Smoking that grass - Time is now to push for pot legalization

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published April 4, 2001

This Saturday is the 30th anniversary of what has become a well-known Ann Arbor tradition: The annual Hash Bash. At "high noon" on the Diag many students, professors and others from across the nation will meet to protest the ongoing prohibition of marijuana.

This commemorative event will kick off a petition drive that will attempt to bring the issue of marijuana decriminalization before Michigan voters this fall. Hash Bash attendees are hoping to collect the 302,711 necessary signatures statewide to put the Personal Responsibility Amendment on the ballot for referendum vote. This will allow voters to directly determine whether or not marijuana should be illegal for personal use. All students, regardless of their opinion about marijuana prohibition, should sign this petition because it is important that Michigan citizens get the right to vote on an issue that affects so many people.

This is not an effort spearheaded by people who smoke marijuana all the time. The economic, social and political costs of prohibitionist policies outweigh any supposed benefits of the current state of marijuana laws. The focus of the initiative is to force the government from limiting people"s personal choices.

The Personal Responsibility Amendment, if approved, would be a reasonable compromise in the War on Drugs. It would not legalize widespread use of marijuana, but would simply decriminalize the personal and medical use of small amounts of the plant. The amendment would decriminalize the private use and possession of three ounces of dried marijuana for anyone 21 years and older, within the confines of their own home. The PRA is also very detailed and specific to ensure that use is private and responsible, including clauses to keep marijuana away from children and while driving. The decriminalization of marijuana would end the overflowing of jails in Michigan and decrease the $1.5 billion corrections budget by reducing the number of non-violent marijuana users in prison.

The amendment also contains a provision that would allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes for those with terminal and excessively physically deteriorating diseases. The amendment would not force doctors to prescribe marijuana, but would simply make it an option for those who need it. Again, the detail of the PRA ensures that the use of medicinal marijuana is not abused.

In addition, the PRA contains provisions that will legalize the right to farm and manufacture non-intoxicating industrial hemp for the use of rope, clothing, fuel and canvas. And finally, the amendment would require the money the state receives from criminal forfeitures to be spent on education for all substances abused, including drugs, alcohol, tobacco and gambling.

The social and economic benefits of passing this amendment are overwhelming, and the democratic benefit of signing the petition allows voters to determine the laws in Michigan. Even if you do not support the decriminalization of marijuana, it is imperative that you sign this petition so that the people of Michigan can voice their vote in this matter. Non-pot smokers and pot smokers alike should attend the annual Hash Bash this Saturday at noon in the Diag.