Thursday, February 4, 2010

The War on Drugs... What does Marijuana have to do with it ?!

Driven by the Drug War, the U.S. prison population is six to ten times as high as most Western European nations. The United States is a close second only to Russia in its rate of incarceration per 100,000 people. In 2000, more than 734,000 people were arrested in this country for marijuana-related offenses alone.
The US war on drugs places great emphasis on arresting people for smoking marijuana. Since 1990, nearly 5.9 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. In 2000, state and local law enforcement arrested 734,498 people for marijuana violations. This is an increase of 800 percent since 1980, and is the highest ever recorded by the FBI.

As has been the case throughout the 1990s, the overwhelming majority of those charged with marijuana violations in 2000-- 646,042 Americans (88 %) -- were for simple possession. The remaining 12% (88,456 Americans) were for "sale/manufacture", an FBI category which includes marijuana grown for personal use or purely medical purposes. These new FBI statistics indicate that one marijuana smoker is arrested every 45 seconds in America. Taken together, the total number of marijuana arrests for 2000 far exceeded the combined number of arrests for violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Like most Americans, people who smoke marijuana also pay taxes, love and support their families, and work hard to make a better life for their children. Suddenly they are arrested, jailed and treated like criminals solely because of their recreational drug of choice. State agencies frequently step in and declare children of marijuana smokers to be "in danger", and many children are placed into foster homes as a result. This causes enormous pain, suffering and financial hardship for millions of American families. It also engenders distrust and disrespect for the law and for the criminal justice system overall. Responsible marijuana smokers present no threat or danger to America or its children, and there is no reason to treat them as criminals, or to take their children away. As a society we need to find ways to discourage personal conduct of all kinds that is abusive or harmful to others. Responsible marijuana smokers are not the problem and it is time to stop arresting them. 


Once all the facts are known, it becomes clear that America's marijuana laws need reform. This issue must be openly debated using only the facts. Groundless claims, meaningless statistics, and exaggerated scare stories that have been peddled by politicians and prohibitionists for the last 60 years must be rejected.


ANNUAL AMERICAN DEATHS CAUSED BY DRUGS

TOBACCO ........................ 400,000
ALCOHOL ........................ 100,000
ALL LEGAL DRUGS .............20,000
ALL ILLEGAL DRUGS ..........15,000
CAFFEINE .........................2,000
ASPIRIN ...........................500
MARIJUANA ...................... 0
----------------------------------------
Source: United States government...
National Institute on Drug Abuse,
Bureau of Mortality Statistics
 
Like any substance, marijuana can be abused. The most common problem attributed to marijuana is frequent overuse, which can induce lethargic behaviour, but does not cause serious health problems. Marijuana can cause short-term memory loss, but only while under the influence. Marijuana does not impair long-term memory. Marijuana does not lead to harder drugs. Marijuana does not cause brain damage, genetic damage, or damage the immune system. Unlike alcohol, marijuana does not kill brain cells or induce violent behaviour. Continuous long-term smoking of marijuana can cause bronchitis, but the chance of contracting bronchitis from casual marijuana smoking is minuscule. Respiratory health hazards can be totally eliminated by consuming marijuana via non-smoking methods, i.e., ingesting marijuana via baked foods, tincture, or vaporizer.
A 1997 UCLA School of Medicine study (Volume 155 of the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine) conducted on 243 marijuana smokers over an 8-year period reported the following: "Findings from the long-term study of heavy, habitual marijuana smokers argue against the concept that continuing heavy use of marijuana is a significant risk factor for the development of chronic lung disease." "Neither the continuing nor the intermittent marijuana smokers exhibited any significantly different rates of decline in lung function as compared with those individuals who never smoked marijuana." The study concluded: "No differences were noted between even quite heavy marijuana smoking and non-smoking of marijuana."

Marijuana does not cause serious health problems like those caused by tobacco or alcohol (e.g., strong addiction, cancer, heart problems, birth defects, emphysema, liver damage, etc.). Death from a marijuana overdose is impossible. In all of world history, there has never been a single human death attributed to a health problem caused by marijuana. Legalize marijuana and life would be better for most people.

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