Sep 15, 2010, Vol: 17, No: 38
Local author and travel expert Rick Steves feels it’s his Constitutional right to smoke marijuana. State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) wants to regulate those dispensing medical marijuana, but admits that taxes garnered from selling cannabis legally would cut into the state deficit.
Those were some of the main ideas that came out of the ACLU-sponsored Sept. 12 forum. “Where Is Marijuana Reform Heading?” held at Town Hall. Many in the crowd of about 300 appeared to be between 50 and 60 years old, and one woman, during the forum’s Q-n-A section, may have spoken for many when she said she’s been smoking pot for 42 years.
Panelists included Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), a self-admitted pot smoker since 1965; Ron Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP); and Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
The speakers agreed that we are heading towards marijuana reform in this country. In fact, it’s already begun: A total of 14 states, including Washington, have medical marijuana laws, the same number of states where pot has been decriminalized. Medical marijuana laws cover patients with cancer, HIV, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease and hepatitis C.
“I think Washington will be the first state to legalize marijuana along with California and Colorado,” said Kampia. In 2006, 74 percent of registered Washington voters supported either making marijuana possession legal for adults or making marijuana a non-criminal offense that carries a fine. National polls taken in recent years show for the first time that over 50 percent in the U.S. favor decriminalization or making cannabis legal.
“Young people thought in the 1970s that pot would be legal in a few years,” said Nadelmann. “But their parents didn’t know drugs. They put marijuana in the same category as heroin or LSD. Now young people have parents who smoked pot or know more about it.”
But don’t think the push towards legalization has led to drug laws being ignored. From 1991 to 2008, marijuana arrests tripled from 287,900 to 847,860. According to the ACLU, 74 percent of pot users are white and 14 percent are black, but 30 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession are black.
“It’s become a racial justice issue,” said Nadelmann.
And Steves adds, “It’s not courageous for me to speak out against pot laws. They’re not enforced against me. They’re not enforced the same across the board.”<< Back to Article Details