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Legal Marijuana For The People

By James Donahue

It has been a long time coming but the people in the United States are beginning to wake up to the benefits of marijuana and the fact that this amazingly wonderful plant has been vilified for political, financial and even racial reasons.

Rather than being shown to be a dangerous drug, cannabis has long been known all around the world for its medicinal qualities, a source of food, fabric for making clothes, paper and the finest quality rope.

The first marijuana law in America was enacted at Jamestown Colony, Virginia, in 1619. The law at that time ordered all farmers to grow what was known as “Indian hempseed” mostly for the purpose of making rope for the sailing ships at sea. Hemp was such an important crop it could even be used as legal tender. Farmers were threatened with a jail sentence for failing to grow this important crop.

This amazing plant has been used for over 7,000 years for weaving fabric, the seeds have been eaten as a high protein source of food, it is used for incense, making cloth, paper and an effective treatment of chronic pain and the relief of the agony linked to such diseases as cancer, muscular sclerosis, and a variety of other illnesses.

Marijuana grows in nearly every type of climate and in nearly every kind of soil. It has long been classified almost as a weed since it can literally be found anyplace its seed is dropped. It grows so fast, and in the right conditions generates such massive stalks that crops of hemp could easily replace the need to cut down our forests to produce all of the paper used by American business and industry.

The U. S. Constitution was printed on paper produced from hemp.

While it was known to people in foreign lands for thousands of years, the concept of developing and growing marijuana as a recreational drug did not reach public awareness until the early 1900s. Ironically that was discovered by a group of Mormons who traveled to Mexico and learned about it there. Later it was discovered that Mexican migrants crossing the border to work as farm laborers were bringing dried marijuana leaves with them and smoking it in leisure hours.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created as an independent unit of the Treasury Department in 1930 and President Hoover appointed Harry J. Anslinger as the first commissioner of narcotics. The bureau was created to oversee the enforcement of the Harrison Act, which gave the bureau the authority to control and tax the importation, manufacture and dispensing of opiates and coca leaves sold as medicine. The law also required the licensing of pharmacists and physicians who prescribed narcotics.

Since the sale and use of opiates and cocaine was not a major problem in those years, Anslinger chose to build his agency by convincing lawmakers that marijuana also needed to be declared an illegal substance. He conducted a propaganda campaign, with the help of the yellow journalists operating in those years, and produced sensational stories about sex crimes, ax murderers and wild Negroes under the influence of “reefer-madness.”

By 1937 Anslinger persuaded Congress to adopt draconian federal anti-marijuana legislation that has remained in effect to this day.

Since President Richard Nixon declared a national “war on drugs” in 1969, there has been an escalation of drug trafficking in the United States. The law forced the production and sale of narcotics, including marijuana, underground which has proven very profitable for organized crime syndicates.

The government is spending well over $40 billion a year attempting to enforce anti-drug laws. Entire departments have been created within state, county and city police agencies that feed on state and federal tax dollars to carry on this battle. In addition, our courts have been working overtime and we have had to build new jails and prisons to house the hundreds of thousands of convicted drug offenders. Consequently this has sparked a large new bureaucratic industry that feeds on the nation's anti-drug laws.

Many of our prisons are now owned and operated by private companies that only make money when their cells are filled.

This year to date, there have been 1,500,000 people arrested for drug law violations in the United States. Of this, 706,000 are charged with possession, growing or the sale of marijuana.

Largely because of the war on drugs (launched by a president who was a known amphetamine abuser), the United States currently has more people being held in jails or prisons per capita than any other country in the world. The latest figures show 715 people out of 100,000 are being incarcerated.

There has been a growing rebellion among Americans against these laws. While most people can agree that dangerous narcotics like heroin, cocaine and amphetamines are addictive, dangerous and need to be controlled, they do not agree with the anti-marijuana laws. Voters in 14 states, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, have approved propositions that put laws on the books to allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes.

In California, where medical marijuana shops have opened in nearly every city and the use of cannabis is thought to be as common as the consumption of California’s world-famous wines, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is introducing legislation that will totally legalize marijuana for everybody. The legislation also would put a tax of $50 per ounce on the substance which Ammiano estimates will go a long way to bail the state out of its current financial crisis.

Not only this, but the Obama Administration has reversed a long-standing rule set by former President George W. Bush that enforced federal laws prohibiting marijuana use even in those states that adopted laws allowing its use for medical reasons.

In a recent statement, Attorney General Eric Holder said it would no longer be a priority “to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana.”

Holder added, however, that the department “will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state laws to mask activities that are clearly illegal.”

Undoing all of the damage done by Anslinger nearly a century ago has been harder than pulling teeth. Slowly and surely, however, the American public is getting the job done.