Encouraging Conversation

Kathleen Taylor has written the following article that we have reproduced a portion of.  If you wish to read the full article (highly encouraged), go here.

A College student loses his financial aid because of a youthful indiscretion. A woman coping with the ravages of ovarian cancer lives in fear of being arrested for using what best eases her suffering. Across town, a front door bursts open and police rush in to handcuff a man relaxing in his living room. 

These events have one thing in common: marijuana. Whether it is being kicked out of college for a youthful mistake, being denied relief from pain as a cancer patient, or getting arrested for personal use in one’s home, marijuana laws have far-reaching consequences.

And these consequences are often totally disproportionate to whatever societal risk or danger marijuana use may pose.

So, can we talk?I think we should. As a nation, we spend at least $7.5 billion annually enforcing our marijuana laws. In 2006, the latest year for which we have numbers, a record 830,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana — 89 percent of them simply for possessing it.

Our criminal-justice system wastes time and resources with these low-level marijuana-possession cases while half our violent crimes go unsolved. And those facing the judge are disproportionately African American and Latino…

As parents, we want to shield our children from harm and reserve certain choices for when they are old enough to understand the risks and repercussions. Certainly, this is as true of marijuana as it is of alcohol and tobacco. But just as certainly, and as most teenagers will tell you, it is easier for them to buy marijuana than beer or cigarettes. Our marijuana laws don’t work. I know it. You know it. Scores of our neighbors know it.

But no one is talking. Most of us have our own ideas about what should be done, but this has to be a decision that we make as a community. Too much is riding on this issue not to have an honest, candid discussion. Please join us in the conversation. 

Learn more about the ACLU campaign, “Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation,” hosted by travel writer Rick Steves, airs this month on local stations and is available free to Comcast On Demand subscribers in Western Washington.

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