Marijuana. This little plant sure generates a lot of drama. And it seems these days everyone has an opinion about what should be done about it, from allowing only medicinal usage to full recreational use legalization for adults to full criminalization for any use.
In Colorado, marijuana's legality is a study in paradoxes--what is legal in the state is illegal federally. And in the last several months that paradox has been extraordinarily clear. In February, Colorado voters found out that they will get a chance to decide if recreational marijuana use should be legalized for adults effectively ending prohibition in the state, on the November 2012 ballot.
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Yet, that same month that the legalization initiative got enough signatures to appear on the ballot, the federal government pursued the most aggressive law-enforcement action against the medical marijuana industry in Colorado to date, forcibly shutting down 22 dispensaries.
And just prior to the ballot initiative and the federal crackdown, Colorado also became the fourth state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a schedule 2 drug allowing doctors to prescribe it for medical treatment.
It's a confusing issue. So, The Huffington Post asked two influential and knowledgeable minds to engage one another in an intellectual debate about the legalization of marijuana to help shed some light on the issue.
On the legalization side we have Robert Corry, a Colorado-based attorney specializing in criminal defense and civil rights. He has defended more medical marijuana criminal cases than any other attorney in Colorado and is the only attorney to win multiple acquittals for defendants facing medical marijuana charges.
On the anti-legalization side we have Bob Enyart, a talk radio host on Colorado-based KGOV radio and a pastor at Denver Bible Church who is outspoken about his belief that marijuana should remain illegal with exception for prescription-based medical use.
Vote on how you feel about the issue below. Read Corry and Enyart's statements and then vote on who makes a better argument about the topic. And as always, let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
Let the great debate begin!
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It is 5:00 a.m. on a cold dark Colorado morning. Twenty-five SWAT team officers, clad in black helmets, body armor, wielding assault weapons, large clear shields, and heavy iron battering rams, surround a quiet residential home, shatter the front door, and throw flash-bang grenades and tear gas inside.
The team of 25 militarized cops stream into the house, screaming obscenities, shattering the terrified childrens' sleep and jarring the scared parents awake. The SWAT team then literally destroys the home and the furniture within, slashing couches, overturning bookcases, throwing possessions all over the floor, carting the crying children off to Social Services or foster care, and throwing the parents to the ground at gunpoint, handcuffing them painfully before carting them off to the police station.
The SWAT team then locates its target: a couple dozen three-foot high cannabis plants in a modest indoor basement garden, and a pound or so of dried plant matter, some lights, some fertilizer, and a few books on how to grow marijuana.
This is not an extreme example. This scene literally happens every day in America, a nation that loudly professes that it is a "free" country, but that leads the globe in per capita incarceration of its own people, a rate that exceeds those of human rights leaders such as North Korea, China, and Iran, due mostly to the war on drugs.
And this scene embodies America's war on marijuana. A government this large, this powerful, this intrusive, this belligerent, is necessary to fight this modern-day prohibition against a simple herb that approximately half of the American adult population has consumed at some point in their lives. There are so many reasons this must change:
The war on marijuana costs us money. The direct costs to local, state, and federal governments are staggering and exceed a trillion dollars. Police, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, courts, jailers, prison guards, and defense lawyers form a massive prison-industrial complex that distracts limited resources away from our failing economy and other more important priorities. The indirect costs to the economy, though more difficult to quantify, are probably higher in the form of people removed from their families and their jobs, the opportunity costs of distracted police and jammed courts too busy to adjudicate important criminal and civil cases. We also lose out on the benefits of industrial hemp, which has no recreational effect but which could be an extremely useful crop for American farmers and industry.
And all of this money has been wasted -- accomplishing, like so many other heavy-handed government programs, the precise opposite result of that which was intended. Even the U.S. government's drug czar (it is appropriate that this government position is named after an imperial Russian tyrant), Gil Kerlikowski, admits that the 40-year experiment with drug prohibition has been an abject failure.
Decades of drug prohibition has not accomplished a single of its goals. Albert Einstein's definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." As our governments at all levels pour more lawyers, guns, and money into this militarized marijuana prohibition, people still obtain it -- easily -- and supply and demand is totally uninterrupted on a macro scale; one dealer falls, another pops up. Under Einstein's definition, our government is literally insane.
The war on marijuana is alien to the principles of a free nation founded on the principles of limited government and personal responsibility. The negative impact of marijuana prohibition laws far outstrip the negative impact of the substance itself, which is one of the few things on Earth that has no practical lethal dose, it is basically harmless.
Humans in all cultures have used the cannabis plant since the dawn of history for medicinal, spiritual, industrial, and recreational purposes; only in the 20th century did it occur to any government to prohibit it. Thomas Jefferson and other founders grew cannabis on their plantations. The Declaration of Independence is written on hemp paper. Even Genesis 1:29 confirms that God gave man every seed-bearing plant on the Earth. God giveth, government taketh.
The history of American marijuana prohibition and "reefer madness" shows that its practical and legal basis is a house of cards. An outgrowth of alcohol prohibition which arose in roughly the same era, marijuana prohibition was born out of racially-charged fears of Mexicans and blacks.
For the American government to prohibit the cannabis plant, that government must declare war on its own principles. Such a prohibition then contributes to overall erosion in the general population's respect for the rule of law, because the aggressive enforcement of this law touches so many people and makes the law itself -- not just marijuana laws, but all laws and law enforcement officials -- a joke.
The body armor-clad government stormtroopers are necessary to prosecute the war on marijuana. That level of expensive and intrusive force is necessary if cannabis, widely used and widely accepted, is to be prohibited from our private homes and lives. But perhaps the best brief against prohibition is the fact that marijuana is widely available to prisoners in America's prisons and jails. Prisons and jails are the most tightly regulated, highly government-controlled locations in the world. If the government cannot keep marijuana outside of these places, can anyone seriously argue prohibition is enforceable in the general population?
The war on marijuana, like alcohol prohibition before it, creates and fuels the criminal underclass, organized crime, and domestic and foreign drug cartels. It is basic Economics 101: where there is a demand, a supply will be created to meet it, period. Human demand for marijuana, like alcohol, has lasted thousands of years, and will never go away. Leading economists like Milton Friedman have long seen the drug war as an economically-bankrupt policy.
If marijuana were legalized and taxed, violent drug cartels would lose the principal source of their income. Marijuana ought to be treated like a more dangerous substance: alcohol, available at the corner liquor store, and taxed and regulated. How many Mexican drug cartels smuggle beer over the border? Ban it, and you would see many. Create a regulated legal market for it, and the drug cartels are not involved.
It is literally easier for American schoolchildren to obtain marijuana than beer.
That is because the government has created the black market in marijuana, making it more accessible to children. There is no black market in beer. It is relatively cheap and easy to obtain, for adults, but difficult for children. Prohibition increases childrens' attraction to marijuana; the "forbidden fruit" is always sweeter.
For all of these reasons and many more, Americans have now passed the critical 50 percent threshold in support for legalization of marijuana. (These polls typically understate support, as many Americans are understandably reluctant to admit to using or supporting marijuana to an anonymous telephone surveyor.) Even conservative televangelist Pat Robertson recently acknowledged that marijuana ought to be legal.
It is long past time for politicians at all levels to end this bankrupt policy of Prohibition, and stop breaking down the doors of Americans who only want to possess a harmless plant in the comfort of their own homes.
Regarding marijuana use or any moral question, arguing right and wrong in today's society is especially difficult because a growing number of people reject absolute right and wrong. Producing a documentary titled Get Out of the Matrix, our video crew walked onto a college campus and asked random people in the student center, and a philosophy professor and her class, whether or not it was absolutely wrong for a man to violently rape a woman, or for the National Socialists to slaughter millions of Jews. "No," was the answer we would get. "Not absolutely wrong."
So if you likewise assume that there is no right or wrong (and thus reject arguments against pot), then you've got problems way more serious than marijuana and you need to find help.
Pot should remain as a controlled substance, with marijuana-based medicines (like cocaine-based medicines) available by subscription fulfilled not from your home-grown stash but through a pharmacy. Why?
It's wrong to get high. For in doing so you reject the counsel of the God who made you. And by intoxication you lose what should be a full control of your mental and moral faculties. You become a threat to yourself and a risk to those around you.
Billions of people cannot get drunk on a sip of wine. Hundreds of millions cannot get drunk even on a glass of wine or a can of beer. Conversely, there are countless millions of people who get high with the normal use of even only one, two, or three drags on a joint. Thus for billions of people, normal use of alcohol does not automatically get them intoxicated but the opposite is true for marijuana.
It should be illegal to get high and any substance should be controlled whose normal use makes one high.
Pot has been politically correct on college campuses for decades and so studies are easily biased, which is why it's surprising that so many of them warn of the serious risks. But looking at the candid testimony of the masses, millions of people believe that smoking pot makes you stupid. Yes, stupid.
Long-term cigarette smoking is bad for your lungs but unlike for pot, there are not millions of people who believe that tobacco makes you intoxicated, lowers your IQ, and makes you slow and stupid. But why the difference? These millions haven't weighed conflicting scientific studies (including those showing learning and memory impairments from using pot). Rather, they've seen the results first hand. While studies conflict, many confirm what millions have perceived -- that routine pot use leads to serious mental health issues. On the other hand, a nightly glass of red wine has the opposite reputation, of not making anyone slow or stupid, but of sustaining health and even decreasing the likelihood of dementia.
Many studies show serious problems, for example, with schizoid psychosis while smoking. And marijuana can act as a cancer-causing carcinogen and damaging DNA for pot smoke contains higher levels of certain toxins than tobacco, which is why pot smokers face rapid lung destruction, with the impact on lungs from one joint equaling up to five cigarettes. Pot also opens the door for the virus that causes Kaposi's Sarcoma. And for pregnant moms, it can harm their unborn child by impairing growth and by causing long-lasting neurobehavioural problems. (And if you've read online that marijuana has never caused a single death, just assume you're reading a pothead's website.) For habitual use is strongly associated with car crash injuries and smoking marijuana doubles the risk of fatal accidents.
So, millions of people believe that smoking pot makes you stupid because it does. And it impairs one's healthy inhibitions. And like with many other problems as identified at KGOV.com/pot, parents who use pot at home will, at unexpected times including in emergencies, end up driving their own children after they've smoked half a joint. And pot makes folks paranoid (as I've seen firsthand even aside from criminality). And pot's quick intoxicating effect will weaken a man's moral compass and then, as the Bible warns of drunkenness, increase his lust for other women.
So when the normal use of a substance makes a person high, then the government correctly outlaws and classifies that drug as a controlled substance. Thus while marijuana-based medications should be available on a prescription basis from a pharmacy, pot use should not be normalized and the marijuana drug should be illegal.
Did one of the arguments change your mind?
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Robert CorryBob EnyartNeither argumenthas changed the most minds