Sheriff Mike Winters frowned as he showed a reporter a stack of photographs documenting Mexican drug cartels’ marijuana-growing operations on federal land in Southern Oregon. The photos showed filthy camps, nitrogen-loaded chemical fertilizers, garbage tumbling into a stream.

“These grow sites are a disaster for the public,” Winters said. “You can’t believe what you see until you get into one.”

Nirvana Auto Flowering Marijuana Seeds

It was the first time in memory a Republican has fretted so about the environment.

Of course, there is a sure-fire way to end the reach of drug gangs into Oregon’s forests: End pot prohibition. Just declare defeat in the pot theater of the War on Drugs and move on.

This has been clear to a growing number people for a long time, but now it’s truly an idea whose time has come. In a Gallup poll in October, 50 percent of Americans said pot should be legal, up from 46 percent last year. Forty-six percent favored keeping it illegal.

It’s been trending this way for more than 40 years. In 1969, 12 percent of Americans favored legalizing pot, and 84 percent were opposed. The legalize-it sentiment hit the mid-20s in the conservative 1980s, passed 30 percent in 2000 and was 40 percent in 2009.

That’s for recreational use. With medical marijuana it isn’t even close. More than 70 percent of Americans favor it.

And the really bad news for those who still think cannabis is the devil’s weed is that the margin for legalization is bound to increase. Opposition was highest among those older than 65. Support was highest among those under 30. The only region in the country where a majority does not favor legalization is the South.

Cannabis is the third-most popular drug in America, trailing only alcohol and tobacco, both of which are infinitely more harmful. More than 100 million Americans ‘fess up to having used pot, and an estimated 20 million or so have used it in the past month. Some states have decriminalized possession of small amounts for personal use, and more than a dozen have legalized it for medical purposes. The benefits for cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and other conditions have been well-documented, and it doesn’t exhibit the toxicity of many of the common drugs in your medicine cabinet.

Nor is support for ending prohibition confined to aging hippies, dropouts, college kids and drug abusers. Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has called for legalization, as has former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

In June, U.S. Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul introduced a bill to end federal prohibition and remove pot from the FDA’s Schedule 1 list ( which is supposed to be for drugs that have no medical value, have a high risk of abuse and are extremely harmful, such as meth and heroin ). The odd couple — one of our most liberal politicians and one of our most conservative — shows the breadth of anti-prohibition sentiment.

Paul is not alone on the Right. Conservative economist Milton Friedman, one of the chief architects of the “Reagan Revolution” and more than any other single person the father of the anti-regulatory fever ( or at least its theoretical basis ) that’s gripped the federal government for the last three decades, is a strong advocate for legalization.

“There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana,” Friedman has written. “It’s absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes.”

Friedman was just one of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who endorsed a Harvard Economist’s 2005 report on the costs of marijuana prohibition. The report said the U.S. would save almost $8 billion a year by ending prohibition — most of that at the state and local level — and could gain more than $6 billion a year in new tax revenue.

The Obama administration has been negative — or at best ambivalent — toward legalization proposals, and the feds are still spending millions busting medical marijuana growers. Legalization advocates, in turn, have noted that in the polls, pot is more popular than Obama.

The majority of the law enforcement community remains pro-prohibition for now, but a growing number of cops, such as former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper, and Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore, Md., narcotics officer, have joined the legalization movement.

“Legalizing these drugs will make our streets safer by reducing the crime and violence associated with their trade,” said Stamper, the director of the anti-prohibition organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, “just as when we re-legalized alcohol.”

His reference was to the prohibition of alcohol nearly a century ago, which enriched the Mob and didn’t stop anybody from drinking. Our prohibition — the “war on drugs” created by President Richard Nixon in 1969, when the view of pot was unrealistically negative — has led to millions of arrests ( more than 800,000 in 2009 ), the waste of more than $1 trillion, and thousands of lives lost to the violence that accompanies any prohibition by making it a bonanza for bad guys. It’s also enriched multiple generations of mobsters.

The net result? Pot is more plentiful than ever. Any cop, or any kid on the street, will tell you that. Our ancestors tried prohibition and got the message that enough was enough after just 14 years. We’re at 42 years and counting. It’s time to move on.

Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2011 The Mail Tribune
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