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Opinion

Election initiatives loosen marijuana enforcement

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November 20, 2008

Massachusetts recently passed a ballot initiative in the recent election allowing the decriminalization of marijuana. Michigan passed a medical marijuana law allowing for the legitimately ill to use, posses and cultivate. Hawaii and Arkansas both passed the ballot initiatives to make marijuana possession laws the lowest priority for local law enforcement.

I think many people are confused about these new laws. Don’t come running to me telling me that marijuana is now legal in 13 states. That is not true and it probably won’t be true for a very, very long time. Marijuana isn’t even legal in most countries.

Medical marijuana, however, is legal in 13 states. Minnesota not being one of them, which means it will be hard to acquire some from the U of M-like so many hopeful people think is possible. If it is possible, I want physical proof.

Laws for medical marijuana do not apply to anyone without a legitimate illness or pain. You cannot grow any, or up to 12 plants, if you are not sick. Many of these people use marijuana to ease the affects of cancer or other pains from injuries other illnesses. It is an easy, affordable and ecological way to reduce suffering.

Decriminalization is not legalization. This means that possession of marijuana is treated the same as a parking ticket. It is a fine, usually around $100-$200 and no jail time. Minnesota decriminalizes marijuana to an extent. Minnesota, as most decriminalizing states, allow possession of up to 42.5 grams, but don’t get caught with anything more than that in the state, otherwise you’re looking at five years in incarceration. Got more than 1.5 kilograms of the grass? You’re now looking at 30 years plus a $1 million fine and a lot of stoned cops.

What about Wisconsin? Wisconsin does not allow for medical marijuana, nor does it have any decriminalization laws. If you’re caught with any amount, even that small spliff of shake you rolled up, it is punishable for jail time and a ridiculously large fee and includes your name in the newspaper on public record. It is also one of about 12 states that give drugged driving tickets. I hope they catch all of those reckless, speeding stoners. 

If marijuana were given legality, taxing would be enforced. Currently, 20 states now have tax stamps enforced to its potential. Minnesota currently taxes marijuana at $3.50 per gram. This tax does not exempt the possession consequences, so it is basically a fee to pay for your non-jail time. Now you see decriminalizing marijuana is a much better idea than legalizing it. Even Amsterdam and India decriminalize marijuana; it is not legal in those places, but for some reason they are very relaxed about the drug.

There are 14 states that have an active hemp industry. Hemp is a durable and sustainable material that has a great market, but its flowers are illegal. The DEA destroyed 247 million plants in one year, 99 percent of them being “ditch weed,” which means that it was growing naturally, not appearing to be planted or owned by any person. Why trash a valuable resource? Why spend so much (millions!) of tax payer money to kill harmless weeds?

In both Minnesota and Wisconsin marijuana ranks No. 6 in the top 10 cash crops of each state, coming before oats, wheat and apples. Over 12 million people in the U.S. use marijuana somewhat regularly. States are catching on election by election. This drug is not an issue – it is a blessing.

Teresa Aviles is a student at UW-River Falls.