Laws should reflect cannabis use | AspenTimes.com

Laws should reflect cannabis use

Dear Editor:John Colson’s arguments in favor of Amendment 44 (“A vote to legalize marijuana is a vote for choice,” Aspen Times Weekly, Oct. 1) are well-founded.Current public policies criminalizing the possession and use of cannabis waste police and prosecutorial resources, engender disrespect for the rule of law, and needlessly wreck the lives and careers of several hundred thousand otherwise law-abiding citizens every year.According to data compiled by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and released in September, nearly 787,000 Americans were arrested for violating marijuana laws in 2005, the highest annual total ever recorded. Among those arrested, approximately 88 percent – some 696,074 – were charged with marijuana possession only. This massive law enforcement effort diverts law enforcement personnel away from focusing on serious and violent crime and has done little if anything to decrease pot’s black market availability or dissuade youth from trying it.Marijuana isn’t harmless, and the proponents of Amendment 44 do not claim that it is. However, pot’s relative risks to the user and society is less than those of alcohol, and do not warrant the continued arrest of hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. According to federal statistics, approximately 80 million Americans self-identify as having used cannabis at some point in their lives, and relatively few acknowledge having suffered significant deleterious health effects due to their use. America’s public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it. Coloradans this November have an opportunity to do so by voting “yes” on Amendment 44.Paul ArmentanoSenior Policy AnalystNORML | NORML FoundationWashington, DC

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