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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Total Decriminalization of Marijuana.

So did you happen to hear about the attempt in California to totally decriminalize marijuana? Yep. I don't know if this is going to go anywhere, but I thought I should put my two cent's worth out here.

First up, if you click on the title of this post, you'll get taken to the online version of the graphic book, "A Drug War Carol". While this is a graphic novel, it is packed with real facts on the history of the war on marijuana - as well as "illegal" drugs in general. If you like what you read, you can also buy a paperback version from Amazon.

Okay. So back to my opinion on this issue.

So many people currently residing in jails and prisons within California are there because of misdemeanor possession of drugs. In the full-time prisons, as opposed to the short-term county jails, this figure often exceeds 60% and in some (Yes, we have FAR TOO MANY prisons in California - there's a very politically powerful union formed just from correctional officers (guards).) cases this runs as high as 80%. These are people who, whatever their other faults, are serving time solely for having a small, yes, SMALL amount of drugs - quite often just marijuana - on them at the time they were arrested. California's prisons are so overcrowded that a 150%-of-rated-capacity population is considered 'uncrowded'. Also, because of various hijinks by the guards' union, it is considered 'cheaper' to pay these guards overtime for 20-40 EXTRA hours per week than hire more guards - which by the way is adding hugely to California's debt problems! By decriminalizing all possession, cultivation, use and sale of marijuana - as well as wiping marijuana possession convictions from the records, 40%-45% of all current convicts would be eligible for immediate release from these prisons! (Others who have been convicted under such laws are either being prosecuted for other crimes and may need to be held in jail (not prison) or have committed crimes in prison and are serving other sentences concurrently.)

With an immediate release of those 40%, we'd slash the need for guard overtime and we'd relieve much of the tension caused by massive prison overcrowding. So just for state budget reasons, decriminalizing pot makes sense in California.

But there are other economic reasons for doing so. Decriminalizing pot means that police funds could be used to target more serious crimes, such as rape, assault, murder, theft and the like. This means that police forces could do a better job without requiring more money (and more taxes) from the local citizenry. Also, by legalizing pot, (whether pot use is regulated or taxed, or not) we take away much of the incentive for criminals to smuggle it in or grow it illegally. If a person can buy pot seeds, gardening supplies and grow the plants - openly - in that person's yard, the person no longer will have need to support the criminals by buying 'illegal' pot. And let me tell you, the actual process of growing plants is far cheaper than buying the stuff smuggled across the border - something like 95% cheaper! Which means this saved money can go towards other legal items. Further, if the gangs can't get the money for 'illegal' pot, they won't set up huge farming operations where thugs with automatic weapons congregate.

Think this doesn't make sense? Well look at what happened when we first created Prohibition and then, later, repealed it. People did no magically stop drinking when Prohibition went into effect. No, they just switched from cheap, LEGAL sources to expensive, ILLEGAL sources. And in doing so, they showed to the gangs that huge profits could be made supplying their demands. Sound familiar? And despite the federal government's best efforts, including their hero, Elliot Ness, enforcement of Prohibition did NOT stop the smuggling and sales of bootleg alcohol. No, what stopped it was the repeal of Prohibition. Despite this fact, almost as soon as Prohibition ended the federal government switched its sights to marijuana and heroin and made both of them illegal. At that time, as a percentage of the population, use and abuse was very low, something like less than 5%. Now, after more than 70 years of criminalization and prosecution? Something like 40% or more of our population has at least TRIED marijuana with close to 15% using pot or coke on a regular basis.

So why keep up the charade? Because prosecuting 'drug crimes' is a big business. Not only is a large part of the budget for police agencies targeted to direct 'prevention' of drug crimes, but there's also a secondary group of crimes created by criminalized drugs - that is crimes committed solely to raise funds to buy the high-cost 'illegal' drugs. Yes, burglary, carjacking, mugging, convenience-store robberies - so many of these crimes these days are committed to get money to buy illegal drugs. If a joint cost five cents - and it probably would if it were bought from a neighborhood grower who didn't have to worry about 'the law' - or if one could just grow one's own supply without fear of prosecution, one would not have to rob a convenience store or mug an old lady.

And it's not just direct police costs. We saw this during Prohibition, the rise of the use of high-powered weaponry by the criminals to 'protect' their supplies. It was a novelty to see John Dillinger use a Thompson machine gun to rob banks, but with the need to drive off competitors and police, it became quite common for mobsters to spray-and-pray with those same weapons while protecting their hooch. Again, sound familiar? Early on in the Drug War, most drug smugglers used small weapons - but more often just relied upon their smarts to outwit the police. Now? Both sides have automatic weapons, explosives and body armor. And there's an entire industry relying upon the 'drug trade' to create a market for these items. Does anyone remember the time when cops didn't have SWAT teams loaded with kevlar vests, 'Fritz' helmets, night-vision goggles and AR-15 assault rifles? All this came about because of the War on Drugs.

And then there's the medical front. Look at the average pothead. Then look at the absurd claims of the anti-marijuana government agencies. Does anyone really believe that pot causes so much 'medical harm'? Really?

No, keeping pot illegal only makes sense if you want ot keep crime on the rise. Legalize Pot Now!

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