Forum Center: Should Ohio go green with marijuana legislation?
By Alex Culpepper
The push for marijuana legalization is active and healthy. Right now, nearly half of the states in this country have either approved it for medical use or have decriminalized it and simply issue civil fines for possession and use. Our neighbors to the north in Michigan have decriminalized the cultivation and use of marijuana as long as users have a medical need for it. Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Last year, an Ohio state congressman proposed a bill to legalize marijuana for medical use, and sponsors of a joint resolution even proposed legalizing it outright. A large chunk of Ohio voters support medical marijuana, but the support wanes when all-out legalization is proposed. Legalization efforts have also run into resistance from Ohio legislators, and marijuana legalization forces lack funds that would get a campaign started and have the issue placed on the ballot for 2014.
Nationally, the movement toward legalization is moving closer to the decriminalization stage, and the federal government will not interfere with state marijuana laws as long as they honor federal enforcement policies. The Obama Administration, and Attorney General Eric Holder in particular, have been open to changing what the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) calls the “scheduling” of marijuana. In other words, the administration believes marijuana is a candidate for reassessment as a dangerous drug.
Currently, the DEA classifies marijuana with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug – the most dangerous. By contrast, cocaine is a less dangerous Schedule II, steroids are a Schedule III and cough syrup is a Schedule V. The administration still needs assistance from Congress to move forward, but potential interest in reform exists at that level. The DEA and others, however, have not warmed to the idea.
Opponents of legalized marijuana have reasons for their position. They claim legalization will lead to the same abuse as has happened with other legal drugs. They also stand firm in its classification as dangerous and say it causes problems such as psychotic reactions, hallucinations, paranoia and can trigger schizophrenia in users who have a family history of the illness. They say the American Medical Association still regards it as a dangerous drug and considers it a public health concern. Opponents further argue social and economic problems stemming from drug use won’t go away just because it is legal.
Supporters say claims about marijuana’s addictiveness and tendency to cause psychosis are wildly exaggerated. They say marijuana is proven medically to alleviate a number of symptoms across a variety of illnesses, such as cancer, and it is far safer than having people take legal opiates for medical treatment. They also say the social and economic costs of its illegal status are unacceptable when so many otherwise responsible, law-abiding people are charged as criminals for simply possessing and using small amounts. They add further evidence of poll after poll showing a majority of people having little issue with marijuana legalization.
So far, it is apparent the federal government is content to let the states decide whether marijuana should be legal. Marijuana advocates have an uphill battle, though, because even with public support, they need legislators on their side and they need money. Their opponents hope to make it a losing battle and believe any positive benefits of marijuana legalization are significantly outweighed by the negative consequences.
Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com
The issue of marijuana legalization and decriminalization has made the priority list in states as well as the federal government. Is it time to legalize marijuana in Ohio?
Debate Left: Don’t believe the damning hype about marijuana
By Marianne Stanley
The bottom line is marijuana never should have been illegal. Its story crosses and crisscrosses issues of racism, corporate interests, corruption, government complicity and hidden motives, plus fairly successful marketing – lying – that has for far too long demonized it and distorted the facts surrounding its dangers and uses.
Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs” has its roots in racism and corporate greed, fueled by yellow journalism. During the hearings on the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry Anslinger lied outrageously during his sworn testimony before Congress, saying things like, “Smoke a joint, and you’re likely to kill your brother.” He even called marijuana “the deadliest drug ever known,” testifying half of all violent crimes committed in the U.S. were committed by Blacks and Mexicans who smoked pot, despite the fact between 65-75 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. were, and still are, alcohol-related.
In America, we can walk around with loaded guns whose sole purpose is to hurt or kill, but not with a joint which, at worst, makes us mellow. And we wonder why other countries think we’re nuts.
Here are the facts:
The primary entity pumping cash into anti-marijuana campaigns is – surprise – the alcohol industry. The beer, wine and hard liquor folks have opposed states’ legalization efforts and contributed heavily to anti-pot groups and politicians.
Marijuana is the least, not the most, harmful “drug.” In the order of addiction, the rankings are: 1. Tobacco. 2. Caffeine. 3. Alcohol. 4. Cocaine. 5. Heroin. 6. Marijuana.
There is no lethal dose. Marijuana is one of the few drugs for which there is no lethal dose and no proven long-term harms. On the other hand, tobacco causes more deaths than all illegal drugs combined, and prescription drugs cause twice as many deaths as all illegal drugs combined. Here’s the breakdown of Deaths per 100,000: Tobacco – 141; Prescription Drugs – 13; Alcohol – 2; Heroin/narcotics – 2; Cocaine – 1.3; Speed/Meth – .7; Marijuana – 0.
Marijuana arrests mainly oppress minorities. Statistics show while more whites than either African-Americans or Hispanics use illegal drugs, minorities are almost four times more likely to be arrested for drug “crimes,” and 88 percent of all drug arrests are for marijuana. Arrests per 100,000 people: Whites – 476; African-Americans – 1,721.
Pot does not make the roads more dangerous. According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Administration, marijuana causes traffic accident rates to decrease when it is legalized, as indicated by a 9 percent drop in traffic fatalities in Colorado after legalization, correlating to a 5 percent drop in beer sales. Other reasons include the fact marijuana users are less likely to drive than people who are drinking.
For all the conservative talk about needing and wanting smaller government in our lives, isn’t it just a tad bit strange conservatives are the ones slowing or blocking legislation that would allow people to live their own private lives without government interference, snooping, prosecution and persecution? It’s no accident that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is adamantly opposed to marijuana’s legalization. Just think how many of their jobs would disappear overnight if pot no longer furnished an excuse for SWAT teams to break into homes in the middle of the night, guns drawn, to shake down Americans who had been seen leaving garden supply stores with unknown purchases in their bags – as was the case with a Kansas woman who had bought some organic fertilizer and found herself at the wrong end of a search warrant one night, with 11 federal and local law enforcement agents inside her home. Government has way overstepped its bounds and continues to lie to us. Even today, the Office of Drug Control Policy in the White House says marijuana “poses a significant health and safety risk to all Americans” and Thomas Harrigan, the deputy administrator of the DEA says there is “no sound scientific, economic or social reasons to change our nation’s marijuana policies.” Blatant lies.
Here are some of those scientific, economic and social reasons that supposedly don’t exist:
Serves as an excellent analgesic for chronic pain.
Controls nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy.
Helps with neuralgic and movement disorders such as seizures and spasticity.
Stimulates appetite and relieves the physical wasting away of cancer and AIDS sufferers.
Relieves glaucoma by decreasing intraocular pressure inside the eyeball.
Reduces anxiety and depression due to its sedative effects.
Who benefits then, from keeping it illegal? The DEA, corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) that owns and operates an ever-expanding number of prisons, pharmaceutical companies that stand to lose millions, if not billions, in income from the rampant prescriptions of pain killers, tranquilizers, sedatives, appetite stimulants and anti-nausea medications that currently flood the market.
The criminalization of marijuana use has done great harm to our nation by filling our prison system with non-violent Americans. The U.S. has more than two million of its citizens in prison – a higher percentage than China or Russia even during their darkest days. We need to do more research and stand together against such injustices. C’mon Ohio! Legalize marijuana and, while you’re at it, let all non-violent drug offenders go home where they belong.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.
[Editor's note: On behalf of the Dayton City Paper staff, we apologize, but we were unable to locate a debate writer who was able to submit a view opposed to the legalization of marijuana in Ohio at this time.]