President Barack Obama and I have very little in common. I guess among the few things that we do have in common is that we both experimented with illicit substances in our youth.
Obama has, in fact, told of his drug use in fairly graphic detail in his book, "Dreams of My Father."
The increasingly vocal voice of those wishing to seize upon Obama's intention to rescind Bush era policy of fully enforcing federal anti-marijuana laws has pushed this issue to the forefront. Numerous inquiries to not only the city of Lodi, but also the city of Galt, about establishing medical marijuana dispensaries have been made in the last several weeks.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that ending federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries "is now American policy," clearly indicating a shift in policy from the Bush administrations' far more strict stance against marijuana use of any kind, anywhere, at any time.
It should be noted that in 1996, 56 percent of Californians voted in favor of Prop. 215, which legalized the use of medical marijuana. Since then Alaska, Arizona - "by a 65 percent majority" - Washington, Oregon and Nevada have also passed similar medicinal marijuana initiatives.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, there is no California state regulation or standard of the cultivation and and/or distribution of medical marijuana. California pretty much leaves the exact guidelines to the discretion of local governments. Marin County, for example, allows up to six mature plants and a full half-pound of dried marijuana. Sonoma County allows three pounds of marijuana and allows cultivation of up to 99 plants, more if a doctor deems it necessary.
Obviously a very large portion of the "medicinal" marijuana is eventually illegally consumed by the general public for recreational use. Some estimate the amount of money spent on marijuana overall in the United States alone to be near $36 billion a year, making it a very lucrative commodity.
According to Wikipedia, marijuana has been established to alleviate certain medical conditions such as glaucoma, nausea, anorexia and cancer. It is also believed to alleviate certain painful, neurogenic conditions also known as "soft tissue diseases." The dosages, however, are subject to scrutiny, since its potency varies greatly and the effects of marijuana are generally short-lived.
According to the British medical journal The Lancet, the addictiveness and health hazards of using marijuana are less than those of either tobacco or alcohol. I mean, you can drink yourself to death in less than an hour or two if you're really stupid. The same just can't be said of either marijuana or tobacco. Decades of daily use are needed to accomplish that mission.
I mean, what is marijuana? It is a naturally occurring herb that needs virtually no refining or processing to be used as most users would choose to partake in it. I am not going to sit here and tell everybody it is completely harmless by any means, but all it ever did for me was make me somewhat paranoid and act silly. I sincerely regret the time I wasted with it, but witnessed many, many others who had no problem whatsoever dealing with the altered state that it induces. But I did sleep really well those nights!
California's jails are busting at the seams. The budget crisis here in the Golden State is at near unimaginable levels. I fully realize that the hypothetical legalization and taxation of any controlled substance would hardly make a dent in the problems that California now faces, "and some would argue only exacerbate them." It is my personal belief, however, that the increasingly limited resources of the most populous state in America would be much better spent in areas other than prosecuting the usage and possession of limited amounts of marijuana, medicinal or otherwise.
J. Kurt Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.