America Must Wean Law Enforcement From Their Marijuana Arrest Addiction

George1By George Rohrbacher, Member, NORML Board of Directors

In America since 1965, there have been 21 million arrests for marijuana, 9 out of 10 for quantities of an ounce or less. Over 800,000 were arrested for pot last year, with people of color and the young being arrested and incarcerated in hugely disproportionate numbers. Under current Washington State law, if arrested for possession of even the tiniest amount of cannabis, a person faces a mandatory night in jail, handcuffs, mugshots, fingerprints, and a criminal record that, thanks to the internet and data-mining, might follow a person for the rest of their life.

The Mexican Cartels have murdered tens of thousands of people in their own country and now their violence is spilling over the boarder into America. Sales of marijuana in the US are estimated to account for half of the Cartels’ revenue stream. By simply legalizing pot, by taking the business and the profits of marijuana out of the hands of these criminals, taxing and regulating cannabis would be a devastating blow to organized crime. And at the same time, regulation would ensure our citizens that standards of purity and potency had been met.

California, Oregon and Washington have all had marijuana legalization initiatives filed this year. California’s initiative already has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, and recent polling of likely voters found that 56% plan to vote, “Yes”, on the measure come November. California’s Board of Tax Equalization has estimated that the legalization of cannabis will bring $1.4 billion in new tax revenues to the state’s cash-strapped municipalities.

This month, a Pew Charitable Trust poll found that 73% of all Americans are in favor of legal access to marijuana as medicine. Used as medicine for over 4,500 years, the DEA’s own Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young ruled: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man…” Without even holding a hearing, and over the objections of the American Medical Association, all uses of cannabis were outlawed by Congress in 1937. Since California’s passage of Prop 215 in 1996, 14 states have now taken back their medical marijuana rights from the Feds. Much safer than aspirin (gastric bleeding, death) or Tylenol (liver damage, death), marijuana is safer than virtually every other over-the-counter and prescription medicine for sale in America. Cannabis is also far safer, as a recreational drug, than either the very speedily deadly alcohol or the slowly lethal tobacco. Marijuana is not only safer for the individual, but it is safer for the society, too. A Seattle Police Sgt. patrolling Seattle Hempfest’s cannabis-imbibing 100,000 person crowd told me, “…compared to the crowds coming out of Safeco or Quest field after a game, patrolling Hempfest is like patrolling a Girl Scout picnic.”

Through my own recreational use, I discovered marijuana the all-natural non-toxic pain medicine with far less severe side-effects than the prescription alternatives. I believe cannabis should be legal for medical, recreational, food and fiber uses. Cannabis should be legal for American farmers to grow. If cannabis is legal for all, sick people will be able to get it. Ending this prohibition, America must also wean law enforcement from its 70-year-old marijuana arrest addiction. Cannabis use didn’t turn either Michael Phelps or Barack Obama into a couch potato or a loser. It’s time to legalize it. Tax and regulate marijuana…Now.

George Rohrbacher is a retired cattle rancher, former WA state senator (R), former Commissioner of Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, currently serving on the NORML Board of Directors (For additional information please review the titles of two of the blogs I’ve written for the NORML blog: “Confessions of a Medical Marijuana Patient” and “Marijuana Prohibition and Fatherhood”)

This essay was originally published in the Peninsula Daily News on May 4th.

60 thoughts

  1. I totally agree. I would like to take it further and say that I believe it aids in peoples’ connections to the spirit, though for those who disbelieve in such I would be willing to pursue that as a recreational hobby. =P

  2. Why isn’t the government making money off of cannabis already? Why is the Tax Cannabis 2010 act instilling penalties as if marijuana is still the enemy to society?

    The government has been killing our earth with toxic waste from oil consumption, profiting off our lungs with tobacco taxation, and our livers and lives with alcohol.

    Live Free America!

  3. It kinda makes you ask yourself; Self, is the Government in the black market drug buisness? with all the scientific eveidence we have this is the only conclusion i can come up with that makes any sence to me. The government uses drug money to fund all the evil things they do and do not have to answer for. They cannot let this money go to the people or the CIA, FBI and local police departments would go under, this money is what funds all the guns, cars and other equipment used.

  4. Reverse the unjust classification of this plant as a narcotic. I’m with you, do it now. Save us from wasting another trillion dolars on this 73 year old issue. We have more pressing issues to spend our law enforcement money on, like bank fraud, internet security threats, predatory criminals, violent repeat offenders, terrorist attacks…

    Stop trying to create more enemies. Like Canada, they are a peacefull country and now we are trying to make them hate us by forcing them to extradite Marc Emery, against their will, for something his own countries laws would not even bother him with. All because of these OUTDATED, UNJUST LAWS.

    The only logical conclusion that this continues is that corruption is out of control in the USA.

  5. Thank you Mr. Rohrbacher for the wonderful enlightening article. With people like you helping to end what I see as a tragedy, we just might win! Much of what you wrote, I was already aware of. We just have to try to do more to make the people who want to continue with the current policies more aware of the truth. I’m a 54 year old ex-marine and what I’ve been doing is writing on lots of marijuana related blogs to let people know the reasons why I think it should be legalized – and the sooner the better! I’ve had it with bad laws ruining good people’s lives!

  6. To further the cause of legalization, in addition to writing my opinions in various blogs, I also wrote directly to President Obama, and to the judge that will oversee the case involving Marc Emery. I encourage everyone to try to help this good Canadian citizen to avoid serving 5 years in a brutal American prison for selling marijuana seeds. Here is a link to learn more: http://www.420magazine.com/2010/05/marc-emery-cannabis-warrior-of-the-month/

  7. I’m 60 years old, smoking pot is the only harmless medicine that makes my back pain easier to manage.

    I don’t see why I have to be criminalized in order to stop my self suffering.

  8. Cops need to smoke weed and then maybe they wont be so trigger happy and kill people and their pets. Maybe if they smoked that confiscated “Devil Weed” maybe they wouldn’t beat people in handcuffs lying face down. The Marijuana would take away their violent tendencies which make them hurt citizens. I was a Correctional Officer for a year and everyday before I went to work I smoked a big fat joint of some seedy Mexican brickweed and it made it all the more bearable. I can attest that alot of CO’s smoke weed every day.

  9. legalizing marijuana is the most important issue of our time.

    was that applause or laughter?

    there is nothing more important than the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    and it’s DOABLE now.

  10. I will certainly not be voting for anyone who opposes cannabis legalization. The time is now America we pay taxes, give us our rights just like alchohol.

  11. Tell em George! I’m from WA state too & am optimistic about I-1068 getting on the ballot this fall.

  12. I agree with the police officer who said it was like a Girl Scout outing to patrol cannabis users than other things. Now I have never been to a “pot party” where lots of people are using at once – except for the recent marijuana march on 5-1. This was one of the most peaceful gatherings I have ever been to. Lots of cannabis was consumed by over 1,000 people, and when we reached our destination, people were sitting down in groups, not like the drunken riotous, barf-filled parties of my college days – more like a “daze” from all the booze.

  13. a Girl Scout picnic Anymore I can only see hemp laws as the corruption that infects our republic.

  14. George is rich in common sense. Everything he wrote is true and should be read out loud in the halls of congress. This should also be sent to the President of the United States as well as the President Of Mexico. If you expect to control any substance it would have to be done through a legal market where law abiding business people grow, distribute and sell the commodity. When will people in the government understand that they have almost no control of a black market? Protect the children by legalizing and actually controlling cannabis! Thanks George for the inspiring letter.

  15. Amen already! The only crime with mj is the law against it. We need to reschedule the plant, educate on its use and let the god given herb do its wonders.

  16. What about legal or illegal growers maiking hashish? With the vote coming up in Califorina the prohibitionists are sure to hit on this issue and Norml will need a defense.

  17. George, I deeply appreciate your honest and insightful comments. We are all repeating the same truths, pointing out the problems with the same senseless (and heartless) policies, so the one thing I am enjoying most about the movement at this point in time is all the unique, smart, lovable people who are speaking out their personal truths. I think that what this is doing – besides getting the majority to act – is dispelling the fear that surrounds acceptance of this marvelous plant. And it IS a plant that, besides helping with pain, has something deeper to offer, which is why I support NORML. Good job, guys.

  18. I personally do not smoke but fully support legalizing marijuana. So many people in my family have been put behind bars for recreational use. Good, hard working Americans. It’s just time now. This country seriously needs to change.

  19. self
    # bhonze Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    It kinda makes you ask yourself; Self, is the Government in the black market drug buisness? with all the scientific eveidence we have this is the only conclusion i can come up with that makes any sence to me. The government uses drug money to fund all the evil things they do and do not have to answer for. They cannot let this money go to the people or the CIA, FBI and local police departments would go under, this money is what funds all the guns, cars and other equipment used.
    # wash-voter Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Reverse the unjust classification of this plant as a narcotic. I’m with you, do it now. Save us from wasting another trillion dolars on this 73 year old issue. We have more pressing issues to spend our law enforcement money on, like bank fraud, internet security threats, predatory criminals, violent repeat offenders, terrorist attacks…

    Stop trying to create more enemies. Like Canada, they are a peacefull country and now we are trying to make them hate us by forcing them to extradite Marc Emery, against their will, for something his own countries laws would not even bother him with. All because of these OUTDATED, UNJUST LAWS.

    The only logical conclusion that this continues is that corruption is out of control in the USA.

  20. In response to…

    Juan C Palenzuela Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 5:11 pm
    I will certainly not be voting for anyone who opposes cannabis legalization. The time is now America we pay taxes, give us our rights just like alchohol.

    Well then as I live in Florida, what should I do? Not Vote? Here they all oppose legalization, or anything that sounds similar..

  21. Will sanity prevail and cannabis be re-legalized? Will prohibitionists continue to use the threat of violence backed up with violence to try and impose their will on others? I thought the Dark Ages were supposed to be behind us. Prohibitionists have caused more damage than problematic drug consumption. Prohibitionists should pay restitution and be put in prison. Prohibitionists should only be released after they have learned to mind their own business and stop harming others.

  22. I was always under the impression that marijuana was not addictive.

    Looks like I was wrong – and you are right.

    There is an addiction factor with law enforcement – they just cant see to ween themselves from the plant, and let the people live free.

    “I’m just doing my job” is not an excuse anymore. There are laws on the books that they “choose” not to enforce. Marijuana is no less a choice for them – or is it an addiction?

  23. We just all need to come together as a whole when election time rolls around. Find out which reps are for the legalization of marijuana and make that information EASILY locatable to every person who believes in it and is capable of voting. There are still many reps in our government who vehemently hate the idea of legalizing for medical OR recreational use due to the bs they were fed by the media all those years ago. It’s time we got the old OUT and brought in some fresh blood. I just got a response back from my senator and was told that marijuana use was a “tragedy” for our country. I wonder how educated she really was.

  24. yes i live in florida too….it’s horrible here i write and e-mail politicians all the time. They rarely respond even though i request a responce. The ones that do respond tell me there opposed….even to medical marijuana laws!!

  25. Nice piece, but I particularly enjoyed the final quip about Phelps and Obama not being couch potatoes… heck, people might even suggest that they are over achievers despite their use of sweet Mary Jane.

  26. In response to…

    Juan C Palenzuela Says:
    May 20th, 2010 at 5:11 pm
    I will certainly not be voting for anyone who opposes cannabis legalization. The time is now America we pay taxes, give us our rights just like alchohol.

    Well then as I live in Florida, what should I do? Not Vote? Here they all oppose legalization, or anything that sounds similar..

    Any Republican state is like that. They will throw you in jail for any amount and they are proud to do it. The conservative movement is completely anti-marijuana but they are slowly but surely changing their tune. The best thing you can do is join a grass roots organization and participate in groups like NORML, ACLU, LEAP, etc. I am the type to openly debate the issue but that makes me a target and I am in constant fear of getting nailed. Above all VOTE DEMOCRAT

  27. there wont be corruption when big tobacco is running our weed putting toxic chemicals so i burns evenly and smooth… its just going to take us small guys and put us to the test in means producing mad quantity and quality side by side.. easily do able, just risky and lots of work.

  28. At the very least decriminalize marijuana the cost to the tax payer as well as the cost to the individual is too high. The penalty robs a life too destructive our criminal justice system is way off on this.
    My son is now in a dorm like setting in the Illinois Cook County Jail. 36 men in one room.4 open shower heads cold showers 4 open toilets. No doors No stalls, No privacy. lights out 10:00 must remain on bed after 10:00 breakfast 3am lunch 9 am dinner 3p don’t know the point of this.slice of bolgna and grits twice a day. outside 1and a half hours once a week the only sunlight he sees. Can’t sleep,won’t allow sleeping pill. These are all non violent offenders.Constant gaurd harrassment. Don’t see the point in treating men like garbage.
    His home all his belongings gone.
    Truck disappeared don’t know where it is. Police say they don’t have it.
    It goes on and on no end in sight. All of this since January he is just waiting to go to trial for being at a house in Chicago where there was marijuana. He resided in California he was visiting.
    The cost of these marijuana laws is far to high.
    P.S. His 34th birthday is May 26th one I’m sure he won’t want to remeber. Behind bars his new address is Jeremy woolf CCDOC ID# 20100121182 Division2 annex Dorm C2 P.O. Box 089002 Chicogo Ill. 60608

  29. Just remember that the people who have been arrested for marijauana will be a witness against the ones who have enforced these laws in spite of listening to their conscience an leaving alone the peaceful “Potheads”. God made this plant and man made it illegal, so man will have to answer to God at the judgement day that will surely come. Choose wisely man.

  30. Are there any compassionate cops out there – or – are they all lemmings? Maybe we should start arresting cops that break the law – and – maybe we should start at the top with the police chiefs who are the worst offenders. If you saw a cop killing someone – or – a dog or two…do we just let them go? Fuck implied immunity…a law breaker is a law breaker.

  31. Marijuana medicinal plant would never have become illegal, had it not been for the racist prohibitionist Harry Anslinger and his infamous Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which was motivated not by scientific discoveries, but the most ignominious racist considerations. This status quo cannot be preserved with respect to marijuana medicinal plant that has been used by humans for over 10,000 years without one single fatal outcome, without any physical withdrawal syndrome as opposed to alcohol and most controlled prescription drugs. Cannabis use has been shown to suppress violent behavior, and I am sure that in the future it will be shown to be a “barrier”, rather than a “gateway” to alcohol and hard drug use. In all the polls over 80% of participating public want medical marijuana legalized, since its current classification by the DEA as Schedule I drug is against all scientific reality. The DEA assertion that Marinol and Medical Marijuana are one and the same is totally false, medical marijuana has over 70 active compounds acting in concert, it is that philosophical instance where Whole is greater than the sum of its parts (and definitely greater than any one individual part, like a THC “analogue” called Marinol). Yet, they are fully allowed to get away with this blatant campaign of disinformation. This being the case, it is incumbent on our “representatives” in Harrisburg, PA and elsewhere to do as We The People (or at least 80% of us) tell them to do, because it is an extreme “slippery-slope” to ignore the will of the people. You see, today they don’t do as the people want them to do on this issue, tomorrow – on another, and the day after tomorrow We The People become “we the nothing”. Once this happens, no one is safe, not they, not their children, no one, because tyranny has now replaced democracy, and no one is safe with tyranny. But why listen to me in this respect when it is enough to listen to none other than the American Medical Association which now recognized the remarkable medicinal properties of Cannabis Sativa medicinal plant, and is urging the government to change its classification ASAP. You see, the DEA cannot hold AMA in its iron grip of fear, like it holds the individual physicians who need their DEA Number to practice, and therefore AMA can take that public position.I worked for years in drug-addiction clinics of Philadelphia , administering all kinds of treatment, from detox-rehab to methadone maintenance therapy for opiate addicts, and I saw plenty of serious dependencies in alcohol and controlled prescription drugs. The only cases of pure “marijuana addiction” were those referred by the criminal justice system after failing a drug test. It is an absolute scientific fallacy to classify Cannabis in the same group with heroin and cocaine, and the science of addiction medicine is absolutely correct on discrediting the so-called “gateway drug” theory.
    The “opponents” of marijuana legalization for at least medical use clearly remind me of Marxists, as I fought Marxism long ago just like I fight the Cannabis prohibition right now. After Karl Marx labeled religion “opium for the people”, subsequent Marxists suppressed religion despite the people’s will (just like the prohibitionists do right now with respect to marijuana) saying in effect, “We’ll take opium from the mouths of fools, they will thank us later”. The same thing, that is the Government assuming the role of a final arbiter of what is or is not “good” for the people, instead of the people determining this for themselves.

  32. to 28..rookie
    i know right…i know ive written charles twice…did get a reply once..they must all have been taught the same response about herb…their is no favor with cannabis here in florida..it seems we can bitch all we want but if they dont want to be dirtied by it…we will never see our freedom to choose.i love the taste of good wiskey but now i refuse to support it because of the irrepairable damage it has caused for me personally and, our nation. yet…that remains legal. herb has been in my life for thirty two years but had to quit after a good job of thirty two years decided to drug test. how can the people of florida make a difference when their is no support whatsoever in our state government.its looking like it begins at the state level…im bout to head for the mountians…thing is, its more then bout me..its about all of us who enjoy the remedy…

  33. Its funny and sad

    ‘We are gridlocked

    The Older statesmen and women cannot yield because they depend on the system remaining, there jobs, positions in the community, the pension, may I suggest that you smoke some Cannabis, you may go crazy, you may have an amazing experience, put your toe into the ‘water

    Don’t worry, you won’t die if you inhale, if you follow these instructions, who knows, you might catch a glimpse.

  34. #28 Without write in capable ballots, all you can do is pick a candidate of your moral conscious and then write to them in protest of supporting this one view. Letters that start out with, “Having voted for you last November …” carry more weight with them than ones that state, I would have voted for you …

    That is a problem with the dual party predominant system of voting. I dont like it at all, but I have to continue to do what I can to hopefully represent all of my political views.

    That being said, I’m becoming more and more embittered with how politicians are representing their values after the vote. The old sayings have always been true about campaign promises, but over the last several decades we seem to keep getting further away from even having a way to determine what they represent. It is not simple naiveté and wisdom with age, I simply have seen less and less stand-up issue politicians at all levels of representation government holding to any set of self made standards.

    When in doubt pick something, and for damn sure vote on the other initiatives and such that show up even if you do choose to not pick a candidate for any one office.

  35. #6, Onjray

    I agree. It really is puzzling why the gov’t doesn’t want to regulate it – they would get billions upon billions. After all, it’s just like the guy in “Thank you for smoking” said about the customers dying – money can’t be made off dead people. Cannabis kills noone, as well as extends the user’s life, so the customers will be there for a long, long time to keep lining their pockets. They wouldn’t need to replace the people who die from the prodeuct, so the customer base can only grow like a weed (no pun intended). Very good point, and a very confusing thought.

  36. #14, exconservative

    You would be surprised how many cops smoke weed. In fact, they are some of the biggest prohibs you will ever find. Think about it – they bust someone with, say, 10 pounds of mendocino premo and report 7. Is the one busted gonna speak up and say they had 10 lbs and not 7? Hell no – it’s a lesser sentence. So, the dealer gets less time in prison and the pot head cop gets 3 pounds of good, quality smoke for free. It’s a win for the pig, and not as big a bust for the dealer.

  37. There are very, very few politicians in this country who do not oppose legalization, certainly none in my state. Sometimes one is not as bad as the other, sometimes it comes down to which one is worse.
    Sometimes one says he doesn’t support legalization, and the other calls for even more repression than we have now. Sometimes I do just leave that race on the ballot blank, there’s no law (yet) which says you have to vote in each and every race. MJ reform more than any other issue usually comes down to the lesser of evils.

  38. This is such an amazing article, however it still saddens me with all the positive studies, polls, and FACTS being presented about Cannabis. Although we’ve made progress, we still seem no closer to even getting a nationwide medical use act signed into law.

    The current Drug Czar today on CNN reiterated the fact that Cannabis legalization will not happen under the Obama admin. Although sometimes I am skeptical of this, they aren’t afraid to keep repeating the same nonsense over and over.

  39. I used the web forms to contact some elected officials, and if you haven’t, this is what kind of frustration you can expect. I was contacted by someone that was appointed, not voted into position. And, I have seen the same response from other STATES, not county, a comepletely different state. Response was verbatim.

    Wow, it seems ironic that I took the time to write Governor Charlie Crist a letter is regards to the MAJORITIES viewpoint on this “War on Ourselves”. Why does he feel the need to have someone else respond for him? Did I vote you into office? No, you were appointed to your office by a man that cannot even take some of his precious time in order to write back to me. I would also like to tell you sir that I do not believe that you wrote this response either. Considering I have already read this response and it was from a different states Office of Drug Control, I do not believe that you have even given a moments thought on my letter, let alone the impact that your antiquated laws have on our states residents. You sir are a shyster, you are taking our money and not doing your job. Shame on you. I sincerely hope that you read this, because I will be posting this and your “response” on my website, and I will not be voting for Charlie Crist again. Maybe one day the reformists will stop hiding in fear and stand up for what we believe in, then you guys might actually have to work for a living. Again, SHAME ON YOU!!

    Sincerely,
    a disgruntled resident of Florida,
    P. J. Seitz

  40. Here’s House of Representative Cliff Stearns response to Med. marijuana. Seems he hasn’t been reading current findings either, just thought everyone should know how difficult Florida residents are going to have it.

    Dear Mr. S.,

    Thank you for contacting my office regarding medical marijuana. I appreciate having the opportunity to respond.

    You raise some important points about limited resources and appropriate reach of federal government. However, I vote against medical marijuana amendments for a few reasons. First, you may be aware there is a legally available form of medical cannabinoids. The active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC) is available in prescription pills known as Marinol® (dronabinol). It is indicated for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, and for nausea and vomiting accompanied by cancer chemotherapy. A physician can determine if this is the right course of therapy for a patient. Further, on July 2, 1999, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reclassified the scheduling status of Marinol® from a Schedule II (CII) to a Schedule III (CIII) controlled substance. This rescheduling relieves the physician and the patient from a number of restrictions. Florida law similarly has reclassified Marinol®. As for smokable marijuana, studies by Drug Watch International and other credible (such as on March 6, 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association) scientific bodies have found that the benefits of smoking marijuana are severely outweighed by the numerous medical risks associated with the psychoactive ingredient, or simply the tar in the cigarettes. Finally, I find efforts to legalize drugs counterproductive. The many hazards related to illegal drug use have been documented and shown to have a severe negative impact on society, from crime to decreased productivity.

    Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance in federal matters. With kind regards, I am,

    Sincerely,

    Cliff Stearns
    United States Representative

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