Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland
Hemp Revolution in US:
Washington Legalizes Marijuana
By Mariusz Zawadzki
Translated By Maciej Lepka
8 December 2012
Edited by Gillian Palmer
Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article (Polish)
Since Friday, the citizens of Seattle have been ostentatiously smoking marijuana on the streets; former presidents have been arguing that the drug war is lost and it is high time it ended.
Are Things Changing?
Bob Marley’s music combined with giggles and titters of the citizens, either high or just happy for some another reason. It was a sleepless night from Thursday to Friday (Polish time) in Seattle in the area of the Space Needle, a tower recognized as a symbol of the city. Hundreds of people huddled to smoke a joint in celebration of the beginning of a new era.
According to a new state law, passed in a referendum organized during the presidential election on Nov. 6, possession and recreational use of marijuana in the state of Washington are now legal.
"It's history. I've been thinking about the people across the country who are jailed for this. It's nice to see things change," said Penny Simons, 52. Although she is in a wheelchair, she came all the way from the suburbs of Seattle to participate in the hemp party.
Smoking marijuana in public is still forbidden, but the prohibition fell on deaf ears that night. Although on Sunday the city attorney threatened that smokers would be fined with $100, the local police published fairly lenient guidelines on its website: “Does this mean you should flagrantly roll up a mega-spliff and light up in the middle of the street? No. If you’re smoking pot in public, officers will be giving helpful reminders to folks about the rules and regulations under I-502.”
There were neither fines nor helpful reminders. The police did not interfere in the street party at all.
Now, every citizen of Washington state who is at least 21 is allowed to possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of pot and use it for recreational purposes. It stands in opposition to the federal law, which applies to the citizens of all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, which puts Barack Obama and his administration in an awkward and complicated position. The New York Times reports that the federal government is considering taking Washington and Colorado, the other state where the Nov. 6 election brought about the legalization of marijuana for recreational use (but the law will come into effect in a month there), to court.
Earlier, both “rebellious” states allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes (it is also allowed in 16 other states; obviously, often it is only a smokescreen, although the federal law is officially obeyed).
Stop This Futile War!
Decriminalization supporters declare that it is only the beginning. Yesterday, “Breaking the Taboo,” a movie in which a few former presidents of the U.S. and other countries contend that the drug war is lost and call for its end, premiered on YouTube. The film is narrated by famous actor Morgan Freeman and features, among others, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
“We must wage what I called a total war against public enemy number one in the United States – the problem of dangerous drugs,” announced President Richard Nixon in 1970. Since then, the war has cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, and 44 million American citizens have been arrested for drug-related crimes. In spite of this, forbidden substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc., are cheaper and easier to obtain than at the beginning of the war.
In 1970, there were 330,000 felons in U.S. prisons. Currently, this number has increased to as many as 2,300,000, which means that one-tenth of all U.S. adult citizens are doing time as we speak. This extravagant rise is largely caused by the war that Nixon engendered, which has been continued by his successors of both Republican and Democrat origin.
“They are pointing fingers at us and saying: your generation had alcohol, that was your booster. Why should the next generation not have one?” said Ronald Reagan, who implemented the zero-tolerance policy.*
“If you are on drugs and get caught, you will end up in prison. Some say that there is not going to be enough room. Well, we’ll make the room!” assured his successor, George H.W. Bush.*
This year, drugs were the cause of detention of 1.6 million people, half of whom were arrested for marijuana. No other country in the world, including China, inhabited by 1 billion people — more than the U.S. — and governed by allegedly repressive communists, has put as many people in jail.
“600,000 people live in our city; in 2007 there were 100,000 arrests,” says Brenda Brom from Baltimore, Maryland, which has become one of the major war fronts.*
Obama Has Not Changed a Thing
The legalization of drugs certainly increases their price and lets South American cartels line their pockets. A kilogram of cocaine, fresh from the plantation, costs $1,000 in Columbia, while in the U.S. a potential drug user has to be prepared for a $170,000 setback.
During Obama’s administration, the war is still being waged and seems to have gradually intensified. This year, it has cost federal and state authorities $40,000,000; next year, this sum is expected to increase. Possession of five grams of crack (a kind of cocaine) is punishable by five years in jail.
An appalling example of the application of the stringent anti-drug policy is the case of Weldon Angelos. This rapper from Utah was caught red-handed when he was selling marijuana, valued at $350. To make things worse, he was carrying a gun, which meant that he could spend at least the next 55 years in prison. And that was what he was sentenced to.
“If he had hijacked a plane I could have sentenced him to 25 years. If he had committed second-degree murder, 13 years. If he had raped a girl, 11 years,” listed the judge, who, as disgusted with the sentence as he was, had to abide by the law.
Come to Your Senses!
The only active American politician who calls for sobering up is Ron Paul, a Texas congressman.
“Marijuana is a substance that grows in a natural way, and different people use if for different reasons,” argues Paul, a doctor by profession. “Alcohol and cigarettes are considerably more harmful, yet there is no prohibition or ban on smoking because the congressmen would not deprive themselves of cigars and whiskey. The drug war causes more hardship than drugs themselves! It creates enormous social problems, such as, for example, discrimination of minorities. African-Americans make up 14 percent of all drug addicts, but 36 percent of drug-related arrests are connected with them. Moreover, they constitute 63 percent of those sentenced for the above mentioned crimes. See what is really going on! The prohibition of the ‘20s did not work, neither does the ban on narcotics. Drug addiction is an illness, just as alcoholism. Yet one is treated while the other is perceived as a crime. Let’s admit that the war has been a debacle and legalize drugs.”*
He repeated that harangue on every occasion for years. However, he is not going to do it again. In the summer, after the presidential primary when he unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination, he declared that he would back away from politics (at the age of 77). He was treated seriously by few people anyway, being widely regarded as an object of ridicule by his fellow politicians and so-called mainstream journalists.
*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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