The growing, distribution, and use of marijuana occurs in a legal gray zone that puts our federal laws and law enforcement agencies against those of the States. Federal law prohibits the selling, possession, or use of marijuana. However, in 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, marijuana can be prescribed by a doctor for medical use. People who can benefit from the medical uses of marijuana, including those suffering from arthritis, cancer, and HIV/AIDs, are caught in the middle, as are the thousands of people (800,000 annually by one estimate) arrested each year for the non-violent offense of smoking or possessing marijuana. Surprisingly, in spite of the political divisiveness that hamstrings intelligent debate of public policy in our country, there is currently widespread, bipartisan support for the legalization of marijuana. Here are eight supporters for such legalization who otherwise might completely disagree with each other on any other issue.
Last year, GRAND Magazine, an online magazine for grandparents, polled its readers asking if they supported the legalization of marijuana. Eighty-five percent said yes. Grandparents born from 1946-1964 came of age when smoking marijuana became more of a mainstream recreational activity. Many GRAND readers confirmed that they considered marijuana no more or less dangerous than alcohol, and commented on its benefits in treating serious health issues. One reader commented, “I expect I will need cannabis for my health soon and don’t want (it) to be illegal.”
Popular travel writer and TV personality Rick Steves is an advocate of traveling as a way to broaden one’s perspective of the planet and its people. He serves on the board of directors for the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and publicly supports the decriminalization of marijuana among adults. “Our courts and prisons are clogged with non-violent people whose only offense is smoking, buying, or selling marijuana,” says Steves. “Arresting people for marijuana use is laughable now in most of Europe.”
As recently as March 2012, none other than television evangelist Pat Robertson, a powerful figure among conservatives and those among the Christian right, declared on his show The 700 club that “the war on drugs hasn’t succeeded” and that mandatory sentencing for marijuana possession should be eliminated. Robertson clarified later that he supports legalization of marijuana with some regulation. “Christ is a compassionate man,” said Robertson. “And he would not condone the imprisoning of people for non-violent offenses.”
Former New Mexico Republican governor and current libertarian candidate for president Gary Johnson is an unapologetic proponent for drug policy reform. On his website, Johnson notes the difference between prohibition-related versus use-related problems caused by marijuana, with use-related being negligible comparatively. Drawing a parallel between today’s drug laws and those of the 1920s Prohibition era, Johnson describes the policy of arresting and incarcerating thousands of people each year for possession of marijuana, a drug that is less harmful than alcohol, as “insane.”
So next time the police knock on your door or pull you over, don’t panic! Maybe you don’t have to flush or dump that bag of weed! Well, OK, probably not. But one of the most vocal organizations calling for the legalization of marijuana is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international organization of criminal justice professionals, including several current and former members of law enforcement. LEAP believes that legalization of marijuana, with strong regulations in place, will effectively “cripple” the drug cartels and street dealers currently profiting from the drug trade.
Richard Brookhiser, senior editor of the conservative magazine National Review, testified before Congress in 1996 to support the use of medical marijuana. Brookhiser used marijuana while suffering from testicular cancer to battle the nausea that comes with chemotherapy. But to do so, Brookhiser had to “become a criminal.” To that point, he told Congress, “the law disgraces itself when it harasses the sick.” Today, Brookhiser writes about the Marijuana Reform Party and is a member of the advisory board of the Marijuana Policy Project.
American economist, statistician, and “founding father of the Reagan revolution,” Milton Friedman, who passed away in 2006, was one of more than 500 economists who publicly endorsed a 2005 report advocating for the legalization and taxing of sales of marijuana. The economists also signed an open letter to then President Bush calling for a public debate about the prohibition of marijuana. The report stated that taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana would produce significant savings and tax revenues, whereas prohibition showed very little benefits and was in fact harming the nation’s economy. Friedman’s libertarian views are echoed today by the aforementioned Gary Johnson.
Television actor Larry Hagman, perhaps best known for his portrayal of the evil J.R. on the classic night-time soap opera Dallas, has recently, and apparently successfully, battled a “treatable form” of cancer, but has not indicated that he used medical marijuana in his treatments. Hagman, also a member of the Marijuana Policy Project advisory board, believes alcohol “destroys your body and makes you do violent things,” whereas marijuana allows you to “just sit back and enjoy life.” He recently told The New York Times that when he dies, his wish is to be chopped up into granular sized pieces, spread across a field to be planted with wheat and marijuana crops, and eaten up by friends and loved ones. So, how’s that joint, Larry?
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