Thursday, March 12, 2009
Just Say Yes
The war on drugs was declared on June 17, 1971. President Richard Nixon declared that drug abuse was
“public enemy number one in the United States.” In 1976, Jimmy Carter advocated the decriminalization of marijuana. Then, in 1984, Nancy Reagan (a dedicated pill-popper herself) gave us the “Just Say No” campaign. Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, giving us mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses, and filling US prisons with drug offenders, some with 20-year sentences.
Republican presidents have given us two unwinnable wars. The war on drugs and the war on terror: both at a cost of approximately a trillion dollars thus far–and counting. The United States has spent over $10 billion in the war on drugs this year. It costs us approximately $1000 per second to fight this losing war.
We humans are creatures of habit. We do many things without ever questioning the reasons why. Daylight savings time is a classic example. We force students into a particular schedule; because that’s the way it’s always been done. We don’t question the fact that the US spends more on defense than all other countries in the world combined. We don’t ever question our spending priorities. Imagine what we could do with the billions we’re wasting on the war on drugs this year?
California will never be able to cut out enough state employees and services to balance the budget. Imagine if they were reaping the tax benefits of the state’s largest cash crop? At some point, we would be wise to face the truth that is staring us in the face – prohibition isn’t working.
This past week, the NH House heard testimony on HB648, a bill that would permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, if prescribed by a physician. People who are dealing with a variety of illnesses including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy asked state legislators to approve this bill, and allow them to legally use marijuana to ease their symptoms and side effects. Every one of us who knows someone who has cancer knows that at some point, the chemo and radiation can cause nausea. So, these people who have no immune systems lose weight alarmingly fast because eating makes them sick, or because everything tastes bad to them as a result of the chemicals. One way to combat that is smoking marijuana, which does give smokers an appetite.
HB648 has an interesting array of sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Representative Evalyn Merrick of Lancaster bravely came forward and spoke about her own use of marijuana during cancer treatment a few years ago. Representative Merrick is hardly a stereotypical pothead. She is a brave woman who dared to tell the truth. The cures for cancer are sometimes worse than the disease. Medicinal use of marijuana can alleviate some of the worst side affects.
Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, a Benson appointee who was recently re-appointed by Governor Lynch sent an Assistant AG from her office to register her disapproval of the bill. Karin Eckel, speaking for Ms. Ayotte, said that until federal regulators decide that marijuana is safe and effective, it’s too risky to encourage its use. She said that Ayotte is also concerned that the medical use of marijuana might increase the general use. Given that Ayotte is the NH AG, appointed by Governor Lynch, we can assume that this is his position, being filtered down through subordinates. I find the idea that medical use of marijuana will increase general use to be patently ridiculous. Medical users aren’t going to be selling it to kids on the playground. Cancer patients get much better drugs for pain, drugs that retail on street corners, or to Rush Limbaugh’s housekeeper, for a whole lot more money.
This is another example of how we do things by rote, without challenging our views. We’ve crammed so much “just say NO” into people’s heads that they really don’t even know what it is that they’re saying no to.
Thirteen states have legalized medical marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The sky has not fallen in any of those states. Reefer madness does not seem to have taken hold. What has taken hold is a far more compassionate way of looking at the treatment of long-term illnesses. We treat sick or dying pets with more compassion and dignity than we treat dying humans.
NH has a chance to move forward and show compassion to people who are sick and suffering. Attorney General Ayotte is tacitly suggesting that sick people who use marijuana should be treated as criminals. Contact your state legislators and urge them to just say YES to H648.
"Let us reflect again on how cynical and how dark it is to even contemplate sending someone to prison for a year, when they may not even have that much time left in their life.” Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Drug war clock
30 year drug war timeline
h/t to phawker.com for the image
this was printed as an editorial in the March 13, 2009 issue of the Conway Daily Sun.
Posted by susanthe at 6:15 PM