17 April 05

Ganja: should it be legalised?

My reading has led me to believe there are various solutions available that would go some way to solving the problem of prison overcrowding. In this blog entry I am going to suggest a simple government policy change that could reduce overcrowding. Although this idea will be considered radical by some, it is supported by such people as Milton Friedman.

According to the book You Are Being Lied To there are more prisoners incarcerated for marijuana charges in the US than the entire prison population of Europe. A solution to prison overcrowding could be the government legalising weed and selling it at cost. What would that achieve? Imagine the reduced stress on the justice and prison systems if all nondangerous
pothead prisoners were freed and all prosecutions against those on remand were discontinued. Prison overcrowding could be ended almost overnight.

The benefits to society would be enormous, but vested interests have sensationalised the dangers of weed in order to maintain the status quo. Marijuana is not the most dangerous of drugs. Highly addictive nicotine is the biggest killer, yet it is legal. Alcohol causes half of the total deaths from traffic accidents each year. The Founding Fathers grew hemp, yet adults are now jailed for lifestyle choices that do no harm to other people. I am amazed that potheads are being arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned by people who either smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol or pop prescription pills. (Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist was addicted to sleeping pills.)

One of the reasons why weed is not legalised is because the game of cops and pushers generates money for various agencies and contractors. Legalisation would deprive the DEA and other law enforcement agencies of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money. Pretending to stop drugs is big business. The money that is being frittered away should be going to education, healthcare, and the pension system, instead, it is wasted on a charade that is having zero effect on drug crimes.

Just over a century ago Western governments were selling opium – a more dangerous drug than pot – to the population of China. Our governments use propaganda to justify whatever is most lucrative to them at the time. Locking up nondangerous potheads seems to be a senseless waste of economic resources that profits elite vested interests at the expense of the majority.

I would like to hear your views on the above,

Send comments to writeinside@hotmail.comOr post them on the site yourself below


Anonymous said...

Jon's article is thought provoking. Here's my take on things. The system isn't about justice or anything else except profit. Politicians love prisons. The more people they lock up and keep locked up, the tougher on crime they appear. Prison construction and staffing bring dollars to depressed areas of politician's domains, buying votes. Prisons need vendors to supply food and services. That adds jobs to the local parole. Prison labor is virtually free. States use it as well as sell it for a handsome profit. The Prison-Industrial Complex has plenty of money for lobbyists to influence and/or pay off politicians to keep them "tough on crime." People like Jon and my wife, non-violent first time offenders, are perfect fodder for the system. They don't riot, assault guards or make trouble. They're perfect grist for the system.
Marijuana will never be legalized because the alcohol lobby is too strong. They don't want competition.
Dave W.

Anonymous said...

No matter what the reasons now, you can blame Nixon for putting Marijuana on the same rank as cocaine and heroine. He blamed the hippy movement and hence the anti-establishment movement on marijuana and concluded it obviously was a dangerous mind-altering drug. I imagine such a assinine maneuver will be reversed by common sense right about the same time all the other assinine aspects of our government get reversed by common sense...

-Not Holding Breath

prophet said...

In the Biblical story of Creation, God said, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed and to you it will be for meat." (Genesis 1:29) Marijuana is technically an herb and was considered a spiritual meat in the ancient world, but yet we live in a wicked world where justice is not necessarily righteous a man labeled a criminal is no less of the light that spawned us than that of those we celebrate or worship… fabulous Idea Jon and one unfortunately we as a community have in my eyes passed the point of possibly grasping… we are at the end of our times… our perceived golden age will be our down fall and it’s my pleasure to have known such a unique persona such as your own, for it is us that truly makes the world shine while the sun keeps us warm… keep the prophesier informed…


Anonymous said...

Leglizing marajuana would be an excellent idea. People who smoke pot aren't hurting anyone. Sadly, the use of logic isn't really in fashion in the USA anymore (if it ever was).

Anonymous said...

Before you read this, I want you to know that I'm a bleeding heart liberal. But I'm also in health care.
Marijuana is not a completely benign drug. While the evidence for long term cognitive effects are not well studied, there's evidence that people don't think as well when they're using marijuana. Certainly falling grades are a red flag to a pediatrician that something's going on, possibly any drug use except (maybe) cigarettes. Now do we want our doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, nuclear engineers, etc, running around with this legal method of inducing cognitive decline?
Second, marijuana smoke is just as bad if not worse than cigarette smoke in terms of carcinogens. So when you say that marijuana smokers aren't hurting anyone else, it's only because they're not exposing others to second-hand smoke because of fear of getting caught. The potential is definitely there.
Now given the choice of getting in a car with a driver who's had a few joints and a driver who's had a few beers, I would rather join the smoker. And do I put marijuana up there with cocaine and heroin (and by the way, the US government was helping the opium trade even less than 50 years ago)? Definitely not. But marijuana can be addictive, meaning that users can display the same drug-seeking behavior that tobacco users, cocaine users, heroin users, and even prescription pain killer users display. The difference being the ease of obtaining the drug, and how badly people want to avoid withdrawal.
I definitely like the idea of keeping your friends close, and keeping your enemies closer. Making marijuana accessible and regulated would make it safer for everyone, and we don't need to criminalize otherwise upstanding citizens. But as for giving the public essentially free access...well we see how well that works with tobacco and alcohol.

Brian C
Cleveland, OH, USA

RobM said...

Hi Shaun,

thanks for your insightful musings from prison. Fascinating. I hope you will continue to make regular entries.

Shaun, I own an internet company with a network of city guides. One of my most valued employees, who I was grooming for a key executive position, was sentenced May 2, 2005 for stock trading without a license, something for which he was first arrested several years ago, but has been free until now. First offense, and none of those he helped had even lost money (he was quite successful), but he received 4 years.

He's pretty grieved, and this is Rick's first week in a prison facility. Has a wife and two sons. If you have any advice for him on how to cope, I'd appreciate it. I just was able to see him for the first time Wednesday night, and he's pretty distraught.

I read your "hell on earth" description of life under Sheriff Joe. Sounded absolutely awful. I hope he doesn't have to go through anything like you've had to suffer.

We're going to start a blog for him and publish it on our city guides, so that he won't be forgotten, hopefully, and so that he can have a voice to the outside world. At this moment he's not allowed to send letters, but he's keeping a diary while awaiting his sentencing. I can't believe you had to wait under Sheriff Joe for over two years before your sentencing to where to serve your sentence. That seems unreal. I'm hoping that Rick's processing will be under 6 weeks. We're in Kansas. I found your website while Googling for prison blogs, and have appreciated your articulate insights into life within the walls. So glad you are not still under Joe.

Hope to hear back from you,
RobMoritz@gmail.com or rwm@citiesunlimited.com

Anonymous said...

I live in canada where it is common to see someone walking down the street toking... and we have marijuana marches where most are doing the same.. we have legalized it for medicinal uses and most of the minor possession laws were struck down.. we are in limbo.. and guess what .. canada has not gone to hell in a hand basket.. we are thriving and doing well..
maybe the states needs to follow lil sister as we have a thriving economy and a better prison system

karen said...

To rob - i'm shaun's sister karen. Shaun will be only too happy to correspond with rick and to offer him any help and advice he can.
i know it must seem like the end of the world to rick and his family right now but he will get through it with the support of loved-ones.
shaun has now been inside three years and i'm sure as you are now aware his friends and family serve a sentence too - and we are all waiting for the day he comes home.
it's a great idea for rick to start a blog as a connection to the outside world. the US so called-justice system sucks.
all the best karen

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that as a future criminologist and a person that has enjoyed the friendships of many marijuana smoking people, I have conflicting thoughts on the matter of legalising pot. On one side of the coin, legalising it would cut government costs on the expenditures spent in the legal system itself and the government could profit from its sales. This would have a knock-on-effect to the increase of money flowing into the medical field as more people might have to seek smoker related treatment. There would be less stigmatisation of those convicted or just of those smoking pot in general.

The flip side to all that is the fact that marijuana is harmful. Hospitals are busy enough as it is. There may still be a black market for pot for people who want more potent marijuana. Plus, it could simply displace crime, ie decrease pot related crime and increase cocaine and heroine related offences. Not to mention the fact that legalising it would open the door for campaigns of legalising everything.

The list could go on and on for both sides of the debate. Which side you take simply has to do with your perspective on the matter. This is no cut and dry issue to say the least. The deciding factor for me, however, is the question of whether or not I would want my future child to have easy access to marijuana (or any drug for that matter). The answer is unequivocally no!