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  1. talltom
    Catharine Leach is married and has two boys, age 2 and 8. She has a good job with a federal contractor and smokes pot most every day. While she worries that her public support for marijuana decriminalization and legalization could cost her a job or bring the police to her door, the 30-year-old Warwick resident said she was tired of feeling like a criminal for using a drug that she said is far less harmful than the glass or wine or can of beer enjoyed by so many others after a long day's work. Like others around the nation working to relax penalties for possession of pot, she decided to stop hiding and speak out.

    "I'm done being afraid," she said. "People in this country are finally coming around and seeing that putting someone in jail for this doesn't make sense. It's just a changing of the time."

    Once consigned to the political fringe, marijuana policy is appearing on legislative agendas around the country thanks to an energized base of supporters and an increasingly open-minded public. Lawmakers from Rhode Island to Colorado are mulling medical marijuana programs, pot dispensaries, decriminalization and even legalization. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia now authorize medical marijuana and 14, including neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, have rolled back criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of pot.

    Rhode Island is poised to become the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana possession. The state's General Assembly passed legislation last week that would eliminate the threat of big fines or even jail time for the possession of an ounce or less of pot. Instead, adults caught with small amounts of marijuana would face a $150 civil fine. Police would confiscate the marijuana, but the incident would not appear on a person's criminal record.

    Minors caught with pot would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service.

    Gov. Lincoln Chafee has said he is inclined to sign the legislation.

    One of the bill's sponsors, state Rep. John Edwards of Tiverton, has introduced similar proposals in past years but the idea always sputtered in committee. Each year, though, he got more co-sponsors, and the bill passed the House this year 50-24. The state Senate passed it 28-6.

    Some supporters of decriminalization say they'd like to go even further.

    "America's 50-year war on drugs has been an abysmal failure," said Rep. John Savage, a retired school principal from East Providence. "Marijuana in this country should be legalized. It should be sold and taxed."

    Opponents warned of dire consequences to the new policy.

    "What kind of message are we sending to our youth? We are more worried about soda - for health reasons - than we are about marijuana," said one opponent, Rhode Island state Rep. John Carnevale a Democrat from Providence.

    A survey by Rasmussen last month found that 56 percent of respondents favored legalizing and regulating marijuana. A national Gallup poll last year showed support for legalizing pot had reached 50 percent, up from 46 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in the mid-'90s.

    Medical marijuana helped bring marijuana policy into the mainstream back in 1996, when California became the first state to authorize the use of cannabis for medicinal use. Other states followed suit.

    "It's now politically viable to talk about these things," said Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports the reduction or elimination of penalties for medical and recreational pot use. "The public understands that there are substances that are far more harmful - alcohol, tobacco - that we regulate. People are realizing just how much money is being wasted on prohibition."

    Colorado and Washington state will hold fall referendums on legalizing marijuana. A ballot question on legalization failed in California in 2010.

    This month, Connecticut's governor signed legislation to allow medical marijuana there. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting the penalty for public possession of small amounts of pot.

    Liberal state policies on marijuana have run into conflict with federal prohibition. Federal authorities have shut down more than 40 dispensaries this year in Colorado, even though they complied with state and local law. In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee blocked three dispensaries from opening last year after the state's top federal prosecutor warned they could be prosecuted. Chafee and lawmakers then rewrote the dispensary law to restrict the amount of marijuana dispensaries may have on hand.

    Robert DuPont, who served as the nation's drug czar under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, said Americans should be wary of a slippery slope to legalization. While marijuana may not cause the life-threatening problems associated with heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, it's far from harmless.

    "It is a major drug of abuse," he said. "People ask me what the most dangerous drug is, and I say marijuana. Other drugs have serious consequences that are easy to recognize. Marijuana saps people's motivation, their direction. It's a drug that makes people stupid and lazy. That's in a way more dangerous."

    David Klepper
    Associated Press
    June 10, 2012



  1. TheBigBadWolf
  2. donxijote
    the average pothead is not lazy. i dare say it does make me dumb. but only while im under its effects. after a nap and a snack im perfectly fine. i wish they would take a hair sample from all the federal gov. employees by surprise and see what kinda drugs they use, because theyre perception is seriously fucked up.
  3. Karmageddon
    Right, DuPont. Since you worked for the shining beacon of truth and goodness that was Richard Nixon, forgive me if I completely ignore anything that comes out of your mouth. The potheads I know have advanced degrees and work as hard or even harder than most. Good for Ms. Leach in Rhode Island for speaking her mind. This is definitely the direction we need to take in this country. Now if we can just get rid of the racist and misogynistic douchebags we'll be all set.
  4. stewbs
    Marijuana will be put to the vote in WA this fall. I have a feeling the Initiative 502 will fail, there are too many loopholes in the law, including a provision for pot DUI, very hard for the police to determine. Although I hope it passes it will be highly taxed so weed will still be expensive with the bulk of the taxes going to the state general fund which includes health care.
  5. alienesseINspace
    I fully believe that marijuana tax and regulation would help rejuvenate the floundering US economy. Also, it would take away the money spent on jailing marijuana users.

    I agree that pot is dangerous but for these reasons 1. People have to engage in illegal conduct to obtain pot. Often pot dealers are dealers of other drugs as well. 2. People who get jailed for pot end up socializing with violent criminals when they may not have run into otherwise.

    The problems with pot are due to the laws... not the use of the plant itself. I find it incredibly ironic that people outlaw something that can be helpful on many levels with a minimum of side effects. My mom, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, would greatly benefit from having access to marijuana. Since we live in Texas, that will never happen for her unless she were to move.

    I am pretty tired of the bs drug laws in place.
  6. talltom
    Here's a related story about a Ron Paul initiative on the Federal level.

    Are Small Pot Busts Taking Cops Away from More Important Work?

    CNN and other news agencies have recently run stories about an effort presently underway on Capitol Hill which would result in dramatically reduced federal penalties for personal marijuana use. New federal legislation, dubbed “Act to Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults,” and known to political wonks simply as ‘HR 5843,’ was proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 17th by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and co-sponsored by former presidential candidate Ron Paul, (R-Texas).

    GovTrack.US, an “independent, non-partisan, non-commercial website” that monitors activities of Congress summarizes the proposed legislation as follows:

    • Prohibits the imposition of any penalty under an Act of Congress for the possession of marijuana for personal use or for the not-for-profit transfer between adults of marijuana for personal use
    • Deems the possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana as personal use (one ounce or less for a not-for-profit transfer between adults)
    • Allows the imposition of a civil penalty under the Controlled Substances Act for the public use of marijuana if such penalty does not exceed $100

    The debate on federal decriminalization of marijuana use has been a heated one for more than 30 years, and as HR 5843 moves through the legislative sausage-maker, voices from both opposing camps will again rise up.

    On one side, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Drug Policy Alliance Network say the proposal would establish that marijuana use be policed in the same as alcohol consumption. They allege that the legal system cannot continue to process a high number of “small, non-violent” marijuana possession cases and the proposal would free up law enforcement resources to apply toward other crimes.

    The competing view is offered by entities such as the DEA and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which have maintained a steadfast opposition to any degree of marijuana legalization. Among the arguments from this perspective is the fact that every arrest is a meaningful and important step toward the eradication of the drug trade, which must be addressed from both the supply and demand sides of the ledger.

    According to various reports and sources, HR 5843 would not affect laws forbidding growing, importing or exporting marijuana, or selling it for profit, nor would it impact any state laws that address marijuana use.

    Doug Wylie
    Police One
    June 10, 2012

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