Legalize Marijuana
Yes



BY MAUI PUBLIC DEFENDER
PHILIP LOWENTHAL

Legalize Marijuana Yes

The existence and widespread use of marijuana in our American society has generated a myriad of presently unresolved problems, both social and legal.

Usually, advocates of anti-marijuana laws support their position by presenting evidence which they claim demonstrates that some users of marijuana are physically and psychologically harmed. From that premise, they conclude that possession of marijuana should be a crime. The problem with that position is that it uses the criminal law to deal with what is essentially a health-education problem.

Persons who incure physical and psychological harm from their use of marijuana should receive medical attention. But many are afraid to seek medical help for drug problems for fear of being turned in to the police.

If marijuana users are running a health risk, education, not jail, is needed to alert them to the danger. We learn not to take poison through education rather than penal sanctions. The same approach is the most reasonable way to deal with marijuana.

Our present laws against marijuana seem to generate more problems than they alleviate. While anti-marijuana proponents claim that marijuana leads to harder drugs, they fail to reconize the fact that the marijuana laws themselves may spread the use of harder drugs.

There are three reasons for this: first, since marijuana is outlawed, people who want to obtain marijuana often have to deal with organized criminals who push not only marijuana but also hard drugs; second, a person who uses marijuana, and from experience believes it is harmless and its prohibition is unreasonable, is more prone to believe that all outlawed drugs are not as harmful as the authorities say (a credibility gap); and third, since most possessors of marijuana successfully evade the law, they are less deterred by the criminal sanctions for possession of other illegal drugs. Unlike most types of crimes, where the criminal is someone other than the victim, marijuana crimes have no seperate victim. The criminal himself is the alleged victim. Since there is no seperate victim to report the crime and since the marijuana criminal will not turn himself in, the police must not only find the criminal, but must also find the crime. And when the police must find an unreported crime, they unfortunately often end up invading the constitutionally graranteed privacy of citizens. That is why many marijuana cases involve 4th amendment search and seizure questions.

There are millions of otherwise innocent and productive Americans made criminals by anti-marijuana laws. Accordingly, many of them are alienated from our mainstream culture, which is saturated with legal intoxicants, stimulants and depressants. They are pawns and profit for organized criminals. They are left with contempt for the law.

So we must ask about the marijuana prohibition: what is the real State interest in protecting a man from himself? The proponents of anti-marijuana legislation contend that the State has an interest in the health of marijuana users. If the State is protecting an individual from hurting his own health, it seems that the State, if truly attempting to promote health, should deal with marijuana as a health and education problem rather than as a criminal problem.

Such a change in dealing with marijuana would be consistent with the State's legitimate interest in health; free much money and many police officers for more work on more pressing criminal problems; take marijuana from the control of drug dealers; greatly ease the burden on our system of criminal justice; and reduce the incursions on constitutional liberties guaranteed to the people.

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Buck Quayle at the Maui Lahaina Sun bureau circa 1970

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Reporter/Photographer Buck Quayle in 1971 in Maui with the Cartagenian in the background

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