Marijuana Should Be Legalized - And Response (5)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Marijuana should be decriminalized and fully legalized. I am almost 25 years old and have grown up my whole life being told that marijuana is a powerful and dangerous substance that only lesser, weaker, criminal people use. It is only recently that I was able to look at the facts objectively and see if what I have been taught can stand on its own feet.  

Cannabis is rated as a Schedule 1 substance which is reserved for drugs that have no useful purpose, including medically. They also hold the highest punishments for any offense of the law. How is it that a drug that has not killed anyone is ranked as dangerous as heroin and LSD? 

Let's consider a few things: 

Alcohol has had a history similar to marijuana. A prohibition was enforced and it was essentially overturned by the will of the people. Each year, tens of thousands of people die in alcohol related deaths, whether it be from overconsumption or driving drunk. That being said it is figured that roughly half of all Americans drink alcohol. That is an exceptional amount of users, who, for the most part, drink responsibly. How is it that alcohol, which kills people and destroys lives, is legal, while marijuana is illegal? Not only is it illegal but it is somehow looked upon as a morally wrong thing to enjoy. Alcohol also is much more likely to cause violence or addictive behavior than marijuana. Recent studies actually show health benefits whereas alcohol has no benefit to your body at all. This is not a new argument but it is a very valid comparison.  

Because marijuana was placed as a Schedule 1 substance, practically no research has been allowed on any potential benefits of its use, until recently. This has allowed the "reefer madness" propaganda concept to fester and stagnate for 30 years longer than it should. Recent studies have shown a myriad of health benefits in diseases and illnesses including: cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, chronic pain relief, and many more things. Another consideration is the deadly and addictive effects of prescription drugs, which also have a much higher chance of abuse than marijuana. Drugs such as Oxycontin and Xanax are widely abused.

Back in 1971, Richard Nixon and the Controlled Substances Act, initiated The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to objectively study marijuana abuse in the United States. While the Controlled Substances Act was being drafted in a House committee in 1970, Assistant Secretary of Health Roger O. Egeberg had recommended that marijuana temporarily be placed in Schedule I, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending the Commission's  
report. On March 22, 1972, the Commission's chairman, Raymond P. Shafer, presented a report to Congress and the public entitled "Marijuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding," which favored ending marijuana prohibition and adopting other methods to discourage use. Despite the recommendation of the commission, NIixon did not implement any change and left marijuana in the most restrictive classification available. This marks the beginning of the failed "war on drugs", which has cost us (taxpayers) over a trillion dollars. 

So, in closing, it is very obvious to me that something needs to change. Our  stance on marijuana as a country has been ineffective and ruined more lives than it has helped. I do not use marijuana but I have seen people's lives affected on a deep level from the being subjected to the court system for simply possessing a plant. How much would we save as a country each year by freeing up our overcrowded prisons for non-violent offenders that simply smoke cannabis? How much would our economy thrive from allowing industrial hemp (non psychoactive) and marijuana to be sold, regulated, and taxed like alcohol? Time will tell because we are headed in that direction. It's time to think about this issue for yourself. Look at the facts. Do your own research. Marijuana is harmless compared to alcohol, tobacco, and legal prescription drugs that millions of people use everyday without hesitation. I look forward to seeing our country mature and grow into this next phase of personal freedom and responsibility.

Kellen Bennett

Antioch, TN 

 * * * 

It is true that marijuana is a schedule I narcotic under federal law, however it is a schedule IV under Tennessee state law.  It carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days and a fine.  In over 20 years in law enforcement, despite the thousands of drug-related arrests that I made, not once did I have a marijuana case prosecuted in the federal court system.  I am not speaking to the controversy related to the raids and arrests made as a result of investigations into medicinal marijuana dispensaries, as I have no first-hand knowledge of any of those cases.  I am only addressing the cases that I made in Chattanooga and others that I am familiar with.  The fact of the matter is, under state law, there are very few people who actually receive jail time for possession of marijuana and those that do have, in the vast majority of cases, multiple convictions. 

I know of no documentation of marijuana related to DUI arrests.  When a person is arrested for DUI and they are subjected to a blood test, the sample does not progress for drug testing if the blood alcohol content (BAC) is over .08.  Only when a person's BAC is under .08 will the state crime lab conduct further testing for testing to determine the presence of illegal or prescription drugs.    During my career I can safely say that I made hundreds of DUI arrests and a good portion of those were also in possession of marijuana, or there was evidence of its consumption.  Like marijuana, there is no legitimate use for marijuana (other than medicinally). 

It is solely my opinion, but I can see the benefits for marijuana use by cancer patients, etc.  The fact of the matter is, people who use marijuana use it solely for the purpose of getting high, just as people who drink use alcohol to get a buzz or to get drunk.  Were marijuana to be legalized, it would be even more widely abused.  Current laws are a deterrent for many who would otherwise choose to smoke it, were it legal. 

Kellen Bennett's opinion opinions up so many discussion points that I could go on and on, for example: 

What would be the legal age for purchasing and using legal marijuana?  Do we set it at 18 like it is for tobacco products? 

Do you want public safety workers, bus drivers, truck drivers, etc. using marijuana on duty?  If it is legalized then what would stop them?  Do you want the doctor, who is performing emergency surgery on you or a loved one, to be under the influence of marijuana?  Do you want a policeman, who is already judged harshly for using deadly force to be under the influence when he makes a life or death decision? 

Do we want kids going to school, in a day and age where school is not a priority, under the influence of marijuana? 

Do you want a large number of motorists, on the roadways, under the influence of marijuana?  Studies have shown that one of the main physiological effects of marijuana is a slowing of reactionary time.  So a driver, under the influence of marijuana, is not going to be able to react to sudden changes in traffic, a child running into the roadway, etc. 

How do we, as a country, control it's sales and use?  There is no way possible, as there are probably a few million people around the country that are sitting on stockpiles of marijuana seeds so that they can grow their own....not to mention what comes into the country from Mexico, the Bahamas, etc. 

But on top of the physiological effects of marijuana, there are the psychological effects: 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the main effects of marijuana on mood vary and may include euphoria, calmness, anxiety, or paranoia. Getting high or "stoned" is the reason most pot smokers use marijuana. 

Other short-term psychological effects of marijuana include: 

Distorted sense of time
Paranoia
Magical or "random" thinking
Short-term memory loss
Anxiety and depression 

These psychological signs of using marijuana also generally ease after a few hours. But residual effects can last for days." - Source WebMD 

In my time on the streets, I have dealt with thousands of drug addicts (cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and even prescription drug abusers) and the one, undeniable and common link between nearly all of them was that they started out smoking marijuana.  As time passed, the high that they got from smoking marijuana was no longer enough and they sought a new, better and stronger high which led them to abuse their drug(s) of choice.  It isn't just the East Lakes, East Chattanooga's and Alton Parks of this state and country that are affected by drug abuse, it is everywhere.  Drug abuse knows no race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation. 

Drug addiction destroys lives...and that is a fact.  One cannot go through life stoned all of the time, the problems that you get high to avoid are still going to be there when the high wears off and you are back in a sober reality.  I am not certain what the answer is, but legalizing marijuana and making it more readily available is not it. 

Marty Penny
Soddy Daisy 

 * * * 

Mr. Penny, your comments about marijuana and it's hypothetical legalization are very common, unfortunately. While I respect what you said, your concerns are easily countered with the simplest of logic. 

First, I will present and respond to an issue that you did not bring up. Many of marijuana's naysayers will point to the fact that the majority of rehab patients are there due to marijuana "abuse." While this is true (at least it was as of a few years ago, I haven't checked the stats recently, but I assume it is unchanged), it is about as misleading of a statistic as one can find. The reason for this is because, of all marijuana rehab patients, 57 percent are there because they were given an ultimatum by a judge: Go to rehab, or go to jail (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Not a very tough decision there, if you ask me. Only 15 percent of people in rehab for marijuana addiction were there because they voluntarily chose to be. That is less than half of the number of people who did the same for alcohol and cocaine, and just over 1/4 the amount of those for heroin.  

Knowing this, the only conclusion one could make is that, if marijuana were made legal, the number of people in rehab for it would absolutely plummet. In other words, marijuana use itself isn't the reason for the high rate of rehabilitation admission, rather it's marijuana prohibition. I can speak personally to this. I smoked marijuana on a daily basis for years while I was in college. When I graduated, I quit in literally one day. I chose to quit because I knew it was necessary if I wanted a decent job. Not only can alcoholics and other drug abusers not just quit like this whenever they want to, but even if they could, they would be at serious risk of death, as the body cannot go off alcohol, cocaine, and certain prescription drugs cold turkey (after they've been using them long-term) and without medication without very serious health consequences, especially seizures. I say this to point to the fact that marijuana is by far less harmful to the human body than everything else that is legally purchased by 18 and/or 21 year olds. Don't take my word for it, research it yourself.  

There has never been a single case of a marijuana overdose, and certainly no one dying from marijuana use, or "abuse." Never. There is a documentary titled "The Union," in which a medical doctor from Harvard (or possibly one of the other Ivy League schools) states that in order to consume the lethal amount of THC, one would have to smoke something like 20,000 joints in five minutes. Translation: It's much less harmful than cigarettes, alcohol, all other drugs, all prescription painkillers, even Tylenol. As Katt Williams once said, "Aspirin is perfectly legal, but if you take 13 of them, it'll be your last headache." 

Smoke 13 joints and you'll just have one of the best tasting meals of your life, then go to sleep. 

Now on to your concerns...  

You stated that abusers of all types of drugs had one undeniable link between nearly all of them, and that was that they started out smoking marijuana. While this is probably true, it in no way means that it is a gateway drug. I would wager (and so would you, if you're being honest) that these same people smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol before anything else, so you must also believe those are gateway drugs. How many people smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, but nothing beyond that? Millions. This "gateway drug" theory is pure speculation at best. How many people who have received DUI's drank alcohol before they got in the car? All of them, so clearly drinking alcohol must ensure that you will then drive drunk, right? Of course not. They are independent choices that are made independently of each other. The same goes for marijuana and other drugs. Choosing to smoke marijuana, and choosing to use other drugs are independent choices that cannot be shown to have a cause-and-effect relationship unless you choose to look at certain factors to characterize it as such, while disregarding those same factors in relation to other substances, like cigarettes and alcohol. 

You also asked if we want bus drivers, truck drivers, etc. using marijuana on duty. Well, no. What's your point? Treat it the same way that we treat alcohol in that regard. Or better yet, treat the use of it on the job the same way that it is treated now. In other words, make no changes to the legality of it while operating vehicles or on the job. Whatever the punishment for said actions would be now, keep those same punishments in act for when they use it on the job. Those who choose to obey the law will not use it and we won't have to worry about them. Those who choose to ignore the law and smoke it anyway are already doing so. Problem solved. 

By the logic you used to make that argument, you must also think that criminals would turn in their guns if they were made illegal. 

You asked how "we, as a country, control its (sic) sales and use?" and answered by referencing the "few million people" sitting on stockpiles of seeds, and of course the marijuana that comes in from Mexico, the Bahamas, etc. This is an example of not fully understanding the drug trade. I assure you, the drug cartels want marijuana to remain illegal. Let me repeat that for clarity. The drug cartels want marijuana to remain illegal. If it is legalized, they go out of business. Ever heard of Marlboro? Camel? The cartels couldn't compete with companies who would mass-produce it if legalized. Illegality is their business. How many cartels are you aware of that deal in legal commodities? Don't worry, I'll wait.... 

Yeah, I couldn't think of any either. 

Remember all the bootleggers during prohibition? How did their business fair when alcohol was legalized? That's right, they're basically extinct. The scenario would be no different with marijuana. Legalize it, create jobs, decrease the dangers created from cartels smuggling in tens of thousands of tons every year, decrease the problem of overcrowded prisons because of all the people in there for marijuana-related crimes. It's a win-win-win situation. 

Sam Horn
Chattanooga 

 * * *

I'll keep my response short and sweet: if you are in favor of banning, or in this case continuing to ban, the possession of a naturally occurring plant, you are essentially telling God that He made a mistake. 

Not a position I'd care to have to defend when the time comes. 

Joe Dumas
Signal Mountain 

* * *

Mr. Dumas states, "continuing to ban, the possession of a naturally occurring plant, you are essentially telling God that He made a mistake." 

God also made the naturally occurring poppy plant (lachryma papaveris), the naturally occurring coca plant, the naturally occurring lead from which bullets are made, the naturally occurring uranium, the naturally occurring fist, the naturally occurring wooden bat, the naturally occurring silver and the naturally occurring gold.   

The creation of any of these innate, naturally occurring articles couldn't seriously be considered to be a 'mistake' unless these divinely inspired substances were to be misused by humans against other humans.  Things are only evil if used for evil purposes by evil people.   

Taking Mr. Dumas' logic to heart, extended to its naturally occurring limit...  

Should we now be moving to attempt to ban humankind (who are also naturally occurring) from this earth in order to prophylactically prevent humankind's potential misuse of naturally occurring substances that were here long before we were? 

I think I actually agree with Mr. Dumas.  We should not ban, nor legislate against, any substance. 

We should ban, for life, only those humans who misuse any substance against any other human. 

I always figured Mr. Dumas to be against the death penalty, but, based on his latest letter-to-the-editor, I'll stand corrected on his position on the matter. 

Mark Kimsey
Soddy Daisy 

* * * 

In response to Mark Kimsey your comparisons are not linear. Marijuana is used as it naturally grows. The drugs made from poppy plant (heroin) and the coca plant (cocaine) must undergo a manmade manufacturing process before they become drugs.  

Marijuana does not, it is in it's finished state as it naturally grows. God did not give us cocaine. He did not give us heroin. He did give us marijuana. Starting to get the picture?  

The same is true with everything else you mentioned. I don't expect you to be swayed by what I say but I do hope you can understand why the examples you provided are not operating with the same logic as what Mr. Dumas said. 

Jim Dothard
Apison





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