eliminate neuropathy, but anyone who’s had to suffer from it will tell you that any reduction in the symptoms is a priceless gift. Pot is an analgesic, and it also helps to dull the bone and body pain we victims of Multiple Myeloma experience in addition to its effects on neuropathy. It is also as effective at reducing the nausea of chemotherapy; more effective for many than prochloroparazine, one of the most commonly prescribed anti-emetic and anti-nausea drugs. So when my state legalized it for medical purposes, I was thrilled.  In spite of the federal perspective on pot, I can tell you from personal experience that most of the doctors I encountered with the VA quietly suggested that I give marijuana a try to see if it helped. Perhaps I should say they strongly encouraged it, that would be more accurate. They encouraged we cancer victims because they heard from their patients who used it that pot was one of the only things that helped them. For those who suffer lung or esophageal difficulties, marijuana can be ingested as foodstuffs and teas, in addition to inhalation methods.

I’m well aware of what the opposition says about pot. (“Why do you think they call it dope?“) but my own personal experiences stand in stark contrast to the anti-marijuana claims (some so ridiculous as to be dismissed out of hand, like the depiction of pot’s effects in Reefer Madness, a government sponsored anti-drug film). As a kid with an alcoholic mother, I can say with no reservations that I wish my mom was a pothead instead of a drinker. As a kid who had friends who were abused by drunken parents, I wish that those kids had pothead parents. As an adult, I served as a Guardian ad Litem, representing children suffering from abuse and neglect, and I saw more damage done as a result of alcohol than I ever did marijuana. When drugs were involved, it was always an amphetamine derivative or heroin. Looking at the kids who suffered, I wished to God that their parents were potheads rather than what they were. Most of the negative information about pot is worse than a lie, it’s bullshit. Pardon my French.

Do I want little kids using marijuana? Of course not.I also don’t want them drinking or experimenting with any drugs. If marijuana was legalized, I suspect that some kinds would experiment with it, just as they do the contents of mom and dad’s liquor cabinet or medicine chest. They already do even with it being prohibited. Frankly, if my kids were going to experiment with one of the common substances found at home, I’d rather it pot than alcohol or prescription and non-prescription drugs. No one has ever died from too much pot. The same cannot be said for the other intoxicants we humans use.

I am celebrating the wisdom of my fellow Washingtonians. We did a good thing in the last two elections and I hope we keep it up. If for no other reason than the relief it has afforded me in my battles with cancer and the side effects of my treatments, and the relief it’s given to others similarly afflicted. But more importantly, the good that can come from it in the future whether consumed by healthy people or ill. It’s good to see reason prevail over the misinformation we’ve been fed for so long. And from the same people who believe the earth is only six thousand years old, global warming is a hoax, and that God intends women to get pregnant from being raped and so women’s bodies have ways to shut that whole pregnancy thing off. But then, it’s apparently also God’s will that some of the most influential people are certifiable nut jobs.

I figure that in two states anyway, that as people sat down to their holiday repast, they gave thanks that wisdom won out over ignorance where they live. I know that the decriminalization of marijuana is on my list of things I’m thankful for. It’s nice to see a little sensibility after all of the peculiarities and outrageousness of the seemingly endless campaigning.