Not a crime


Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2000

So much of the discussion surrounding Proposition 5 centers on whether marijuana is bad for one's health, is addictive or leads to other addictions, or creates problems in one's work or personal life. These arguments miss the point.

You are not being asked to vote on the question of whether marijuana is harmful, you are being asked whether the state should convict and imprison people who commit no other crime than possessing and using a product that may be harmful to them.

I don't use marijuana, neither do I drink a lot of alcoholic beverages, smoke cigarettes, drive without a seat belt, eat excessive amounts of greasy foods or go skydiving. But I certainly don't believe that people who engage in those, or other, potentially harmful behaviors should be arrested, convicted and incarcerated with rapists, armed robbers and murderers. When a person chooses to damage their own health or well being, it is not a crime! It is merely poor judgment.

Marijuana became illegal at the prompting of the liquor lobby after Prohibition. Proposition 5 attempts to reverse that back room bargain (at least for Alaskans).

Consider, if you will, a few college students: Good grades, caring, sensitive sons or daughters with promising careers. They pool some money and buy a kilo of pot. The students are caught buying and using the drug, no public nuisance occurred, no property was damaged, but they were convicted and sentenced to long jail terms, their lives and careers destroyed. If the same students had bought a few cases of beer, gotten drunk, rowdy and belligerent, overturned trash cans and mailboxes, they might have been picked up, spent the night in the drunk tank, had to pay a fine or restitution and they would be allowed to go on with their lives.

Can this kind of legal imbalance really be called justice? Do we really want to use our police officers, judges and correctional system to turn decent young people into criminals? To fill our prisons with people from all walks of life who have no criminal intent? People who could be productive members of our community instead of burdens on our overcrowded prison system? What if the convicted pot smoker was your son or daughter, your grandchild, the neighbor's boy who helped fix your roof or carried your groceries, the girl who baked a dozen pies for the church bake sale?

When you vote on Proposition 5, make sure you are not voting on whether you think pot is bad for you but whether someone should be imprisoned for using and possessing it. Just for perspective, instead of "hemp products", in your mind substitute the name of some other thing that's "bad for you."

Phyllice Bradner


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