The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-WA) Wednesday launched a multimedia public education campaign designed to stimulate a national conversation on state and federal marijuana laws, their history, and their efficacy. The campaign, "Marijuana: It's Time for a Conversation," includes an in-depth web site, an informational booklet, and a 30-minute video on DVD with travel writer and public television host Rick Steves. Additionally, the material will be available to Comcast subscribers through that company's On Demand service.
"We spend billions every year and arrest hundreds of thousands of Americans simply for possessing marijuana. We need to ask whether our laws are really working. Are they doing more harm than good?" said Washington ACLU executive director Kathleen Taylor in a statement announcing the campaign.
Each year, roughly $7.5 billion is spent on marijuana law enforcement, and more than 800,000 Americans are arrested on marijuana charges, close to 90% of them for simple possession, the statement noted. Meanwhile, nearly 100 million Americans have used the popular plant.
"Enforcement clogs our courts and criminal justice system, diverting resources from more serious crimes against people and property," said Taylor. "At the same time, an arrest for just possessing marijuana has a life-changing impact on people. We heard of people losing jobs and financial aid for college, and of patients fearing that they may be unable to get medical marijuana even when their doctors recommend it."
"As a parent of two teens I care deeply about this issue," noted Steves. "I have seen how Europe has approached drug use as a public health issue instead of building more jails. I find it interesting that marijuana use in Europe among both teens and adults is actually less than it is here."
"We think this is one of those times and issues where the public knows things aren't working, people have talked about it privately, but there is little or no public discussion," said Taylor. "We intend to engage the public in a discussion. We're excited to see where it goes."
So... anybody want to start a conversation? The Washington ACLU is waiting to hear from you.