It’s time to stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers. Millions of Americans use marijuana; few abuse it. Arresting these otherwise law-abiding citizens serves no legitimate purpose; extends government into inappropriate areas of our private lives; and causes enormous harm to the lives, careers and families of the more than 500,000 marijuana smokers arrested each year in this country.
Marijuana smokers are no different from their nonsmoking peers, except for their marijuana use. Like most Americans, they are responsible citizens who work hard, raise families, contribute to their communities, and want a safe, crime-free neighborhood in which to live. They are not part of the crime problem and should not be treated like criminals.
Responsible marijuana use causes no harm to society and should be of no interest to state and federal governments. Today, far more harm is caused by marijuana prohibition than by the use of marijuana itself.
Marijuana prohibition applies to every one, including the sick and dying. Of all the negative consequences of prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal marijuana to the tens of thousands of seriously ill patients who could benefit from its use. This includes cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, AIDS patients suffering from “wasting syndrome,” glaucoma patients, and those suffering from chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis and a variety of spastic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, quadriplegia, and epilepsy. Marijuana should be immediately made available by prescription to seriously ill patients.
NORML first raised this issue in 1972 in an administrative petition asking that marijuana be rescheduled so it could be prescribed as a medicine. After 16 years of legal battles and appeals, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young found: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances know to man…. Marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.” Judge Young further recommended that marijuana be made available as a legal medicine. The DEA Administrator overruled Judge Young, and the Court of Appeals allowed that decision to stand, denying medical marijuana to seriously ill patients. Much of NORML’s efforts focus on lobbying both state legis lators and Congress to correct this injustice.
Hemp refers to the non-psychoactive strain of marijuana grown by farmers throughout the world for industrial purposes. Hemp is one of nature’s strongest and most versatile agricultural crops and has many commercial uses. Various parts of the plant may be utilized for making paper, textiles, cosmetics, paints, clothing, foodstuffs, insulation, and animal feed. It produces a much higher yield per acre than substitutes such as wood pulp and cotton and requires virtually no pesticides. Farmers in 30 countries-including Canada, France, England, Germany, Japan, and Australia-grow hemp for industrial purposes. Presently, federal and state laws prohibit American farmers from growing this profitable and environmentally friendly commodity. NORML lobbies state and federal legislators to recognize hemp as a legitimate economic crop.