My Turn: Examine the real Prop 2 issues

Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2004

Government agencies have spoken their opinions on the ballot initiative crafted to regulate marijuana usage in Alaska. While they are certainly entitled to their beliefs, they have been silent on the facts: People who want to smoke marijuana will do so whether illegal or not; the drug war is not stopping people from using drugs; and only those with medical degrees should decide if marijuana is an appropriate treatment for their patients.

I am a responsible wife and mother. I have no desire to smoke marijuana and think that doing so recreationally is a ridiculous, irresponsible choice. Nevertheless, it should be my choice. I am tired of the government continuing to make the choice for me, taking police away from real crime fighting and spending millions of dollars of our taxes to fight a miserably failing drug war. That money could be better used to, say, create jobs or fund education, or to make America's big cities safer.

History has proven that legalizing a substance eliminates the criminal element and helps control its use. Does America suffer from Al Capone-style gangsters brandishing Gatling guns in secret speakeasies? No, those days of alcohol prohibition are gone. Alcohol use and abuse is better controlled because of legalization. Our cities still suffer from violence and poverty, largely due to drug lords' turf wars, smuggling and dealing operations. These could be eliminated in a matter of hours if voters would approve the same regulations put in place to monitor alcohol.

Also tiring is the sickening double standard behind regulation of things Americans choose to smoke: Tobacco cigarettes are far more lethal than marijuana; however, they remain legal because the government makes a great deal of money on the taxes they generate, and Democrats and Republicans get huge campaign donations from tobacco companies. This proposition calls their bluff, suggesting that as long as people choose to smoke pot (and they will), we should make it legal and expensive and possibly make up some of the huge federal budget deficit at the same time.

Lastly, I am shocked that bureaucrats in Washington feel they are better prepared to make medical decisions on behalf of people who actually hold medical degrees. Why do they continue to keep necessary pain relief from cancer patients and those with other specific ailments? When I had surgery last year, I received both morphine and oxycod for my few, brief days of pain. Why should these controlled substances be allowed in by body and my home, yet doctor-monitored usage of marijuana is not an option to help make a cancer patient's last days more comfortable?

Opponents of this measure are desperately hoping that the infusion of "Outside money" into this proposition will turn voters off. Are they kidding? Take a look at the campaign ads for Alaska's leading Senate candidates - most are funded by Washington D.C.'s national Democrat and Republican party committees. Not Alaskans. And, what percentage of industry and programs in Alaska are funded with federal dollars? Honestly, how can government officials keep straight faces when they play the "Outside money" card on this issue?

These are the real issues that Proposition 2 proposes to address. Sometimes the best decision is a hard one. Even if you do not approve of marijuana use, I urge you to learn more about this ballot measure.

• Sara Chambers is vice chairperson of the Alaska Libertarian Party.

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