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Florida should decriminalize marijuana

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Posted: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 12:02 am | Updated: 12:41 am, Wed Oct 6, 2010.

Katy Perry was right. In California, the grass is always greener. And as of last week, getting caught with an ounce or less of grass won’t get you jail time, it will only get you a $100 fine and a citation. For those playing at home, that’s about three days of parking citations from UF and less than one citation for using a duplicate decal.

Non-medical marijuana has officially been decriminalized in the state of California, making it the 12th state in the union to do so. It also puts California on a path to being on the right side of history.

Say what you want about marijuana as a whole, but decriminalization for small possession is a logical move.

Prison overcrowding is a legitimate issue in the United States, and as it currently stands I’d much rather let small-time users free than convicted sex offenders and murderers. I feel much more safe around those who are growing dazed and confused than those who have a history of violent crime. It’s just common sense.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. California, as of now, legally allows medical marijuana (like 15 other states), and there’s no restriction on the amount as long as the user is registered through his or her county. It now also allows non-medical marijuana to be used, but only up to an ounce.

The federal government? Not so much.

In Gonzales v. Raich, the Supreme Court ruled  that the federal government under the commerce clause still had the right to arrest and penalize marijuana users who were using the drug legally under their respective state laws but were still violating federal law by possessing it, regardless of whether or not it was an ounce or a pound.

Thankfully, a few months after Obama’s inauguration, Attorney General Eric Holder announced he’d be ordering the Drug Enforcement Agency to stop seizures in states where marijuana was legal. That’s a good move. It saves time, resources and, frankly, who cares if a nonviolent citizen took a few hits from his pipe? Smuggling cocaine from Colombia? Bigger deal.

Taking a few hits of a non-addictive substance that has caused zero reported deaths in comparison to tobacco or alcohol should not be the focus of the Department of Justice.

It’s time for a common-sense conversation about marijuana in the state of Florida. California’s Proposition 19 will be up for a vote in less than a month. This bill would legalize and tax cannabis in the state, which is further than any other state in the union has gone to legalize marijuana.

Florida on the other hand? No legal medical marijuana, no decriminalized possession of marijuana. Behind the times? Understatement.

Unfortunately for everyday voters, there is one issue that goes unnoticed: the people who profit the most from marijuana being illegal. It’s the drug dealers themselves.

As there is no set open-market value, dealers and growers can capitalize and make huge profits. Legalizing and taxing marijuana would provide the government tax revenue, eliminate the true black market and implement safeguards like those used in helping to prevent the sale of tobacco or alcohol to minors.

Just the other day at a Gainesville head shop, I saw a responsible shop owner ask younger patrons their age and force a 16-year-old to leave. Right now, middle schoolers are smoking marijuana because no such safeguards exist. Obviously, the safeguards aren’t universal, but they do help more than they hurt.

Hopefully, Florida will one day be on the right side of history when it comes to ending prohibition of marijuana.

Sean Quinn is a first-year political science student. His column appears every Wednesday.

Welcome to the discussion.

20 comments:

  • gatorgrad09 posted at 10:51 am on Mon, Oct 11, 2010.

    gatorgrad09 Posts: 15

    wm97ab, please please please get this straight. for the last time.....i am not arguing for or against legalization. I am saying that the facts used to support this article are incorrect...misleading and innacurate at best.

    with regard to wm97ab's comments:
    1. you stated that marijuana does cause car accident deaths. the author is wrong in stating that it has never killed anyone. More on non-car accident deaths from use of marijuana and its derivitives:
    Przegl Lek. 2005;62(6):576-80.
    9THC and related compounds are determined in autopsy material, although deaths by overdose of cannabis are exceptionally rare. Fatalities happen most often after intravenous injection of hashish oil.
    "Exceptionallly rare" still means possible and that it has been documented.

    2. you stated marijuana is as addictive as caffeine. but it's still addictive--not what this author claims. you may also want to consider that many of these addictiveness studies are conducted using basic/native marijuana. some marijuana cultivars that are popularly used contain far higher concentrations of many chemicals and therefore cannot be categorized as "caffeine-like" in their addictiveness until further studied.

    3. here are just a few of the studies showing brain structure/behaviorial/psychological differences of consistent marijuana users:
    Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008 Jun;65(6):694-701
    "These results provide new evidence of exposure-related structural abnormalities in the hippocampus and amygdala in long-term heavy cannabis users and corroborate similar findings in the animal literature. These findings indicate that heavy daily cannabis use across protracted periods exerts harmful effects on brain tissue and mental health."

    Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Jan 7;77(1):23-30.
    "Our preliminary results suggest evidence of possible structural differences in the brain of heavy marijuana users, and localize regions for further investigation of the effects of marijuana in the brain."

    Neuroimage. 2008 Jul 1;41(3):1067-74. Epub 2008 Mar 14.
    There was a trend towards a positive correlation between MD and length of use suggesting the possibility of a cumulative effect of marijuana over time and that a younger age at onset of use may predispose individuals to structural white matter damage. Structural abnormalities revealed in the CC may underlie cognitive and behavioural consequences of long term heavy marijuana use.

    if i've somehow misinterpreted the statements made by these scientists, i'm sorry. but it seems pretty clear. there is sufficient documentation to show that marijuana is both addictive and can lead to deaths, the complete opposite of what sean quinn has claimed. that's all i was trying to say. nothing more, nothing less.

     
  • wm97ab posted at 9:03 pm on Sun, Oct 10, 2010.

    wm97ab Posts: 5

    gatorgrad09 said:

    "Marijuana use has also been linked to death both indirectly because of car accidents (just like alcohol)"

    Alcohol accounts for about half of all road deaths. Fatigue accounts for about 40 percent. All the illegal drugs combined don't even come close to either one.

    If you accept that as an argument, then the only drug that should be allowed is alcohol. But we tried making alcohol illegal to deal with those kinds of problems and it only made them worse.

    And you should know that DUI has never been used as an excuse to outlaw any drug -- including alcohol, which has won all the prizes for DUI since cars were invented. So, even if you were correct, that still wouldn't amount to a sensible justification for prohibition.


    " and directly (due to the intake of specifc cannabis products)."

    Outright falsehood. Even the DEA isn't silly enough to claim that. You can find the US Government estimates of the lethal dose of marijuana at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/mj_overdose.htm In short, it is at least one-third your body weight.

    A friend of mine used to be head of the Pharmacology Dept. at the University of Texas. The DEA hired him to find the lethal dose of mj in rats. He realized something was seriously wrong with our drug laws when he couldn't find a dose that was big enough to kill a rat. They would just sleep a long time and wake up none the worst for wear.

    " Contrary to popular belief, it has been documented that majiuana does alter brain tissue (mostly seen with heavy use). Not to mention you are taking into your lungs the harmful products of combustion. "

    The largest study of the health effects of marijuana was done by Kaiser Permanente. They surveyed the health histories of 65,000 patients over a number of years. They found no significant differences between the health records of those who smoked pot and those who didn't. You can find the full text of the study at http://druglibrary.org/crl/aging/sidney-01.html

    Their findings are consistent with the findings of every major government commission on drugs from around the world over the last 100 years. You can read the full text of those at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

     
  • wm97ab posted at 8:42 pm on Sun, Oct 10, 2010.

    wm97ab Posts: 5

    realtruth, you are a lawyer and that is the best you can do for argument? Name-calling and ranting? Not one reference to back up anything you say?

    Well, have no fear. Your argument may be nothing more than schoolyard name-calling, but that's as good as any prohibitionist can do.

     
  • wm97ab posted at 8:40 pm on Sun, Oct 10, 2010.

    wm97ab Posts: 5

    I33tvoltron said: "Dupont earns up to 80% of their profits from the sulfuric acid process that turns wood into "

    While I agree with most of what you said, this part is inaccurate. During the 1930s, DuPont made most of its income from selling explosives and just before WWII was a great time to sell explosives. Sorry, but there isn't a lot of evidence for the idea that it was a DuPont conspiracy. For one thing, it doesn't explain why marijuana was already illegal in 30 states when Anslinger took over the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. You can find a short history of the laws -- as written by the law professor who wrote the original legal history for Nixon's commission at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/whiteb1.htm

    You can find other historical references on the subject at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/history.htm

    You can find a discussion of the weak points of this idea at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/hemp_conspiracy.htm

     
  • Dr Fill posted at 2:00 pm on Fri, Oct 8, 2010.

    Dr Fill Posts: 1

    As a healthcare professional, and a previous marajuana user for many years, I'm still bewildered why this substance is still illegal yet, even though such a high percentage of the population demands its decriminalization. Alas, there is much money made by attorneys, many jobs kept by the police, billions made by the pharmaceutical industry providing dangerous chemical compounds that attempt to do the same thing, and millions made by the private prison industry. These groups continue to clammer for harsh penalties. All the rest lose out keeping these laws on the books.
    One of the continuing problems are the idiots smoke and drive, smoke and do other drugs, and generally act like complete morons. Studies have shown that somewhere around 40% of adults (depending on whose study you've read last), have tried marajuana, and quite a few use it on a regular basis. As one writer commented, it CAN be addictictive, just like alcohol and ebay. Occasional "recreational/responsable" use has never been a problem in causing larger crimes , violence, or health issues. However, there are the occasional problems that can occur with its use, (especially with "morons and idiots") as with any over-the-counter supplement or alcoholic beverage.
    The issue here is what is the greater harm to society-continuing to break into people's homes, lock them up, confiscate all their property, give them criminal records, cause them to lose their professional licenses, spend huge gobs of money for an attorney, and cost US millions of dollars to keep them locked up, taking away their productivity- for WHAT? Using a relatively harmless substance-far less harmful than numerous "mainstream" products, There's no way to justify keeping these laws on the books. Work now for for decriminalization!

     
  • gatorgrad09 posted at 1:26 pm on Fri, Oct 8, 2010.

    gatorgrad09 Posts: 15

    PUF,
    You need to put your bong down for a minute. Maybe then you would see that you completely contradict yourself and confirm that everything I stated is true. Marijuana is addictive and it does cause deaths. The author of this article is WRONG to state otherwise, regardless of views on legalization.

    I'm gonna go with realtruth on this one...go do something worthwhile.

     
  • realtruth posted at 12:44 pm on Fri, Oct 8, 2010.

    realtruth Posts: 147

    PUF. You are biased and your facts are completely wrong. Please start contributing to society. Please.

     
  • PUFMMgieseghj posted at 4:14 am on Fri, Oct 8, 2010.

    PUFMMgieseghj Posts: 2

    Take part in the fight to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Florida by joining People United For Medical Marijuana - Florida. http://www.PUFMM.org

    [thumbup] Putting Medical Marijuana on the 2012 Florida Ballot! [beam]

     
  • PUFMMgieseghj posted at 4:12 am on Fri, Oct 8, 2010.

    PUFMMgieseghj Posts: 2

    @real-truth: We spend $1800 tax dollars every second with this War on Weed. We arrest more people for mere possession of marijuana than we do for violent crimes.

    @gatoergrad99: According the multiple NHTSA reports (and reports from other countries) marijuana-only drivers have a lower accident and fatality rate than sober drivers. Marijuana has never caused a single death ever. And marijuana is no more addictive than getting addicted to video games. You can find medical research, tests, and treatments for Video Game addiction, too. And for Television addiction. And internet. Well hell, the internet is addictive? ILLEGALIZE THE INTERNET!!

    Oh and one quick search of the US Library of Medicine will show over 6,500 articles showing how marijuana is a safer choice.


    Stop pushing our citizens towards harmful drugs!

     
  • gatorgrad09 posted at 1:05 pm on Thu, Oct 7, 2010.

    gatorgrad09 Posts: 15

    I'm not going to debate whether marijuana should be legalized. I was unnerved, however, at the claims in this article that marijuana use is both non-addictive and never caused a death--both of which are outright wrong. Say what you want about legalization (a lot can be said for and against that), but don't further spread this dumb, stoner-propagated claim that marijuana use is safe. I can understand your fight for the right to choose what you put into your body, but not while standing on such a shaky soapbox.

    One quick search of PubMed will show you exactly how much medical research has documented its addictiveness. You can even find research on treatments for and tests to identify marijuana addiction. Marijuana use has also been linked to death both indirectly because of car accidents (just like alcohol) and directly (due to the intake of specifc cannabis products). Contrary to popular belief, it has been documented that majiuana does alter brain tissue (mostly seen with heavy use). Not to mention you are taking into your lungs the harmful products of combustion.

     
  • malcolmkyle posted at 5:30 am on Thu, Oct 7, 2010.

    malcolmkyle Posts: 2

    Here are some facts concerning the situation in Holland. --Please save a copy and use it as a reference when debating prohibitionists who claim the exact opposite concerning reality as presented here below:

    ”Cannabis coffee shops" are not only restricted to the Capital of Holland, Amsterdam. They can be found in more than 50 cities and towns across the country. At present, only the retail sale of five grams is tolerated, so production remains criminalized. The mayors of a majority of the cities with coffeeshops have long urged the national government to also decriminalize the supply side.

    A poll taken earlier this year indicated that some 50% of the Dutch population thinks cannabis should be fully legalized while only 25% wanted a complete ban. Even though 62% of the voters said they had never taken cannabis. An earlier poll also indicated 80% opposing coffee shop closures.
    http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2010/02/public_split_on_cannabis_legal.php

    It is true that the number of coffee shops has fallen from its peak of around 2,500 throughout the country to around 700 now. The problems, if any, concern mostly “drug tourists” and are largely confined to cities and small towns near the borders with Germany and Belgium. These problems, mostly involve traffic jams, and are the result of cannabis prohibition in neighboring countries. “Public nuisance problems” with the coffee shops are minimal when compared with bars, as is demonstrated by the rarity of calls for the police for problems at coffee shops.

    While it is true that lifetime and “past-month” use rates did increase back in the seventies and eighties, the critics shamefully fail to report that there were comparable and larger increases in cannabis use in most, if not all, neighboring countries which continued complete prohibition.

    According to the World Health Organization only 19.8 percent of the Dutch have used marijuana, less than half the U.S. figure.
    In Holland 9.7% of young adults (aged 15–24) consume soft drugs once a month, comparable to the level in Italy (10.9%) and Germany (9.9%) and less than in the UK (15.8%) and Spain (16.4%). Few transcend to becoming problem drug users (0.44%), well below the average (0.52%) of the compared countries.

    The WHO survey of 17 countries finds that the United States has the highest usage rates for nearly all illegal substances.

    In the U.S. 42.4 percent admitted having used marijuana. The only other nation that came close was New Zealand, another bastion of get-tough policies, at 41.9 percent. No one else was even close. The results for cocaine use were similar, with the U.S. again leading the world by a large margin.

    Even more striking is what the researchers found when they asked young adults when they had started using marijuana. Again, the U.S. led the world, with 20.2 percent trying marijuana by age 15. No other country was even close, and in Holland, just 7 percent used marijuana by 15 -- roughly one-third of the U.S. figure.
    thttp://www.alternet.org/drugs/90295/

    In 1998, the US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey claimed that the U.S. had less than half the murder rate of the Netherlands. “That’s drugs,” he explained. The Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics immediately issued a special press release explaining that the actual Dutch murder rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people, or less than one-quarter the U.S. murder rate.

    Here’s a very recent article by a psychiatrist from Amsterdam, exposing "Drug Czar misinformation"
    http://tinyurl.com/247a8mp


    Now let's look at a comparative analysis of the levels of cannabis use in two cities: Amsterdam and San Francisco, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health May 2004,

    The San Francisco prevalence survey showed that 39.2% of the population had used cannabis. This is 3 times the prevalence found in the Amsterdam sample

    Source: Craig Reinarman, Peter D.A. Cohen and Hendrien L. Kaal, "The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy"
    http://www.mapinc.org/lib/limited.pdf

    Moreover, 51% of people who had smoked cannabis in San Francisco reported that they were offered heroin, cocaine or amphetamine the last time they purchased cannabis. In contrast, only 15% of Amsterdam residents who had ingested marijuana reported the same conditions. Prohibition is the ‘Gateway Policy’ that forces cannabis seekers to buy from criminals who gladly expose them to harder drugs.

    The indicators of death, disease and corruption are even much better in the Netherlands than in Sweden for instance, a country praised by UNODC for its “successful” drug policy."

    Here's Antonio Maria Costa doing his level best to avoid discussing the success of Dutch drug policy:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lExNjEhdSkY&feature=related

    The Netherlands also provides heroin on prescription under tight regulation to about 1500 long-term heroin addicts for whom methadone maintenance treatment has failed.
    http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/free-heroin-brings-everyone-a-bit-peace

    The Dutch justice ministry announced, last year, the closure of eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty. There's simply not enough criminals
    http://www.nrc.nl/international/article2246821.ece/Netherlands_to_close_prisons_for_lack_of_criminals

    For further information, kindly check out this very informative FAQ provided by Radio Netherlands: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/faq-soft-drugs-netherlands
    or go to this page: http://www.rnw.nl/english/dossier/Soft-drugs

     
  • realtruth posted at 8:08 pm on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    realtruth Posts: 147

    actually douche my JD and masters in accounting is serving me quite well in gville. your friend is in the vast, vast minority of people who are successful and who are also heavy marijuana users. how do i know the author smokes weed?

    first- because he spent three hours writing this stupid article.
    second- he was at a gville head shop just the other day.

    the world has real issues. every so often some woe-is-me student feels the need to announce his plight to world... legalize marijuana! the world has real issues right now. i can also tell you that the small-time pot users he speaks about are not sitting in prison. i do love it, however, when i get to see all the other pot smoking idiots chime in below

     
  • delysid posted at 6:02 pm on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    delysid Posts: 56

    http://www.pufmm.org/

    You can help make it happen, sign the petition, volunteer, or donate to bring logical cannabis policies to FLorida

     
  • DoubleD posted at 4:12 pm on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    DoubleD Posts: 4

    Sean, you are my new favorite columnist. I'll be sure to not miss any Wednesday editions of the paper.

     
  • l33tvoltron posted at 3:24 pm on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    l33tvoltron Posts: 74

    All the founding fathers grew cannabis...
    on their plantations, by law since Jamestown 1619. If you didn’t grow canabis in the colonies you were fined and thrown in jail. Every farmer had to produce at least a quarter-acre of cannabis for the government. You could pay your taxes with it right up to the 1820s. The very term “legal tender” meant you were bartering & trading in canabis.

    Why aren’t we growing it today?

    George Washington grew it on his plantation. So did Thomas Jefferson. They both smoked it. George Washington wrote, “Make the most of the hemp seed, sow it everywhere.” Thomas Jefferson wrote in his diaries, he smoked cannabis to relieve his migraine. It was the second most prescribed medicine until the turn of the century. The most perscribed medicine was Hashish. That’s what they gave women for child birth. It is the most natural form of pain relief on the planet. George Washington also wrote, “I missed pulling my male plants by two days (because of the war) now I must wait another season for my Blossoming Hemp.” All the pioneer settlers grew their herbal bush, they called it herbal medicine.
    Why is that herbal medicine illegal? It’s illegal because...
    Dupont earns up to 80% of their profits from the sulfuric acid process that turns wood into paper. Go back to hemp paper .You then stop deforestation. You stop pouring toxins. And you put Dupont quietly out of business.
    Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel with hempseed oil; all paints and varnishes used hemp oil as the base until the 20th centry.

    Prohabition didn't work with alcohol. What makes us think it will work with drugs?

     
  • Tensorial posted at 3:24 pm on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    Tensorial Posts: 102

    Great article!

     
  • Gator98 posted at 2:08 pm on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    Gator98 Posts: 1

    Ok, realtruth, I'll take the bait. One of my old friends from high school in South Florida attended UF with me. He loved psychedelics and smoked pot like most would smoke cigarettes. He went through an engineering degree in six semesters with an A average, and then a few years later had completed his Doctorate in Materials Science Engineering. He went on to work immediately in the research triangle in N. Carolina - and eventually in southern California. He is never late, he is married and has a daughter, and he has earned six figures since day one. He still smokes marijuana all the time. You might say he's one of my favorite stoners. So, how's YOUR engineering PhD coming along, realtruth????

     
  • Alan Martin posted at 11:03 am on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    Alan Martin Posts: 108

    Realtruth: the answer to your question is, the men who wrote the First Amendment. Seriously, it is ignorant to assume the author uses marijuana. A lot of people who don't fully agree with this article. You remind me of those who accuse anyone who does not agree with our imperialist foreign policy of being a terrorist.

     
  • RedTele posted at 10:16 am on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    RedTele Posts: 116

    As much as I dislike liberal policy in general, this is one issue that the left has the right stance on. In fact, I hear everyday that more and more conservatives are jumping to the same side on this. And it does make sense. The war on drugs is and has been a tremendous waste of time and resources, and any true conservative should be able to see that. If marijuana and other substances were decriminalized and allowed to enter the free market, I guarantee that drug dealers and the black market would disappear before long, in effect reducing crime rates in the long term. Just as long as shop owners and (most importantly) parents do their jobs and steer minors away from it. This is not an issue only stoners and hippies care about, and I am neither one of those. Common sense? I am all for that.

     
  • realtruth posted at 7:38 am on Wed, Oct 6, 2010.

    realtruth Posts: 147

    Who let the stoner write in to the Alligator?