WYETHE COUNTY, Va., October 31, 2012 — Gary Johnson, Woody Harrelson, Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, and Whoopi Goldberg all agree: It is time to change the draconian marijuana laws in this country. The diversity of this group alone is a reflection of just how broad the support for changing current marijuana laws has become.
Whatever personal opinions people have about marijuana, it is obvious the war on drugs, specifically marijuana, has failed.
The FBI has just released a new report showing that police in the U.S. arrest someone for marijuana every 42 seconds, and that 87% of those arrests are for possession alone.
A group of police, judges and other law enforcement officials advocating for the legalization and regulation of marijuana and other drugs pointed to the figures showing more than 750,000 marijuana arrests in 2011 — more than 40 years after the start of the “war on drugs” — as evidence that this is a war that can never be won.
“Even excluding the costs involved for later trying and then imprisoning these people, taxpayers are spending between $1.5 to $3 billion a year just on the police and court time involved in making these arrests,” said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). That’s a lot of money to spend for a practice that four decades of unsuccessful policies have proved does nothing to reduce the consumption of drugs.
Part Two of the interview:
Lisa King: What states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use?
Tom Angell: Medical marijuana is legal in 17 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont. Washington, D.C. also has a medical marijuana law.
LK: In the states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, have they benefited monetarily?
TA: Definitely. States that have legalized and regulated medical marijuana sales have not only improved the lives of those who are simply trying to deal with their maladies by following their doctors’ recommendations without being arrested, but they have been able to bring in new tax revenue that funds public services.
In California, for example, it is estimated to generate $100 million a year in tax revenue from medical marijuana sales. And this is just the direct taxes on sales of marijuana; it doesn’t account for the economic benefits from secondary and tertiary industries that benefit from medical marijuana programs, such as companies that sell grow lights and soil to those who want to cultivate their own medicine.
LK: What can the average American do to help in the effort to change current marijuana laws?
TA: The first and easiest thing people should do is go to MarijuanaMajority.com and then share some of our quotes and videos from prominent people on Facebook and Twitter. This will help us send the message that supporting marijuana reform is a mainstream, majority-support position and that no one who thinks these laws need to change should be afraid to say so. It all starts with a conversation, and with letting people know that it is OK to talk about this issue.
Doing so won’t mean sticking your neck out, or that you will be marginalized, or that you will be viewed as some kind of self-interested “stoner” just because you think these laws are broken and need to be fixed. In speaking up for the need or change our marijuana laws, know that you are in good company: You stand with a majority of Americans, including prominent voices like Morgan Freeman, Arianna Huffington, David Koch, Pat Robertson and Bill Maher. And so many others.
But beyond having conversations with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers, we really need people to tell their elected officials that their constituents want them to take action. Too many politicians think that if they support reforming marijuana laws they will be attacked as “soft on crime.”
We need to constantly remind them that polls show that more voters want change than want the laws to stay the same. If everyone reading this interview right now took a few minutes to write to their elected officials, it would go a long way toward sending the message that there are many votes to be earned, and very few to be lost, by voting to change obviously ineffective policies.
So there you have it, according to Tom Angell. It appears the time has come to toss out our failed drug policy and embrace what a majority of Americans already agree on, marijuana laws need to reflect what Americans believe, and not a 40-year-old failed policy. Regardless of which side of this issue you are on, be heard, make your voice heard and your vote count.
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