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April 27, 2006

Letter: Try a 'Day without Cannabis Consumers'

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, April 28, 2006

I was in San Franscisco for the 2006 NORML Conference (more about that later) and missed seeing my letter below get published in the Wisconsin State Journal on April 20. So here it is!

Source: Wisconsin State Journal
Pubdate: April 20, 2006


Events like a "Day without Latinos" have helped mobilize opposition to proposed changes in federal immigration laws. With all due respect to those activists, may I propose a "Day without Cannabis Consumers" to demonstrate that people using cannabis are just normal people, too?

If people only felt free enough to come out as cannabis consumers without fear of losing their jobs, educational access, housing and liberty, a diverse swath of society would be represented. They would be our families, neighbors and coworkers, responsibly using cannabis for personal reasons or as medicine.

President Richard Nixon ignored the findings of his own commission on marijuana, which in 1972 recommended decriminalizing possession and distribution of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Nixon's commission also concluded that "neither the marijuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety."

Cannabis does not trigger violent crime like alcohol, nor is it linked to health problems like tobacco. A Harvard Medical School cannabis authority Dr. Lester Grinspoon has said medical marijuana will never reach its full potential until marijuana is legal for all uses. Our farmers can profit by growing hemp, a source of food, fuel and fiber. If our leaders truly had the public's best interests in mind, regulation would replace prohibition.

-- Gary Storck, co-founder, Madison Chapter, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

Posted by Gary at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2006

Ordinance 23.20 turns 29 and Madison turns 150: Imagining post-prohibition Madison

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, April 05, 2006

As I noted a year ago, April 5th is the anniversary of the day in 1977 Madison made history by voting to legalize the medical use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation as well as to decriminalize the personal possession of a specified amount of marijuana on private property.

This year will mark the 29th anniversary of 23.20. A couple days later, on April 7, the city will officially celebrate its sesquicentennial on the 150th anniversary of the day the city's first mayor and city council met. In 1856, cannabis was widely used as medicine for many ailments in a time when there were few alternatives. Hemp was known as a valuable commodity as a raw material for rope, canvas, paper, and oil.

Back in 1856 the first city employees were not subject to drug testing. The idea that a far-off federal government in Washington D.C. would make cannabis and hemp illegal was completely unthinkable to that first mayor and council and the residents of the young city and state.

Today, at 150, federal mandates touch nearly every facet of life. Our urine, blood and hair may be subjected to tests for pot residue. A positive test can result in loss of employment, housing and even access to medical care. And even here in Madison, home of Ordinance 23.20, prohibition is an accepted fact of life in the “land of the free”.

Back in 1976, when the petitions to put 23.20 before voters were being circulated, Madison was a lot freer place at 120 than today at 150. Richard Nixon had resigned in disgrace two years earlier and marijuana was being decriminalized across the U.S. In Amsterdam, cannabis coffeeshops took hold as the Dutch government started to tolerate the possession and sale of small amounts of pot. The Dutch policies continue today. A few years earlier, in 1972, Nixon’s handpicked choice for a commission on marijuana, former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer had recommended that possession and sales of small amounts of cannabis be decriminalized. At the federal level, Jimmy Carter’s sons were smoking pot with Willie Nelson on the roof of the White House and federal decriminalization was before the Senate.

But as Ronald Reagan replaced Carter, cannabis tolerance began to recede, even in Madison. While local activists have managed to keep 23.20 alive, it has been 30 years of playing defense. 30 years of pot arrests, 30 years of harm maximization. Alcohol-fueled riots at the Mifflin St. block party and Halloween has become the norm. Alcohol-related mayhem continues to maim and harm citizens, triggering sexual assaults, drunk driving, hit and runs and random violence and injury. This is all part of the price we pay for making alcohol society’s officially approved recreational drug.

So what might a post-prohibition Madison look like? One has to only look to the experiences of Amsterdam and the Netherlands, Vancouver, British Columbia (aka “Vansterdam”) and the San Francisco Bay Area (a section of downtown Oakland has been dubbed “Oaksterdam”) and certain other parts of California.

Madison without cannabis prohibition, let’s call it “Madsterdam”, would be safer, with regulated sales for adults only. The current black market would disappear and along with it the prohibition related violence that occurs when you can’t call a cop to settle disputes.

Many problem drinkers, given a less toxic and legal alternative, might reduce or stop their drinking. Police resources could be re-deployed to better protect and serve. Madison would be healthier and happier too. Smiles would replace drunken scowls. A lot of work needs to be done to bring this vision of Madsterdam to reality. Cannabis prohibition is a counterproductive fraud, and society as a whole would benefit by its end.

Posted by Gary at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)