Murray Tucker: End weed war
July 13, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Forty more people were killed last weekend, making 40,000 over the past five years. If this were Afghanistan, we would be incensed. Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman would be calling for more troops. But it isn't that desert halfway around the world. It's Mexico.
Forty years ago I was a budget analyst for the Office of Management and Budget. One of my programs was the budget of the National Institute of Mental Health. One of the line items was a $1 million contract with the University of Mississippi to explore the effects of marijuana. The contract was let at the end of the Johnson Administration and the new Nixon Administration was anxious and concerned that the contract was meant to justify a move for legalizing pot.
As the civil servant liaison between the administration and NIMH, I had the task of communicating the administration's concern. John Ehrlichman and Bud Wilkinson (the first drug czar) voiced their concern with me to transmit to Dr. Stanley Yolles, who was director of NIMH. Dutifully, I was the messenger. What the White House wanted was for NIMH to dictate to the researchers what they should find. Yolles refused and the White House had him, a member of the Public Health Service, reassigned to Alaska. A compliant Dr. Burt Brown was appointed to carry out the mission.
Afghanistan is not the longest war the U.S. has been involved in. We have been losing the war on pot since it was outlawed in the '30s. Worse, thousands have died, thousands have been jailed and this war that was started before I was born goes on. We have spent billions, and what do we have to show for it? For-profit prisons have expanded, DEA agents have been promoted (some have died), and yet there is no real proof that having a federal program against pot is even viable. In fact, the opposite seems to exist.
I can understand the stance of people who want to continue to prohibit marijuana as a national policy. We tried prohibition before and it only led to the development of gangs in the U.S. and widespread killing. Majorities in some areas of the country have legalized the sale and use of pot, counter to U.S. law.
As with alcohol, there should not be a federal program that wages war on pot. Control of sale and use of marijuana should be handled by state and local communities. There are many areas of the country that are either totally "dry" or dry on certain times (usually Sundays). I personally do not like the sweet smell of the smoke from pot, although it does not choke me like that of cigarettes. We have spent too much, and matters have only gotten worse since the frenzied push to enforce drug laws against marijuana occurred during the Nixon Administration.
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