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07 April 2008

the Drug Czar vs. Barney Frank on Frank's bill to decriminalize personal amounts of marijuana

I'll let you know if this sucker gets printed. The New Bedford Standard-Times belongs to the Ottaway chain, which is owned by Dow Jones & Company. That probably means that these newspapers now belong to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

U.S. Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat, has been collecting, for about five years, a caucus of members of Congress to muster the votes to repeal "Souder's Law," which denies federal college financial aid to any kid who was ever busted for smoking a joint.

Frank is Congress' first, maybe only, openly gay member. (There have been occasional hints and whispers that there are a few other gay members, but they're not talking.) His heavily Portuguese-American voters (nearly all Roman Catholic) love and perpetually re-elect him because he is a ferociously effective advocate of Atlantic fishing rights for New England fisherfolk.

Iberians -- first the Basques around 1550, in Labrador -- founded the North American fishing and whaling industry. They don't seem to give much of a flying fuck that he's openly gay, Jewish, and advocates for more progressive and less punitive marijuana laws. He was first elected in 1980, and has been re-elected 13 times. It's about the fish.

There may exist elements of the set of Portuguese-American voters in the 4th Congressional District of Massachusetts which are also elements of the set of people who smoke pot. That is, there is an Intersection Set, which is not the Empty Set, of Portuguese-American pot-smokers. If you have any special insights into this question in Set Theory (die Mengenlehre),
Leave A Comment.

New Bedford was once the biggest and busiest whaling port, probably on Planet Earth. The Right Whale got its name from whalers teaching each other that that whale over there was "the right whale," the one with the most valuable and profitable parts (baleen, for women's foundation undergarments, the whalebone corset, and oil).

Today there are about 16,800 Right Whales left in the world's oceans. That seems to be a lot of Right Whales, but it's actually a catastrophic collapse of their pre-whaling, natural population, and that imposes a collapse of genetic diversity. The entire population is so genetically similar that the remaining whales could succumb to a new parasite or infectious disease.

~ ~ ~

Letters to the Editor
The Standard-Times
New Bedford, Massachusetts
To the Editor:
In "As Frank prepares marijuana bill, states make own efforts" (6 April), I enjoyed the robotic, brain-dead response from the federal Drug Czar's mouthpiece, Tom Riley, who "oppose(s) any changes that would make dangerous, addictive drugs widely available ... Common sense shows that when you make something more available, people will use it."
Lacking facts, Riley tortures the more flexible "common sense." In the Netherlands, whose government permits the liberal sale of small amounts of marijuana, teens and young people use it at lower rates than young people in the US. The trade is police-supervised, taxed and free of gang violence -- like America's alcohol and tobacco trade.
Marijuana couldn't be more available to American kids than it already is. Any kid will tell you it's easier to get than alcohol, at prices kids can afford, dealers don't check for age i.d., and happily ask, "You want smack or crack with that?"
Like the disaster of alcohol Prohibition (1919-1933), current state and federal criminal laws guarantee the marijuana black market will flourish, prosper, grow, and generate gang violence and police corruption. Laws can punish and incarcerate marijuana users, and burden and stigmatize them for life with a criminal record, but these laws have failed abysmally to lower marijuana use or achieve the fantasy of a "drug-free America."
Marijuana is only dangerous and addictive in Riley's self-serving hallucinations. To this day, marijuana has never been cited as the medical cause of a single death. "Kicking" marijuana is comparable to kicking coffee, compared to the profoundly severe and widespread addictions to the truly dangerous -- and legal -- cigarettes and alcohol.
In local referenda throughout Massachusetts over the last 20 years, voter majorities -- citizens and neighbors in the privacy of the voting booth -- have repeatedly called on Beacon Hill to decriminalize personal use of marijuana.
If we truly wish to reduce marijuana use, 35 years of the failed War On Drugs clearly show us the way: Decriminalize it, as Barney Frank hopes Congress will do, and let doctors and health professionals deal with its few and mild medical aspects. Police, new jails and prisons, and loss of college financial aid have just encouraged and expanded marijuana and all other illegal drug use.
Robert Merkin
Northampton MA

~ ~ ~

New Beford, Massachusetts USA
Sunday 6 April 2008


As Frank prepares
marijuana bill,
states make own efforts

by Matthew Huisman and Jason Millman, Standard-Times correspondents

WASHINGTON -- Proponents of U.S. Rep. Barney Frank's proposal to legalize small amounts of marijuana are pointing to efforts in some states -- including Massachusetts -- to decriminalize the drug as evidence of public support for Rep. Frank's plan.

Rep. Frank, D-Mass., said recently that he will introduce two bills, one that would decriminalize possession of less than 100 grams -- or 3.5 ounces -- of marijuana and another that would grant protection to states that decide to allow medicinal use of marijuana.

"The public is now ready for this," Rep. Frank said in a telephone interview. "I have long thought it was foolish to have these laws on the books, but now as I look at the public opinion, it's clear that this is wanted."

Rep. Frank said that although he does not support marijuana use, he believes that adults should be able to consume small amounts without facing criminal penalties. He said prosecution of marijuana charges costs federal law enforcement agencies time and resources. Rep. Frank, who said he has no experience with marijuana, added, "I think marijuana is less harmful than alcohol."

As Rep. Frank tries to drum up support for his bill in Congress, the Massachusetts Legislature is considering an initiative to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. A person caught with an ounce or less would be fined but would not be charged with a criminal offense, which appears on employer background checks and is a disqualifying factor for receiving certain government benefits, such as subsidized housing and student financial aid.

If the state Legislature does not act on the initiative by May 6, supporters have until June 18 to get 11,000 signatures on a petition to put the initiative on the ballot in November. If they succeed, it would require a majority vote to pass.

Whitney A. Taylor, campaign manager for the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, which drafted the Massachusetts initiative, said she supports Rep. Frank's proposal.

"We are very excited that Congressman Frank understands the need for more sensible and sound marijuana policies," Ms. Taylor said. "The policies in Massachusetts do more harm than good, and I think the congressman realizes that on a federal level, as well."

State Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen, D-Medford, is sponsoring her own bill that would decriminalize possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.

"I'm not saying it's OK, but it's not a criminal offense," she said. "It's a civil offense, but you don't get a criminal record and you don't use up court resources."

State Rep. Martin J. Walsh, D-Dorchester, who has led the opposition to marijuana decriminalization in Massachusetts, said he would instead favor adjusting laws for youths using alcohol and marijuana in order to protect their permanent records.

"People make mistakes," Rep. Walsh said. "I don't agree with them being penalized for an irresponsible decision."

Since 1973, 12 states, including Maine, have decriminalized marijuana in some form. A bill that would decriminalize possession of a quarter-ounce of marijuana passed the New Hampshire House, although the governor and Senate president have vowed to defeat it.

"Almost half of the ( U.S. ) population lives in states that have done this sort of thing," said Bill Downing, president of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition. "Those states saved millions of dollars in law enforcement and marijuana usage rates did not go up as a result."

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, pointed to those 12 states as proof of support for reforming drug laws. Mr. St. Pierre said there is widespread public support for decriminalizing marijuana and allowing for its medicinal use, although many still oppose its full legalization.

Americans are able to distinguish between decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and the complete legalization of marijuana, making it like alcohol and tobacco, Mr. St. Pierre said.

Tom Riley, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said his agency would "oppose any changes that would make dangerous, addictive drugs widely available."

"Common sense shows that when you make something more available, people will use it," he said.

Mr. Riley said that proponents of marijuana decriminalization are "using medical marijuana as a back-door solution to legalization," and that marijuana is a more harmful drug than people realize. He said patients using medicinal marijuana are being used to invoke public sympathy.

"The state-level passage has been playing on people's good wills more than based on science," Mr. Riley said. "They go through the ballot process rather than the scientific process."

For the past 10 years, Rep. Frank has unsuccessfully filed legislation during each two-year congressional term to loosen marijuana laws. He has filed bills that would allow the unrestricted medicinal use of marijuana in states that have passed such laws, and he also has filed bills -- one as recently as January -- to repeal a law that prohibits college students who were convicted of drug offenses from receiving financial aid. None of the bills has made it onto the House floor for debate.

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., filed legislation in the Senate last month that would allow judges to decide whether students who were convicted of drug offenses can keep their financial aid.

Tom Angell, spokesman for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a Washington-based lobbying group seeking to decriminalize marijuana, said more than 200,000 college students have lost financial aid in the past 10 years because of drug convictions.

Although Mr. Angell would not say whether he would support Rep. Frank's legislation until he sees the details of his proposal, he said he believes passing a law to reduce penalties for marijuana will "show a lot of momentum for reforming punitive drug policies."

"Congress will be on the record saying it doesn't make sense to punish people for what they're putting into their own body," Mr. Angell said.

Mr. St. Pierre said Rep. Frank's proposal does not promote the use of marijuana but instead encourages people who use it to consume the drug within reasonable limits.

"It will build consistency into drug policy that if you use something like cannabis, just like alcohol, you should largely be punished for the abuse of the substance, not the use of it," Mr. St. Pierre said.

"We all know there's a difference between use of alcohol and alcohol abuse."

- 30 -

Copyright (c) 2008 South Coast Media Group


Jim Olson said...

I repeat, good luck with that.

patfromch said...

Yep, could not have said it better. Good on you if they are going to print that. Open their minds, and their hearts will follow. Bob for Prez

Say, how big would the fee be or the sentence if they would catch you with 100 grams of weed in your part of the world ? Just curious so I can compare ith with the situation in my part of the world

Jim Olson said...

Unless the Government regulates and taxes MJ like they do with alcohol, the Government will not give up its monopoly.

Vleeptron Dude said...

The government has a monopoly on pot? Where's their nearest retail store? What's the website?

I have been dainty today and not giving my usual blast at John Calvin and the Massachusetts Puritans for being the cause of all this misery -- 2,300,000+ women, children and men in the stocks for their wicked, sinful ways.

The fact that so many of them did the wicked thing non-violently, to themselves while smiling, or to someone who was happy to have it done to him/her, is no excuse. Sin Is Sin, and must be translated into Secular Law and punished as Crime.

Poor Turkey. Right now their supreme court has accepted a case against the newly elected ruling party, which is widely believed to be trying to bring back Sharia law to the nation, to replace the strictly secular code of law in place since Attaturk's overthrow of the Ottoman Sultans in the 1920s.

Different Holy Book, same Disease: Does God tell us so clearly what's Naughty and What's Nice so His Clergy should have the power to execute people and throw them in prison?

Or is there worth, in the USA or in Turkey, to a Constitution that says: Keep God (and humans' fuzzy interpretation of What He Says) Out Of Criminal Law.

Okay, I admit, I know God doesn't like pot-smoking. He told me so last Thursday while we were playing pool at Packards. He had a Gunness draught, I knocked back some cognac, it's still chilly hereabouts.

patfromch said...

Good idea Rev, let me goof around with that.

A pack of 20 cigarrets of my brand in Switzerland costs CHF 6.40, that is around USD 6.31 at the moment.

According to the Swiss Fedaral Tax Administration and the Ministry of Health there are 56,01 % taxes in total per pack of ciggies. According to the same website the Swiss Government had an income of 2.16 billion CHF on this direct tobacco tax in 2006, or 5 % of all taxes earned that year.

This money is being used to finance our version of MedicAid, Social Security, Seniors Pensions etc. Just think of the potential of taxing tea !!!

Money is one of the few words that politicians can fully grasp and understand. Now those lads would lighten up (pun intended) if you tell them that they could increase the tax volume by 5-10 per cent or even more with the snap of a finger.

And that was just an example, I was just goofing around...