From the Daily: What are they smoking?

Published April 15, 2007

Every April, the Diag is filled with students, activists and creepy old people who gather at Hash Bash to voice their opposition to the prohibition of pot. But for 33 years, the state of Michigan has refused to budge; adamant in its half-baked reasoning for strict enforcement of unnecessary laws. And with word of the absolutely unwieldy bong ban recently enacted, it's time for the state to stop and consider exactly how little sense its marijuana laws make.

Sarah Royce

In 1966, a man named John Sinclair was arrested for selling two marijuana cigarettes to an undercover police officer. The law was even stricter then, and Sinclair was sentenced to nine years in prison. In 1971, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder and other artists performed a now infamous concert at Crisler Arena as a benefit to free Sinclair. Finally, the higher courts ruled that Michigan's marijuana laws were unconstitutional and Sinclair's conviction was overturned.

Since then, Michigan has passed more lenient legislation and Ann Arbor has enacted even more lenient legislation on marijuana in recent years. But that begs the question of why have this law at all? It's time to get past the politics on this issue and use logic. If marijuana were truly dangerous, then surely it is irresponsible of the city of Ann Arbor to levy a mere $25 fine? And why does the state jump all over marijuana while allowing the sale of tobacco, America's leading cause of preventable death?

The state recently passed a law outlawing any props that could be used to smoke marijuana; stores are only permitted to sell paraphernalia that can only be use for tobacco products. The law is hypocritical in the senseless barrier it tries to create between cigarette and marijuana smoking. It leaves police so much room for interpretation that you could theoretically have seen the last of apples, Italian loafs, juice bottles and loose-leaf paper.

The criminalization of marijuana has done more harm that its legalization ever could, even if the drug really is as bad as legislators want us to believe. Banning something doesn't make it disappear. All the laws have done is create a lucrative and dangerous black market. It's entirely conceivable that the number of marijuana-related deaths would actually go down after legalization because the underworld crime aspect of its current distribution would no longer exist.

If marijuana is a dirty drug, people can choose not to use it. Most people, in fact, will choose that option and pot won't be a concern of theirs anymore. Considering the 600,000-plus arrests made in 2005 for violent crimes linked to the marijuana black market, that will be a welcome change.