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Feature: Marijuana Reform Approaches the Tipping Point

Sometime in the last few months, the notion of legalizing marijuana crossed an invisible threshold. Long relegated to the margins of political discourse by the conventional wisdom, pot freedom has this year gone mainstream.
Is reason dawning for marijuana policy?
The potential flu pandemic and President Obama's 100th day in office may have knocked marijuana off the front pages this week, but so far this year, the issue has exploded in the mass media, impelled by the twin forces of economic crisis and Mexican violence fueled by drug prohibition. A Google news search for the phrase "legalize marijuana" turned up more than 1,100 hits -- and that's just for the month of April.

It has been helped along by everything from the Michael Phelps non-scandal to the domination of marijuana legalization questions in the questions, which prompted President Obama to laugh off the very notion, to the economy, to the debate over the drug war in Mexico. But it has also been ineffably helped along by the lifting of the oppressive burden of Bush administration drug war dogma. There is a new freedom in the air when it comes to marijuana.

Newspaper columnists and editorial page writers from across the land have taken up the cause with gusto, as have letter writers and bloggers. Last week, even a US senator got into the act, when Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) told CNN that marijuana legalization is "on the table."

But despite the seeming explosion of interest in marijuana legalization, the actual fact of legalization seems as distant as ever, a distant vision obscured behind a wall of bureaucracy, vested interests, and craven politicians. Drug War Chronicle spoke with some movement movers and shakers to find out just what's going on... and what's not.

"There is clearly more interest and serious discussion of whether marijuana prohibition makes any sense than I've seen at any point in my adult lifetime," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It's not just the usual suspects; it's people like Jack Cafferty on CNN and Senator Jim Webb, as well as editorial pages and columnists across the country."

Mirken cited a number of factors for the sudden rise to prominence of the marijuana issue. "I think it's a combination of things: Michael Phelps, the horrible situation on the Mexican border, the state of the economy and the realization that there is a very large industry out there that provides marijuana to millions of consumers completely outside the legal economy that is untaxed and unregulated," he said. "All of these factors have come together in a way that makes it much easier for people to connect the dots."

"Things started going white hot in the second week of January," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "We had the fallout from the Michael Phelps incident, the marijuana question to Obama and his chuckling response, we have the Mexico violence, we have the economic issues," he counted. "All of these things have helped galvanize a certain zeitgeist that is palpable and that almost everyone can appreciate."

"The politicians are still very slow on picking up on the desires of citizens no matter how high the polling numbers go, especially on decriminalization and medical marijuana," said St. Pierre. "The polling numbers are over 70% for those, and support for legalization nationwide is now at about 42%, depending on which data set you use. Everything seems to be breaking for reform in these past few weeks, and I expect those numbers to only go up."

"It feels like we're reaching the tipping point," said Amber Langston, eastern region outreach director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "I've been feeling that for a couple of months now. The Michael Phelps incident sent a clear message that you can be successful and still have used marijuana. He's still a hero to lots of people," she said.

"I think we're getting close now," said Langston. "We have moved the conversation to the next level, where people are actually taking this seriously and we're not just having another fear-based discussion."

"There is definitely momentum building around marijuana issues," said Denver-based Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation), which has built a successful strategy around comparing alcohol and marijuana. "Yet we still find ourselves in a situation where change is not happening. Up until now, people have made arguments around criminal justice savings, other economic benefits, ending the black market -- those things have got us to where we are today, but they haven't been enough to get elected officials to act," he argued.

"The problem is that there are still far too many people who see marijuana as so harmful it shouldn't be legalized," Tvert continued. "That suggests we need to be doing more to address the relative safety of marijuana, especially compared to drugs like alcohol. The good arguments above will then carry more weight. Just as a concerned parent doesn't want to reap the tax benefits of legal heroin, it's the same with marijuana. The mantra is why provide another vice. What we're saying is that we're providing an alternative for the millions who would prefer to use marijuana instead of alcohol."

With the accumulation of arguments for legalization growing ever weightier, the edifice of marijuana prohibition seems increasingly shaky. "Marijuana prohibition has become like the Soviet Empire circa 1987 or 1988," Mirken analogized. "It's an empty shell of a policy that continues only because it is perceived as being huge and formidable, but when the perception changes, the whole thing is going to collapse."

Still, translating the zeitgeist into real change remains a formidable task, said Mirken. "It is going to take hard work. All of us need to keep finding ways to keep these discussions going in the media, we need to work with open-minded legislators to get bills introduced where there can be hearings to air the facts and where we can refute the nonsense that comes from our opponents. Keeping the debate front and center is essential," he said.

Mirken is waiting for the other shoe to drop. "We have to be prepared for an empire strikes back moment," he said. "I predict that within the next year, there will be a concerted effort to scare the daylights out of people about marijuana."

Activists need to keep hammering away at both the federal government and state and local governments, Mirken said. "We are talking to members of Congress and seeing what might be doable. Even if nothing passes immediately, introducing a bill can move the discussion forward, but realistically, things are more likely to happen at the state and local level," he said, citing the legalization bill in California and hinting that MPP would try legalization in Nevada again.

Part of the problem of the mismatch between popular fervor and actual progress on reform is partisan positioning, said St. Pierre. "Even politicians who may be personally supportive and can appreciate what they see going on around them as this goes mainstream do not want to hand conservative Republicans a triangulation issue. The Democrats are begging for a certain degree of political maturity from the reform movement," he said. "They're dealing with two wars, tough economic times, trying to do health care reform. They don't want to raise cannabis to a level where it becomes contentious for Obama."

The window of opportunity for presidential action is four years down the road, St. Pierre suggested. "If Obama doesn't do anything next year, they will then be in reelection mode and unlikely to act," he mused. "I think our real shot comes after he is reelected. Then we have two years before he becomes a lame duck."

But we don't have to wait for Obama, said St. Pierre. "We expect Barney Frank and Ron Paul to reintroduce decriminalization and medical marijuana bills," he said. "I don't think they will pass this year, but we might get hearings, although I don't think that's likely until the fall."

It's not just that politicians need to understand that supporting marijuana legalization will not hurt them -- they need to understand that standing its way will. "The politicians aren't feeling the pain of being opposed to remain," St. Pierre said. "We have to take out one of those last remaining drug war zealots."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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I'm not kissing anyone's

I'm not kissing anyone's butt and I'm not telling anyone to wait. I was just telling you to be realistic. Yeah, we've had some polls come out showing greater than 40% support for legalization. The majority are still against it though. A strong majority are for legal medical marijuana but it's only legal in a few states and not under federal law.

What is you want people to do? How are we supposed to get marijuana legalized within a couple of years when the majority are against and the government is strongly against it? Do you think telling them marijuana legalization is more popular than them is going to change their minds? They don't give a crap about that. They care about getting reelected.

Quit your damned whining. People are doing the best they can. We're seeing a lot of positive changes that most of us are excited about. Nothing's good enough for you though. You want miracles, and if you don't get your miracles we're not going to hear the end of it. Fine. I'm ignoring your whiney ass.

Majority against it?

The poll quoted says that 46% are opposed, as well as the 46% for the legalization. I know a heck of a lot of "old people" who are closet smokers. I would say that the poll shows that the majority is NOT against it, if you include the "don't now" on the support side. There is presently, according the the poll mentioned, NO MAJORITY on either side of the issue! What I see is now a deadlock,destined to soon change us, supporters to the majority of the voters!

Which poll was that? The

Which poll was that? The only poll I know of with 46% for legalization had 52% against it. All national polls so far have had more people against it than for it, and those where there is a demographics breakdown show that the biggest part of the support is from younger voters. There have been no national polls yet where a majority supported marijuana legalization.

You are too confused

First you start stalking me and harassing me for my advocacy of public protest tactics that I firmly believe will take advantage of and increase the momentum that reform has.

Now you ask what I want to do as if that has never been the starting point of this argument.

You are confused. You have no idea what I are talking about yet you attack and criticize me incessantly.

Thanks for proving what I have been saying, that you do not even read my posts you simplistically react to phrases and the occasional sentence but you really know NOTHING about what I advocate.

I think your only real objective is to pick fights with the people on these forums who appear to be trying hard to promote and escalation of reform. You just want to distract reformers from their advocacy. Make reformers less effective.

Leave me alone! I'll waste no more time on your provocations and distractions.

Sorry it seemed that way. I

Sorry it seemed that way. I never said anything about public protests though. I think you had arguments going with more than one person posting anonymously. Maybe that was part of the reason it seemed like we kept misreading one another.

I don't want to fight with you. I won't post to you again. I think mainly you just misunderstood what I was trying to say originally and we ended up going back and forth and back and forth. It makes a little more sense to me now that I know you thought I was the guy who said something about public protests you were involved in. Maybe that's why you thought I was suggesting people do nothing. If I'm going to keep posting here I'll pick a screen name so that doesn't happen again. Maybe if I had a screen name this time we could have resolved our little issue a long time ago. Really the main difference of opinion had to do with when marijuana was likely to be legalized and whether the reform organizations are doingh the things they need to be doing. Whatever. I'm sorry we wasted so much time and fought over nothing. Have a good day.

You are wrong

This month a Washington Post ABC News poll reported:

In general, do you favor or oppose legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use?

Favor 46
Oppose 52
No opinion 2 (margin +/-3%)

A Rassmusen poll earlier this year
"40% say it should be, while 46% disagree. Fourteen percent (14%) are not sure which course is better." (margin +/-3%)

In the more recent poll the 52% opposed is weak with 2% no opinion and a 3% margin. The 14% undecided added to the 3% margin in the Rasmussen poll makes the difference of 40% for to 46 opposed trivial.

But the important point is that it is people and their political actions that help convince other people to decide and/or change their opinions. You don't sit and wait for opinion to swing around to your favor. That is stupid.

Public opinion is swinging to reform this year BECAUSE of all of the negative action from Obama combined with the increased war on the border. The momentum is increasing and that is something that advocates should take advantage of and nurture.

Public opinion is escalating against the war as the war escalates on all of its fronts. Mexico, Afghanistan and soon the streets of America. You want to sit on your thumb. I want to be out in the streets encouraging more people to express their opposition.

Its the squeaky wheel that gets the grease in American politics. NORML saw this when Obama sneered at reform. donations to them went through the roof afterward.

You do not know what you are talking about and perspectives like yours are going to cost reform a major opportunity to springboard the issue forward.

For the record. I am not talking about marijuana reform. I oppose the war on drugs. You ignore most of what I write because of your myopic pot only perspective. You cast yourself as being as much an enemy of mine as any drug warrior is.

I'm not sitting on my thumb.

I'm not sitting on my thumb. I'm not waiting for anything, nor am I suggesting anyone wait. I was just telling you not to get your panties in a wad if it isn't legalized in a couple of years. Be patient. It's going to take a while. That doesn't mean people aren't going to be working hard to change things. All I was saying is that realistically marijuana isn't going to be legalized in the next couple of years. You're the one not paying attention to what is being written here. Where have I ever said that people should wait, that they should do nothing? I haven't said that, not once.

And the reason I'm talking about marijuana is because that is what this thread is about. It's also the only currently illegal drug that has any chance of being legalized in the next few years. Drugs like meth may never be legalized. But that's a whole other topic.

medical thought?

What if one was bleeding to death in an ER from a major trauma? would you want to get all the x-rays done and permits signed before initiating treatment? Procrastination could be fatal! What if you substitute cancer for pot legalization? Would you want to wait to treat the cancer? Would you consult ten cancer specialists, to find the majority, before making a decision, taking months to do so? Or, would you go after the problem, head on, when the diagnosis was certain. It would make a difference in one's survival, so far as what decision one should make on one's road to treatment and cure. Should the doctors sit on their thumbs? That is what the present state of affairs is. It is a cancer eating at the fabric of our society. It is destroying, college kids' lives, all the while claiming to "protect the children". We should be actively educating the "I don't knows" until we are well over 50%! Waiting for a change in the polls, "for a couple of years" is not an option. Although I, sometimes, perceive aahpat as a "wild" radical I cannot disagree on this thought!

What is prohibition really doing "for the children"?

Kids get drugs at school just as easy as prisoners get them in prisons! The entire system has failed to protect the children at all! If you expect to decrease the availability of drugs to kids, you are going to have to change the present system. Right now, we have kids getting drugs, at an age where they have no sense of responsibility. I feel it is all because the kids are being victimized by a prohibition system that encourages drug dealers, who don't card, to sell to any age kid they want. Legalization and regulation would likely have a much larger positive effect on preventing childhood drug use, than the present system Look at alcohol and cigarettes. They have been decreased in availability to children because of regulation. Continue the drug prohibition and the dealers' reign and we have more kids exposed to the drugs every day! Prohibitionists are, indirectly, supporting the dealers and the drug sales to their own kids! I guess they don't' think too much of what they are really doing "for the children".

Damn Straight!

And every day that the reform movement does not do its utmost to change this policy is another day that children are exposed to more drugs and crime. Today. In real time. Not in a few years. Not when a majority agree. Today.

I have an index card that I hand out to people with the following argument on it.

In the War on Drugs: Addict dealers and gangsters don’t ‘just say no' when children come seeking drugs.

Children too often don’t ‘just say no’ when addict dealers and gangsters entice them into drug use.

Legalized and regulated drug distribution would put responsible adult supervision in control of drug sales. Responsible licensed adults who, unlike the addict dealers and gangsters of prohibition, would “just say no” when curious children seek to buy.

Who is suggesting procrastination?

I must not have communicated my point very well to begin with. I wasn't saying we should wait for anything. We should be going full steam ahead. All I was trying to say is that people shouldn't get discouraged if it doesn't happen within a couple years.

Some people were getting upset about Allen St. Pierre saying "the window of opportunity for presidential action is four years down the road..." Some people took that to mean that NORML wouldn't do anything until then. I don't think that's what he meant at all. I think what he was saying is that Obama isn't likely to do anything until after he is reelected (if he gets reelected) St. Pierre said, "I think our real shot comes after he is reelected. Then we have two years before he becomes a lame duck." He's not saying NORML should wait several years before they do anything. He's looking at the situation and trying to guess when Obama will do something if he does anything. I don't know if Obama will ever come out for legalization. From what he has said I kind of doubt he will. It doesn't really matter that much though because it won't happen until the legislature votes for it, and then we just have to hope we have a president in power who won't veto the legislation.

I think what are reform organization are saying is that we have to work harder than ever now. I agree with that. I think we should be supporting these organizations now more than ever. What I was trying to say is that people should get upset if it doesn't happen in a the next couple of years. They shouldn't get upset with these organizations for talking about how it may be a few years before we can get it done, because they're right. They aren't saying we should wait for anything. They're saying we need to work harder than ever.

We've been trying to get marijuana legalized for decades now. It's looking more and more like it's really going to happen in the not too distant future. It should only take a few years for us to get the majority behind us. Maybe it will happen quicker than that. That would be great. I hate to be too optimistic with predictions like that though because then you just set yourself up for disappointment. I do think that realistically marijuana legalization is several years down the line, but that doesn't mean we should wait around and do nothing until conditions are better for legalization. The harder we work now the quicker it will get done. I think our reform organizations are thinking along those same lines.

I hope I've cleared things up. I'm not here to fight. The whole purpose in posting on this thread was to say be patient, don't get discouraged if it doesn't happen in the next couple of years. We're going to get this thing done. Somehow that has come across to at least two of you that I'm trying to tell people to sit around on their butts and do nothing for a few years. That's not what I meant at all and I'm sorry if I didn't properly communicate what I really meant to say.

Not sure about this argument...

"The problem is that there are still far too many people who see marijuana as so harmful it shouldn't be legalized," Tvert continued. "That suggests we need to be doing more to address the relative safety of marijuana, especially compared to drugs like alcohol. The good arguments above will then carry more weight. Just as a concerned parent doesn't want to reap the tax benefits of legal heroin, it's the same with marijuana. The mantra is why provide another vice. What we're saying is that we're providing an alternative for the millions who would prefer to use marijuana instead of alcohol."

God bless Mason Tvert for all of his hard work, but I don't know if this is one of his best arguments. If we say we want to provide an alternative for the millions who prefer to use marijuana instead of alcohol, we're saying that marijuana use will go way up if we legalize it, that millions more will smoke it. That's one of the things that scares marijuana legalization opponents the most, and personally, I doubt marijuana use will just go through the roof when we legalize it. My bet is that most people who want to smoke it already smoke it. We'll see some increase in use, but it won't be that dramatic. More than half of all adults born in the second half of the 20th Century have already tried marijuana, adults under sixty. We couldn't possibly even double the percentage that try it. The percentage who try it will go up some, but not that much, and it's not really likely that we'll see a great increase in the number of people who continue to do it after they try it. Look at the numbers around the world. Look at the Netherlands. A smaller percentage of the Dutch smoke marijuana than Americans and it's legal for all intents and purposes there. There is no country with a substantially larger percentage of its population than ours smoking marijuana. It's just not for everyone. A lot of people try it and most smoke it a few times or maybe even for a few years, but most end up leaving it alone, even in a place like the Netherlands where it is practically legal (and has been since 1976).

I can't believe there are that many people here just waiting for it to finally become legal so they can smoke it. Most who want to smoke it are already smoking it and when we legalize it we aren't going to see that big of an increase in use. I agree 100% that it is safer than alcohol, and that it would be good if a lot of problem drinkers switched to marijuana. I also know though from the statistics and personal experience that most who smoke marijuana also drink alcohol. The other side knows this too and they always seem to bring that fact up when we talk about marijuana as an alternative to alcohol. They poke holes in the "safer alternative" argument and then accuse you of encouraging people to smoke marijuana. And of course they always say we shouldn't legalize marijuana because then we'll have all these people driving while high and doing all these other "terrible" things. I like to be able to come back and say that most everyone who wants to smoke it is already smoking it. All the things they are worried about all already happening, if they are going to happen.

People should only make arguments they believe. If you think marijuana use will go way up when it is legalized, maybe you should incorporate that belief in your arguments somehow. Just please consider that a massive increase in use is one of the things that scares the other side the most, and maybe reconsider this belief that you have. If you believe this then really you have to believe that marijuana prohibition is, well, working. It's really keeping a lot of people from smoking weed. I don't believe that for second. There is no evidence of it. In fact the evidence points to the conclusion that the laws have very little impact on the percentage of people who will smoke marijuana. Most people who want to smoke it are already smoking it.

After Re-election?

What's the matter? Do you really enjoy being lied to and made fun of? When the President diss'd the same people that got him elected, he lost my vote. I won't give it to him in 2012. He seems to think, as you do, that Presidents serve an 8-year term. BS! They serve a 4-year term, according to my Constitution. And, if they're acceptable and haven't thrown mud in my face, they might expect another 4 years. Yet, at this point, he's lost my support. He's another "it's ok for me to do it but it's NOT ok for you to do it" type. The "King" got himself a new pair of comfy shoes and he thinks it's an entire wardrobe. NOT! The Emperor Wears No Clothes!

Re"not sure of this argument" and Mason Tvert/SAFER

I think I see Mason's argument differently, he's saying we have to and should be able to make people more comfortable with cannabis by pointing out, with his trademark focus, that cannabis is a safer alternative to alcohol. That seems like an unassailable argument. In a rational world wouldn't judges be telling serious alcohol abusers who've violated the rights of others that they are not allowed to use alcohol, but they can use cannabis? Instead, people on probation or parole, even if they are under an alcohol restriction, are tested more effectively for weed than for alcohol, because alcohol leaves the system so much more quickly.

Mason says "the mantra is why provide another vice". That line of prohibitionists would be somewhat harder to counter if cannabis was as dangerous as alcohol. Since alcohol is far more deadly and dangerous to health of users and victims than cannabis, the direct answer to their mantra is: because we need a safer alternative to alcohol. Not for the large majority who use alcohol responsibly but for those who just can't handle alcohol.You have to be a bloody fool to prefer that a pregnant woman or mean drunk or potential child molester use alcohol instead of cannabis. People want to call cannabis a vice, I might not bother to argue with them, but instead point out that there's a big different between a vice and a killer vice, which alcohol not uncommonly is. Kills and maims the body, and the spirit.
No one is predicting an increase in cannabis use under legalization but there is no need to shy away from the possibility either. Alcohol and cannabis are in competition and if some people switch towards cannabis from alcohol after legalization that is a public health positive, and nothing to be defensive about. There's a lot of people taking exorbitantly priced products of big pharma with nasty side effects and if some of them switch to cannabis based pain relief, that's also a good thing

"You have to be a bloody

"You have to be a bloody fool to prefer that a pregnant woman or mean drunk or potential child molester use alcohol instead of cannabis."

So are you suggesting that pregnant women should smoke pot? That's an argument sure to win popular appeal.

I know some people switch from drinking to smoking pot and it's a good thing for them. Most just do both though.

I just don't see the argument of marijuana as an alternative to alcohol ever being one that wins us a lot of support from the general public. It's one of those arguments that will appeal mostly only to pot smokers. It will scare a lot of people that don't smoke pot and the alcohol industry won't like it all either.

no, I'm not suggesting pregnant women smoke pot, not at all

I'm suggesting that the law shouldn't be doing it's damnedest to force a woman to use alcohol to get high, if she prefers using cannabis to get high. The law is doing it's damnedest to force such a woman to use alcohol and that's insane, the effects of cannabis on fetuses, if any, are very minimal compared to alcohol. I don't know if any research has been done on the subject.
The same argument applies to mean and reckless drunks, I guess it will sound weird to you, but if they insist on violating the rights of others when drunk, they should be ordered to abstain from alcohol and only use weed if they want to get high.

When I lived in a bad part of town, both my neighbors liked alcohol and pot. They were MUCH better behaved when weed was available/affordable. One of them was a severe child abuser when he was drunk.

"I just don't see the argument of marijuana as an alternative to alcohol ever being one that wins us a lot of support from the general public. It's one of those arguments that will appeal mostly only to pot smokers." But SAFER's 2008 Colorado legalization referendum, in a first attempt, working on a shoestring budget, got 41% support with a 'safer alternative for enjoyable recreation' focused campaign. Seems to me it should appeal to people who look at things thru a public health lens, or have seen alcohol cause deaths and maimings, or who knows the role alcohol plays in child molestation, domestic violence, brawling etc, etc. Part of the campaign for legalization is to raise awareness that cannabis compares very favorably with alcohol in keeping the community safe. I'm not trying to minimize the other arguments for legalization at all, I make them constantly. This isn't about promoting cannabis as it is about persuading people it is much safer than alcohol, and we have the facts to back up that claim.
You may be minimizing public awareness of how much grief alcohol causes, and their willingness to consider whether re-legalization of cannabis can prevent some of that. I don't think we can or need to shy away from the fact that legalization will be making cannabis an accepted alternative to alcohol. That's the whole point. No more third or second class citizenship for cannabis users when alcohol is so much more of a problem child.

You make some valid points.

You make some valid points. I'm more inclined to the Colorado initiative got so many votes despite the "safer alternative" argument rather than because of it, but that's just me.

I know that some people will switch to marijuana from alcohol and even from drugs like meth, etc. They'll switch, or they'll just fall back to using marijuana only. It is better that a meth addict or a problem drinker smoke pot instead. I know we have at least a couple of probation and parole officers in my area who don't care about pot. I was just talking to someone the other day on parole for meth charges and he told me his parole officer could care less about him smoking pot. He's fine as long as he leaves the powder drugs alone. His parole officer didn't mince words about that at all.

I think there is a lot of validity to the safer alternative argument. I just know it's not one likely to appeal to the masses. Addiction specialists have a heyday with it. They want you to quit everything. They say you are just substituting one bad habit for another and continuing in a destructive addict lifestyle. A lot of people who aren't addiction specialists believe that as well, and a lot know that it is a fact that most people who use marijuana use it not as a substitute for alcohol. They use it in addition to alcohol.

Again though I do think there is some validity to his argument. I just don't see it as an argument that will win us much support, and I think that it's risky in that people who make it are often going to sound like they are encouraging marijuana use and they are arguing that marijuana use will go way up because they are saying millions and millions of drinkers are going to switch to marijuana instead. The rebuttal then is that very few of these new millions of pot smokers will actually switch. They'll just smoke pot in addition to drinking. They'll say that since keeping it illegal is stopping all these millions of people from smoking pot then our laws really are working so we need to keep them in place. I just see it as a very problematic argument, but you are welcome to make it if you want to. I'll steer clear of it.

Re "you make some..." - thanks for the polite responses

to my posts, and constructive airing of differences of opinion. Quite a contrast to the way one guy around here approaches differences of opinion among reformers.
Everyone's got to stick to the arguments they really believe in so that they can argue forcefully and passionately.

Well, there is no sense

Well, there is no sense getting all worked up over minor differences of opinion. We're working together toward a common goal. We all agree that marijuana prohibtion does more harm than good and we need to be out there convincing as many people as possible of this fact rather than fighting amongst ourselves. And you are right about arguments. If you don't believe what you are arguing then no one else will believe it.


Seems to me this whole issue of cannabis/drug re-legalization could be resolved almost immediately by simply reading the Constitution of the United States of America.

I get a resounding silence

when I ask drug warriors to justify their position versus the following guarantees:

" order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.."

The drug war certainly does NOT establish justice.

The drug war does anything but insure domestic tranquility.

The drug war support our enemies to the detriment of our common defense.

The war on drugs significantly harms the general welfare.

And what the drug war does to the rule of law that secures the blessing of liberty is nothing short of rape.

More "promoting the general welfare".... Less dictates!

Unfortunately, the purveyors of gods & gov'ts, with their 'ends justifies the means mentality' recognise that to 'promote the general welfare' is to take the long road to their vision of reform and utopia!

'Promoting the general welfare' is legal. Proclaiming, mandating, and dictating the general welfare is illegal!

Freedom & Liberty have taken a back seat to Faith & Security

Our friends, left and right, have been fooled again by the evil authoritarians... that have taken it upon themselves to license our liberties with unlawful legislations.

A Voting Block is key to change

It doesn't appear to me positive "drug law" change is as close to a tipping point as it was around 35 years ago. Lots of things should be done to push for change and there should be no slack time for reformers. I see a voting block as extremely important (possibly necessary) but not sufficient and don't want to give a wrong impression. There certainly won't be any slack time for "prohibitionists"; most of them aren't in business to put themselves out of business and don't rely on voluntary funding. The drug abuse industrial complex has created a lot of permanent jobs.

There's been a lot of talk about polls here and I think much of it is unrealistic. Congress has no problem voting against the wishes of the majority of voters and alcohol Prohibition is about the only major federal anti-drug law that was due to strong public demand. One thing that commands more respect from candidates than money is enough votes to get elected. That's why single issue and "unnegotiable issue" voters have so much influence. They may be 1%, 5% ,10% or 20% of the voters but if how they vote decides who gets the majority or plurality of votes they have influence all out of proportion to their numbers. And if they vote for a candidate who comes in 3rd or 4th but their votes are perceived as altering who comes in first they get serious consideration as long as they vote consistently and persistently.

I think I voted straight ticket Democrat in 1972 and maybe 1974 though Peace & Freedom and/or Libertarian may have gotten a few of my votes in the general election. By 1976 the Libertarian Party was definitely ballot qualified in CA and I had a strict policy of never voting for a candidate who wanted to imprison me for no good reason if I had a choice to vote for a candidate who didn't. I've even run for office once to have a candidate in my district I could vote for with a clear conscience. Most people who want drug reform continue to vote for major party candidates and hope for crumbs. That's not influential and in the long run doesn't do as to much to keep the least desirable candidates from getting elected in particular elections as reinforce the power of anti-civil liberty voting blocks. Also, if you happen to be one of those statistics that get busted, how much does it really matter to you who represents the district you'd live in if you weren't in a prison out in the boondocks?

Ballot access laws restrict candidate choices a lot but I strongly recommend people act to the greatest extent possible to create a pro-legalization voting block. Always vote for a pro-legalization candidate if you can, make sure all potential candidates know you're going to do this and write in a candidate or make drug policy a top priority when you pick who you're going to vote for. If there is no acceptable candidate for an office don't vote for any candidate and try to get a letter to the editor published stating you're doing this and some reasons why (or get the message somewhere else that politicians and the general public will see it). Does voting this way seem unrealistic? Consider what the effect would have been if pro-legalization voters had consistently been doing this since the 1960s. I think the Controlled Substances Act would have been repealed in the 70s or at least enforced and amended so differently by then that recent decades and the present would be extremely different. Whether I'm right or wrong, there's little room to dispute that if people consistently vote for the least objectionable prohibitionist candidate they'll be consistently voting for continued prohibitionist laws and policies. Don't expect peace if you vote for war, don't say you didn't know or say you don't bear the blame.
We Didn't Know

voting block is key to change

"It doesn't appear to me positive "drug law" change is as close to a tipping point as it was around 35 years ago. "

I don't know. Back in the seventies we all thought marijuana would legalized in no time, but back then really about the only people for it were young people and only tiny minority of older people. I don't think the percentage of Americans for legalization ever cracked 30% in the seventies. Now were' seeing that over 40% are for it. The percentage dropped like a rock in the eighties but since the early nineties it's been climbing and now it's climbing faster than ever. And now there are a lot of older more powerful people for it. Back in the late seventies mainly only the under 30 crowd were for it. People older than that tended to be strongly against it. We just thought we were close to a tipping point in the seventies, but obviously we were wrong. Now we really are getting to that tipping point. Young people who wanted it legalized in the seventies are old enough that many are in positions of power now. Those older than baby boomers still tend to be strongly opposed to it, but that crowd is dying off and the over 30 crowd of today is far more open to legalizing than the over 30 crowd back in the seventies. We're even starting to see politicians from major political parties coming out for it and I bet we see a lot more of that. This isn't like the seventies when only young people with no real political power were for legalization. We really are getting to that tipping point now.

How to stop it

After waging every possible argument for ending prohibition to myself in the bathroom mirror for nearly 40 years now, I believe I know how to end it. Referendums will never change the laws. With almost 1 million marijuana arrests each year there just aren't enough liberal voters who are still allowed to vote to make a difference. We need something more powerful and immediate. We simply have to shift our thinking 1 degree to the left and realize that the government isn't waging war on drugs - they are waging war on the American people. Now it's a whole new ballgame.

In a war, the opponents are referred to as "enemies". Prohibition has, by definition and by default made enemies of the United States government and the American people. Article 3 Section 3 of the US Constitution says "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort". Whenever a legislative body passes an appropriations bill funding the "war of drugs", they are literally giving aid and comfort to America's enemies. It's time to get the law on our side for a change and end this nonsense.


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