Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Marijuana Feature Story 11/18/2010

Last year there were 858,408 marijuana affiliated arrests in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report shows that 52% of the drug arrests that year were marijuana related compared to the 44% in 1999. According to the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform, of the 874,863 marijuana arrests in 2008, 86% of the arrests were for possession. As reported by Jon Gettman, Ph.D. who is affiliated with the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform, in Maryland, 89% of all marijuana arrests were for possession during 2007, which exposes a +2.93% per year. There were 22,042 arrests for marijuana possession in Maryland in 2007, and 2,668 arrests for marijuana sales and, in the United States there were 775,138 marijuana arrests that year.

Many studies show that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, such as the study done by the official journal of the EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society (ENCS) in 2009. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is living by the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as the group continue to push for cannabis liberation. The main objective for the organization is to educate the nation on why marijuana should be regulated by our federal government and not by drug lords on the streets. On the other hand, organizations such as My Anti Drug and Above the Influence stress zero tolerance for any drug or alcohol use.

When asked if he thought that marijuana will eventually be legalized in the United States, Frostburg Homecoming Court member Louis Mozzano, a junior international business major, said, “It is already happening." Mozzano believes that the U.S government should go with the flow of full marijuana legalization and said “The government is ignorant to believe that they can actually stop or control the underground business.” Jen Gover, a, senior history major, said, “It's not dangerous; it will just make people stupid." Immediately after her response, Mozzano, who was still standing nearby, interjected, "Not going to provide names, but I know quite a few people who got here on academic scholarships who smoke marijuana daily."

Sabrina Fendrick of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and NORML Women’s Alliance spoke about the organization’s main objective, which is to “move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.” Fendrick expressed her passion and the passion of her fellow coworkers by stating, “It is important because innocent, otherwise law-abiding citizens are having their lives and the lives of their families destroyed, losing their homes, their children, their jobs, student loans, etc., for using a natural substance that is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.” NORML additionally supports the development of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers could purchase it from a safe, legal and regulated source. This model is referred to as legalization.

NORML, a very active group based in Washington D.C., has been making its voice heard across the country. Fendrick says that NORML filed suit against the government regarding parquet spraying, medical access to marijuana, hemp cultivation, helicopter overflight and the use of the military in domestic law enforcement; led the way to making medical marijuana available by voter initiative in 14 states and the District of Columbia; maintains a comprehensive web site, which includes a 50-state legislative tracking system, where every year hundreds of thousands of individuals inform themselves about the issue and send a free fax or an e-mail to their state and federal elected officials.” Fendrick also mentioned NORML’s release of a detailed economics report and policy analysis on the benefits of decriminalization and a series of health reports, including “Cannabinoids as Cancer Hope,” “Cannabis, Mental Health and Context,” “Cannabis and the Brain” and “Cannabis Smoke and Cancer.” Fendrick adds that NORML can be proud to have “released the most definitive collection and report on the body of research on medical cannabis, Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids.”

Some other ways NORML stays involved is by publishing dozens of letters to the editor within major publications every year. NORML runs the largest ‘grassroots network’ of marijuana law reform activists and has 150 chapters across the nation. NORML has also been quoted in hundreds of publications nationwide including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Center publications, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Many citizens who are skeptical about trying marijuana often argue, “Marijuana will make you dumb.” In response to marijuana making you less intelligent or lazy, Fendrick says, that this claim is also called anti-motivational syndrome. When Fendrick is confronted with these words she says, “I usually come back with it's the person, not the substance that causes their behavior. Otherwise, the last three presidents, Carl Sagan, Michael Phelps and many more successful scientists, athletes and intellectuals would all be incapable vegetables. I also cite NORML's Principles of Responsible Use: 1.) Adults Only 2.) No Driving 3.) Set and Setting ("Set" refers to the consumer's values, attitudes, experience and personality, and "setting" means the consumer's physical and social circumstances. The responsible cannabis consumer will be vigilant as to conditions, time, place, mood, and does not hesitate to say "no" when those conditions are not conducive to a safe, pleasant and/or productive experience. 4.) Resist Abuse (abuse means harm. Some cannabis use is harmful; most is not. That which is harmful should be discouraged; that which is not doesn’t need to be.) 5.) Respect Rights of Others.” NORML aims to branch their influence in every direction and wishes to fulfill the curiosity of any individual with a question or concern.

Corporal Dale Lewis of the Frostburg State University Police Department said, “I am not in favor of reform. I like the law right where it is.” Lewis believes that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to hard substance abuse. “I’ve seen it growing up. After so much I think you become unsatisfied and jump to the next level.”

Lewis admitted that in his six years at Frostburg State and two years as a Frostburg city police officer that he has never had to wrestle down a person under the influence of marijuana, but he has had a couple scrapes with intoxicated individuals. “I think you can only get so high when it comes to smoking, but with drinking we all know the possible outcome when used in excess,” Lewis said. When asked for some key differences between marijuana user behavior and the behavior of a drunk, Lewis said, “Usually when dealing with someone who had just smoked a marijuana cigarette, for example, they are laid back, calm, and can function fairly normally, but with alcohol there is no control.” Lewis also noted that marijuana use is much harder to detect than alcohol. Intoxicated individuals are more obvious because of the slurring of words, inability to walk or stand very well, harsh breathing, stammering, delayed responses and reactions, and louder voices. As for marijuana smoke, “We know what it smells like and we can smell it,” Lewis said; however, the smell alone cannot land you in jail. Marijuana users are much more cautious with what they say or do because of the stricter laws for cannabis use. The individuals have much more to lose, but Lewis agrees that violence, terrible misjudgment, and the inability to function properly are not common signs of someone with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) circulating in their system. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

I asked Lewis if it would be difficult to adjust and no longer regard marijuana users as “criminals” if and when cannabis becomes legal. Lewis responded, “No, not at all. I believe in the law and do not question it. However, legalization is already happening. It is working its way across America. If they legalized marijuana, I guarantee we would be well on our way out of debt.” Marijuana currently is the biggest cash crop in the States, surpassing corn by more than $12 million, Lewis said.

“Our main priority is safety,” said Lewis. Corporal Lewis favors marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Lewis added that alcohol withdrawal is a mind and body catastrophe. “I think as far as marijuana addiction is concerned, it is more of a mental thing. Some people just want to be high all the time,” said Lewis. When asked whether alcohol abuse is a major issue, Lewis replied, “I like my alcohol. A person can become addicted to anything; addiction doesn’t necessarily have to be physical.” Another thing Officer Lewis stressed was that if and when marijuana is legalized there need to be harsh penalties for driving under the influence, providing for minors, and operating machinery. “Harsher penalties should already be executed for the same actions in regard to alcohol,” Lewis said.

Tara Collier, lawyer of Crossland and Speis, living in Pocahontas, Maryland, says, “Currently in Maryland, being found guilty of possession of marijuana could result in one year imprisonment and/or $1,000 fine. These penalties increase if you have higher amounts of the drug justifying a charge/guilty finding for ‘possession with intent to distribute.’ In reality, personal-use marijuana offenders rarely see jail, let alone a year's worth of it.” Instead of offenders seeing the maximum penalty, Collier said, “The case is put on the stet docket on the condition that the offender complete 40 hours of community service (Stet 40).” The stet docket is the court's inactive docket. When a case is put on the stet docket, the state does not pursue prosecution. The case, in effect, just sits there. Collier said, “For one year following the case's placement on the stet docket, either the defendant or the state can request that the case be removed from the stet docket, for any reason. After one year, the court has to grant permission for this to occur, usually requiring a showing of ‘good cause.’ If a case is removed from the stet docket, it is reset to be heard/tried. The state normally only removes a case from the stet docket if the defendant finds himself in another criminal matter.” Collier added, “After a few years, a stetted matter can be expunged so that there is no record of the charges. In effect, all this amounts to is a slap on the wrist.”

When asked about Pennsylvania law, Collier said, “The penalties there are slightly higher, but not substantially so.” She represented a man who had no previous criminal record in Pennsylvania and was admitted into an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program (ARD). Individuals accepted into the program are closely screened by the district attorney for no longer than two years, put in classes discussing the substance used, risk license suspension, and are ordered to perform community service. After completing the program, Collier said, “His matter will be more easily expunged, than had he not been in the program.”

When prompted to provide her opinion on law reform, Collier said, “I think that the states should consider changing the penalties for this offense, and conceivably even abolishing the laws prohibiting possession of small amounts of marijuana. I do not see that the harm of this drug is much more extreme than that of alcohol when used safely.” Collier added, “I spent a semester as a Rule 16 certified intern for the Allegany County State's Attorney's Office, prosecuting cases. It was rather shocking the number of Stet 40's that occurred weekly for this offense, which results in a fair amount of state resources as it takes up court time, the prosecutor's time, the prosecuting officer(s) have to appear, etc. Collier added, “I do believe that reform is a possibility. Other states are moving in that direction, as is public opinion on the matter.”

Collier even has heard prosecutors suggest that reform should be considered. One example of pro cannabis change comes with the new leadership of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) group based in Massachusetts. Neill Franklin, a 33-year police veteran who has led anti–narcotics tasks forces with multiple state jurisdictions for the Maryland State Police and training for the Baltimore Police Department, took over leadership July 1, 2010.

If anyone is ever caught in a marijuana legal situation, Collier says, “They should, clearly, consult with an attorney. While the penalties are not great, if the matter isn't expunged it will continue to show on your record.” As for the direction for the future, Collier stated, “My impression is that the general mind set is becoming more accepting of reform of the marijuana laws.”

Dr. Grant Atwell of Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, proclaims that marijuana does hold certain medicinal properties and the United States needs to make use of the substance. Atwell says, “The proof is in the pudding. It helps with nausea during chemotherapy; it helps with radiation sickness.” He also believes the positives outweigh the negatives in regard to medical marijuana prescriptions. “It can be abused, but I think we have more alcoholics than drug users today,” Atwell says.

“I’m on the fence… and I can’t come down,” said Atwell when asked whether marijuana should be legalized and controlled like alcohol and cigarettes. “An awful lot of people use it, and a lot don’t go above that. While many hard drug users begin with marijuana, a much higher majority start with drinking alcohol, and marijuana is not very hard on the body,” Atwell said. Nicotine is more addicting.” A positive aspect regarding legalization, Grant agrees, is taxation. California estimates $1.2 billion in sales tax if marijuana is legalized. Grant acknowledges the fact that other countries do have marijuana decriminalized and says, “You don’t hear an awful lot from them.” Most recent for decriminalization is Mexico, which passed new laws August 20, 2009.

“Am I in favor of reform?” asks Atwell. “No, I’m not. Medicinal, yes, and I don’t find that contradictory. A lot of good drugs are not approved for recreational use, for instance opiates. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just don’t agree, but I don’t take a terribly active stance.”

Opinions are swaying in America, even if the people are not in full agreement with legalization; many people are in agreement with marijuana for medicinal use. Times are changing, and it is because of those people pushing for the legal transformation. Proposition 19 made its way onto Californian ballots during the past November election, but failed 54 percent to 46 percent. The proposition was written to control marijuana like alcohol, generate billions of dollars in revenue, allow police to focus on violent and more serious crimes, and protect the rights of medical marijuana users. Extended details on the proposition are available at yeson19.com. However, Nov. 2, 2010, was not the first attempt toward legalization. During the 1972 presidential election, marijuana legalization appeared on the ballot, but also failed with 66 percent against.

It is obvious that there is a sufficient number of Americans who believe marijuana discrimination is unjust. The numbers show that support is growing and it is only a matter of time before legalization finds its way into the history books. We have all seen what alcohol is capable of doing to the human body yet we continue to purchase it. If we can continue to drink a substance that killed approximately 22,073 Americans in 2006 (not including automobile crashes or other accidents), than why can’t we use a substance that has zero overdoses on record according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention? On Nov. 4, 2010, two days after legalization failed in California, Dale Sky Jones, a spokeswoman for the Proposition 19 campaign, said, “We have a debate that was just heard around the world, and the conversation has only just begun.”

Monday, January 31, 2011

Marijuana Research Assignment 4/20/2010

“When you smoke herb, it reveals you to yourself.” – Bob Marley. “Arguably, marijuana is an herb that can shatter a person’s original understanding of themselves and can open the eyes of the newly confused only to strengthen the new comprehensions of whom they really are.” – Unknown. Marijuana, a highly controversial plant in regard to law, rumor, and studies, has been a more common topic seen and heard through our television sets, radios, and internet. Within our recent history, support for hemp has been growing faster than the plant itself and although the debate to legalize the psychoactive flower has been around for over 100 years, the tide could finally be turning for its legalization, not only for medical use, but for recreational use as well.

Studies show that cannabis has the power to lift a person’s mood and calm even some of the most irritable of people. Not only does this natural beauty carry stress relieving components, but it also increases the awareness of the senses, such as smell and hearing. Marijuana also is a pain reliever that can increase appetite, promote deep thinking and brings with it a pleasant body feeling. It is also obvious that marijuana has a direct correlation to the world of music.

For the typical human, not just Americans, after a long day at the office, the job site, the college classroom, or any stressful day, we look forward to unwind and relax when we get home. Some people take long baths, some take long walks, some crack open a cold beer, and many plop a seat in front of the television. However; for some it is not uncommon to enjoy a few drags from a joint or a couple puffs from a pipe in the evening during down time. It is not only a way to relax, but is also a way to escape the stress of everyday life.

Much like Houdini and his lifestyle of escape, citizens seek a form of escape, not only after a typical work day, but we also look forward to the winding down on a Friday night or a weekend. Although Houdini and his vicious cycle of escape is slightly over the top in regards to the recreational use of cannabis. The thought of escaping stress, more so than being in a continuous loop fueled by the desperate need to elude something, much like Houdini, would suggest the idea of addiction within the world of marijuana. There is no doubt that there is a relation between the two; however, the severity would need to be watered down so to speak in order to apply fully and not be taken negatively to fuel the opposition surrounding marijuana.

Many artists have included cannabis into their lyrics to show their support of marijuana’s existence, to share a message (usually one of peace), or to express the inspiration the herb has brought to them. Although the new music of today does not quite follow within the footsteps of the greats at Woodstock, The Beatles, and etc, there are still groups who continue the tradition, such as Snoop Dogg, Cypress hill, and The Kotton Mouth Kings. To many, the best music came from within or around the 60’s, hippies’ reigned supreme with peace signs and smoke rings rising in the air.

A few examples of songs that stand out within this topic are Purple Haze (which is a type of high potency marijuana) by Jimi Hendrix, which is a song that describes a “trip” within the lyrics. Break on Through by The Doors can be interpreted as the “other side” that is being broken through is the transition between sober life and high life. Throughout the song, Jim Morrison sings of the “pleasures” and “treasures” of a drugs effect. The “she” in the song can be assumed to be Morrison’s girlfriend at the time this song was written, as they experimented with drugs, or the “she” can be seen as the drug itself. Tom Petty’s song You Don’t Know How It Feels, is a song that features the famous line “So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint” is a shout out showing support of cannabis and its creative powers. Taking a look at many of the songs produced by The Beatles, which were fuelled by marijuana, they expressed the desire for peace, love, and the overall connection of people. Not only were The Beatles active supporters of the recreational use of marijuana, but they also believed in zero violence whatsoever. “I don’t believe in killing whatever the reason!” and “All we are saying is, give peace chance,” are two famous quotes from the mouth of John Lennon.

Much like within the world of music, the standards are very similar in societies where people engage in the use of marijuana in regards to peace. For example, taking a country like Amsterdam (since possession of marijuana for recreational use is legal there) and comparing the number of violent marijuana related accidents, deaths, and disruptions are virtually nonexistent compared the numbers within the same offenses within nearly any location where there is a bar or some other establishment that sells alcohol. It is obvious which substance creates more trouble is more harmful to the user and the people around the user. Another example of how marijuana and peace go hand in hand, in the city of Libson, Portugal, 2009, authorities were worrying about the violence and misconduct that could possibly sweep across the city during the European Soccer Tournament which was being held there. The main concern was that the first round match was between England and France, and as history shows, there have always been problems with drunken fans, starting fights, stirring up riots, and engaging in many other forms of violent behavior, especially when there is alcohol involved. With estimates of 50,000 soccer fans on the way for the games, banning alcohol was deemed impossible and unconstitutional, so authorities announced that any soccer fans during the tournament would be allowed to openly smoke marijuana in public and enjoy the games with no worries of any form of prosecution by law enforcement. To the surprise of many during the course of the game, there is no record of incident whatsoever, and zero arrests. It was until after the match, during the night that the bars were filled with angry English soccer fans that under the influence of alcohol began rioting and many arrests were made.

“I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H bomb blast.” – Ronald Reagan. These are the words of a man with a very strong negative opinion regarding marijuana. His words, however extreme they have been proven to be, expresses his concern and also the belief of the harm the plant brings, but also shows his ignorance. Although within more recent testing, data shows there can be slightly negative effects when used in extreme excess. When a substance, no matter the form, is used and abused, that is when the harmful effects can take place. On the same note, studies have also proven that marijuana is far less addictive than tobacco and alcohol combined, and that both are also much more harmful according to not only by the Federal Drug Administration, but many other organizations as well.

The few negative effects that can occur, not necessarily will occur, are coughing and other minor respiratory problems (usually occurring with people with asthma), difficulty with short term memory although studies have evidence to prove that if memory problems occur, the symptoms are not permanent. After administering the drug, evidence shows that there is an often sign of elevated heart beat, which only really pertains to people with bad hearts. Anxiety is also an issue in some cases, but that can be resolved by assuring that the user is in an environment that they are familiar with and feel comfortable in. Headaches, confusion, light headedness (in cases of high blood pressure) is possible effects as well as clumsiness, and loss of coordination at high doses. If the user has a preexisting mental disorder, the use of marijuana can heighten the severity and also nausea when combined with alcohol is the major extents to which the negatives reach according to studies done by the Federal Drug Administration.

To many, this list of negative effects is somehow far too great to allow for recreational use under law even though many results from studies and tests state that overdoes is virtually impossible. The estimated level of overdoes of marijuana is approximately 7 pounds that is used within a 24 hour period, which is the equivalent of nearly $10,000 worth and would be virtually impossible to accomplish. It can be assumed that if people believe these effects to be much too dangerous, than it is clear that the prescriptions within the homes of individuals have never been read. Many prescription drugs, under law, are required to warn on boxes, commercials, and through doctors the potential dangers of modern medicines that include possible blood clots, increase risk of stroke, heart attack, and more. Marijuana shares none of the dangers of many modern medicines today and many believe marijuana to be a medicine anyway. There are zero records of any deaths caused by the use of marijuana, (not including when it is mixed with alcohol or other substances) but “there are approximately 35,000 deaths per year due to chronic alcohol use”, stated by The National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism. (Marijuana is Safer, 32)

Society continues to brainwash citizens world wide of the dangers of marijuana, but trying to find evidence of emergency room visits do to an actual medical emergency brought on by the use of marijuana is much easier said than done. In comparison, alcohol related injuries make up for roughly 70% of all emergency room visits on Earth. Even though it is clear which substance promotes real danger, the U.S. Government continues to fund and regulate this $130 billion business according to a 2006 study done by the Columbia University report. A perfect example of how the dangers of marijuana and alcohol differ, comes from the forward within the book Marijuana Is Safer So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, which was published in 2009. Former Police Chief of Seattle Police Department, Norm Stamper has been asking officers all over the U.S and Canada two questions.

“When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana?” (and by this I mean marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause; they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask, “When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk?” They look at their watches. It’s telling that the booze question is answered in terms of hours, not days or weeks. (Stamper, X)

Having realized the actual, possible dangers of marijuana, there are many myths that have been well circulated, that a shocking percentage of citizens believe.

Myth number one is the idea marijuana is a gateway drug. “In drug law enforcement, rarely do we meet heroin or cocaine addicts who did not start their use with marijuana.” – Karen Tandy, U.S. DEA Administrator, 2005. The fact is that the majority of marijuana users never try any other form of illicit drug in their lifetimes according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their data indicates that only 3.5% of Americas have tried cocaine and for heroin, the percentage is less than two. Also if marijuana is considered to be a gateway drug, leading to harsher and even life threatening drugs, than alcohol and tobacco is in fact the initial door. The overwhelming majority of marijuana users as well as cocaine and heroin addicts have admitted to experimentation with tobacco and alcohol long before their first use of any form of illegal substance.

Myth number two states that marijuana is a highly addictive substance and that millions of Americans are in some form of treatment annually because of their addiction. The fact of the matter is that cannabis lacks the physiological chemicals, unlike alcohol and tobacco. Also as for the millions of people in treatment, the majority is in “treatment” not voluntarily, but because they were arrested for possession and many of these nonviolent “criminals” have had to attend these programs because it is placed in the terms of their probation. A scientist from the U.S National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield and Neal L. Benowitz of The University of California at San Francisco, reported to New York Times that pot’s addiction potential is no greater than that of caffeine. Also the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine has not only agreed with the studies of both other scientists, but has published a federal study assessing marijuana’s impact on health in 1999. (Marijuana is Safer page 64)
“I can take pot or leave it. I got busted in Japan for it. I was nine days without it and there wasn’t a hint of withdraw, nothing.” – Paul McCartney.

A third myth could follow along the lines of the belief that “Not only does marijuana cause lung cancer; it also is more dangerous than tobacco. Studies show that not only is marijuana not associated with any form of cancer, but the use of marijuana is actually good for cancer patients and the number of medical marijuana prescriptions for not only cancer, but also glaucoma and AIDS patients. Medical marijuana is often prescribed to cancer and AIDS patients to relieve pain supply and appetite, not only calms during treatments, but has been proving to perhaps be a medicine for these diseases itself. Dr. Donald Toshkin of The University of California in Los Angeles spoke to the Washington Post and stated that “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effects.” This statement is in regard to the association of marijuana and cancer. Evidence shows that among marijuana smokers there are less cancer related cases compared to non users. According to the studies done by The National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana has the capabilities of not only reducing the fluid pressure in the eyes of glaucoma patients, but also has the potential to aid in the medical treatment of patients diagnosed with epilepsy.

Myth number four, which seems to have the most power is that smoking marijuana causes permanent brain damage. Many believe that smoking marijuana will fry their brains and turn them into the characters we see in movies and television shows which are exaggerated for the purpose of comedy. To disprove this myth, Harvard Medical School performed an experiment, pinning heavy marijuana users against non users. The experiment included taking magnetic resonance images of the brains of each volunteer and the results displayed “no significant differences” between both groups up for study. In 2004, a study by Psychological Medicine, performed similar studies resulting in the same general data. In 2002, The Canadian Medical Association journal stated that “Marijuana does not have a long-term, negative impact on global intelligence.”

As can be noticed within the response of the scientists discussing the myths, there is no direct, factual information putting down marijuana because even at this date, science has already confirmed that alcohol is poisonous compared to marijuana and the answers remain hidden by those holding power. For example the general response when asked by those in power or by opposing leaders in science is either full of lies stating that marijuana is worse than alcohol, with no legitimate factual information to prove this or the general response stating that judging one drugs harmful effects over another are simplistic. Also another example of the opposing side, providing information to the public is the University of Michigan, who released a survey titled “Monitoring the Future,” which measures drug use within our country and among the youth of the nation. A comment made within the study was in regard to how the potency of today’s marijuana has risen to an exaggerated rate. What is being hidden here is that even though the THC (which is the chemical that provides the high effect) is slightly higher than that of years ago, it has been proven that it is not dangerous. Continuous studies on cigarettes has proven that the tobacco in our cigarettes and cigars today is much more dangers than would be a whole carton of joints. Also with marijuana as stated previously, it impossible to overdose on weed, but records show thousands of deaths due to alcohol overdose and many have also experienced the effects of nicotine poisoning before as well. An outdated study done in 1989 by Dr Robert Ali, director of medical services and his partner John Mendoza, education unit director of the Drug and Alcohol Services Council, are two that continue to reinforce the lies behind these myths today.
“Every explorer names his island Formosa, beautiful. To him it is beautiful because, being the first, he has access to it and can see it for what it is. But to no one else is it ever as beautiful – except the rare man who manages to recover it, who knows that is has to be recovered.” (Percy, 1).

This quotation can directly relate to the idea of accepting marijuana for what it is from the perspective of one who accepts it. In more detail, the explorer can be interpreted as the curious person who makes the decision to trust. That person who puts trust into what the world has deemed evil with false opinions those in powerful rank, is then able to explore. Those in agreement would most likely describe their appreciation, understanding, and acceptance as beautiful. Those who have trusted without prior negative beliefs and distrust could be who is described as “first.” “But to no one else is it ever as beautiful” can be understood to represent those who live with the negative, misinformed attitudes and beliefs in the world pertaining to marijuana. And the rare man who becomes the exception can be assumed to play the role of an individual who has changed his/her views after taking the chance to listen to the voices holding the shortest sticks and carrying the skinnier wallets.

“It is almost impossible” (referring how the circumstances have caused confusion about something that becomes lost and misunderstood) “because the Grand Canyon, the thing, as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sight seer’s mind.” (Percy, 2). The symbolic complex is something that shadows the way that opinions, beliefs, and interpretations are to be represented. This can be done by to the influence of others. The ones with the louder, more powerful voices are going to be the ones to set the standards for the world to assume and live by, in some cases the benefit for the voices themselves.

Bringing these thoughts into the world of marijuana as many believe, is that taking the idea of symbolic complex and the way the growing beliefs of the people are put into the shadows which hides the accurate representation of the plant. The ones with the more powerful voices are those within our government, big businesses, and our corporations. Only recently has the fight for a National pro-marijuana TV ad been won in time for April 20, 2010.

4:20 is a number that symbolizes support and represents marijuana. To those who appreciate this, April 20th has become a unofficial holiday not unknown to the world when marijuana supports celebrate its existence. Also on any given day 4:20pm is a time that is often referred to with smoking, much like the phrase “It’s five o’clock somewhere” slogan in regard to alcohol.

In our Nation’s recent weeks, California has made appearances within all of America’s media. The movements toward the legalization of the prosecuted substance have been taking grip and producing steam. Recently a bill approved by California’s Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, on Tuesday January 12th, 2010. The bill is to legalize, tax, and sell marijuana for the public’s recreational use in California. “It’s the farthest that the efforts to legalize marijuana have got in the state.” (Wood, 1). Many registered California voters are signing three separate initiatives to appear on a November 2010 ballot, if passed, anyone over the age of 21 could possess up to an ounce of marijuana “for personal use”- - enough for about 50 joints. (Nicholson, 1). Also under the new initiative, all convictions on marijuana users will be repealed.

433,971 signatures were needed for the Tax, Regulate, and Control of Cannabis Act of 2010 in order to appear on the ballot. Nearly 700,000 signatures were counted and over 520,000 signatures were valid. Retired judge, James P. Gray of Orange County, has been supporting the movement for years. “All of us in the movement have had the feeling that we have been running into the wind for years. Now we sense we are running with the wind” stated Gray during an interview.

It is no secret that our California State Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger is not against the personal use of pot. Governor Schwarzenegger previously stated to the public in regard to marijuana “That is not a drug. It’s a leaf.” Schwarzenegger claims to not be in favor for legalization but, is ready to discuss it thoroughly. In his words, “It is time to have a robust debate.”

If marijuana would become legal, California would be at odds with the Federal Government because under federal law, marijuana is still illegal to own, sell, or cultivate. It has been said by the U.S. Department of Justice that they would not prosecute medical marijuana users in the states that allow distribution of medical marijuana as long as you have a card stating you have doctor recommendation.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington are the states that have legalized medical marijuana so far. The Obama Administration continues to deny the plan to consider legalization although support across the globe is expanding.

Former governor, Jesse Ventura has been speaking out in support of the legalization of marijuana as well. Ventura has stated previously “Industrial hemp is a very useful plant. I challenge the Attorney General to get rid of the criminal stigma associated with hemp so we can look at it in terms of how it might be useful” Not only for the use of recreation and medicine, hemp, which is often the word used to describe the plant more so in reference of its many other industrial uses. It is known that when the first settlers arrived on the shores of North America, the Indians made them aware of hemp. During colonial times, the settlers in support of revolution and the escape from Great Britain, wore hemp woven clothes to show their support for the fight for an American Nation. The reason it showed support was because as we broke ties from England, that included clothes and material to make them. The settlers used hemp to sew clothes and if you weren’t wearing hemp that meant that you were wearing English clothes because hemp was what the U.S. had at their disposal and took advantage of. Our first president George Washington stated “Make the most you can of the Indian hemp seed and sow it everywhere."

Mr. Lee, a 47 year old man, who founded Oaksterdam University, which is a medical marijuana trade school in Oakland California in 2007. Lee has already put the wheels in motion to raise money online to support the cannabis movement. As of today there are two other universities under the same name within California as well as one in Michigan. The slogan of the university is “Quality Training for the Cannabis Industry.”

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), stated that “This is the first time a legislative committee in California has approved legislation of marijuana laws.” Armentano has expressed that he doubts that one bill will end a 100 year long criminal prohibition, but he is in hope for it. Also Armentano has spoken along the lines that as long as pot is banned, drug cartels, street gangs, and drug pushers on the streets will continue to become wealthy and innocents will continue to be prosecuted. Democrat, Tom Ammiano, who was the one to introduce the bill, estimates the California has the potential to raise over $1 billion in taxes for the state.

NORML isn’t the only non government group raising awareness, support, and contributions for the cause. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the fairly new, Light up America Tour with Cheech and Chong are all sweeping across America as well as others. All these groups are organizing in peaceful protest and are raising money for the effort to change a law they view as unconstitutional. Both Cheech and Chong agree that marijuana instead of being labeled as a schedule 1 narcotic, which is labeled as a drug with no medicinal value, to be changed to a level 2 which holds medicinal support. Both also feel very strongly about age limits as well not if, but when it is legalized. Both being parents, agree that children should not be exposed to it, but they agree that they would much rather then smoke than drink. Also Cheech and Chong both smoke out of the sight of their children, but are honest to them at the same time.
While on the Bill O’ Reilly Show, Cheech Marin stated that “Because I am old enough to make my own decisions” when asked by O’ Reilly “When a child asks why are you telling me I can’t smoke when you do, you say what?” During the same interview, Tommy Chong also spoke up and stated that “Marijuana is a proven medicine.” The Light up America Tour is spreading a very simple message which is to “Legalize it.” As support continues to grow, according to an online pill conducted by KCRA-TV, 84% of California voters are in favor for legalization.

The government that is covering up the truth about marijuana is the same government that continues to represent men like Christopher Columbus, for example, as heroes. The fact of the matter is that Christopher Columbus was in fact the second to discover America after the Vikings. Also instead of a being a hero which is the story told to America’s youth in schools, Columbus was a murdering, genocidal tyrant, who made his claim through slaughter of the Natives, who have occupied the land for thousands of years before Columbus’s voyage.

The overcrowding in prisons continues to be a serious issue, as nonviolent offenders are put into jails for marijuana related incidents. Stuffing these people into prisons, many believe is a terrible idea and was from the start. Last year alone California made approximately 78,500 arrests on felony and misdemeanor charges related to the substance. “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself, and where they are they should be changed.” – Jimmy Carter. Carter has shown support in prior years as well.

“Casual drug users should be taken out and shot” - Darryl Gates (Chief of LAPD & US Senate Judiciary Committee). Quotations like these are examples that those people with the negative opinions are those in power. Also noted, it is people like this, with these violent, negative attitudes toward a drug that represents peace.

“I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?” – Willie Nelson. Nelson is a well known musician as well as marijuana supporter and activist. In late of the recent spurt of progress with the movement, Nelson displayed a pot leaf on the cover of his 2009 album, “Country Man.”

President Obama continues to deny plans to legalize marijuana nationwide. “I am not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana, what I do believe is that we need to rethink how we are operating in the drug wars,” what our president stated in a 2004 conference. To this day his opinion hasn’t swayed to an extreme degree, but efforts continue to strengthen and support continues to grow. Obama is in favor of medical marijuana, but has not done much to promote it.

In recent months, it can be noticed the disappearance to anti marijuana ads on the television, it has been quite the opposite. There have been new shows based around marijuana such as HBO’s “Weeds Series.” Not only that, but many already existing shows have been using frequent reference to the substance on adult TV channels such as Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” segment, Comedy Central, Spike TV, and others.

What we can take from Walker Percy’s piece, “The Loss of the Creature,” is in part, that we can’t live with preconceived beliefs regarding anything or anyone. It is better to experience the truth than to believe in a lie. Maybe it is time for reform in America. It is obvious that marijuana is illegal for the wrong reasons and could help us medically and economically. Nonviolent, users of the substance do not deserve to be treated as criminals. Marijuana education needs to be expanded upon across the world. According to Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin, “weed will be legal in a year.”
My choice is what I choose to do,
And if I’m causing no harm, it shouldn’t bother you.

Your choice is who you choose to be,
And if you’re causin’ no harm, then you’re alright with me.
If you don’t like my fire, then don’t come around, ‘cause I’m gonna burn one down.
Yes, I’m gonna burn one down.
Herb the gift from the earth,
And what’s from the earth is of the greatest worth.
So before you knock it, try it first,
Oh, you’ll see it’s a blessing and not a curse.

-Ben Harper

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Belief Rant

Close Minded…. A Phrase too many of us can apply to ourselves. A foreign concept, a faint idea, an unseen illusion that is too often thrown aside and unapplied. We believe what we are told to believe. There is not enough free spirit in the world. Let us all step out of our shells and put our strongest step forward and push for what we believe in. We are the ones to break the mold. 2011 is going to be something special. PEACE


Friday, November 12, 2010

How do you Honor your Freedom Fighter?

Our First Amendment of the Constitution grants us the right to say whatever is on our mind, print and distribute without prosecution, worship any God of our choosing, lobby any law, and assemble any group of people with any common interest. But who do you think is defending those freedoms? During this ongoing, bloody conflict, our brave men and women of the Armed Forces have been fighting, struggling, and dying to preserve and protect the very freedoms many of us take for granted. Over 5,700 U.S. service members have perished fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Those who have already made the ultimate sacrifice are still being targeted beyond the grave.

Select groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church have been “exercising” their rights in anger and hatred toward our heroes in arms. These groups of protestors have been picketing outside of military funerals with signs that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers, “God is Your Enemy,” and “You’re Going to Hell,” led primarily by Rev. Fred Phelps. Do these actions fall under our personal liberties? Unfortunately the answer is yes and the courts have been ruling in favor of the protestors.

I wish I could say these people do not have the right to protest the soldiers, but I do believe in our freedoms. Having said that, I believe it is also my right to consider these people traitors and enemies of the United States. These groups blame the deaths of American Troops on U.S. tolerance for homosexuality and abortion. Apparently to groups like the Westboro Baptist Church a man or woman, differing in sexual orientation isn’t good enough to take a bullet for them in the name of freedom. However; when asked how he felt about the protestors and their message, Specialist Benjamin Kunkel of the 504 Military Police Battalion, currently serving in his first tour in Afghanistan says, “I would like to tell you that you’re welcome for your right to protest the soldiers because we are the ones fighting and dying for those rights.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Appreciation for Veterans Day

     It is one thing to empathize with the families that have loved ones overseas and many of us offer our prayers and blessings, but in order for us, the American people, to fully appreciate Veteran’s Day, we need to understand the struggles that our fellow Americans in uniform have endured and continue to experience today, in the name of freedom. Nineteen year old, Military Police Specialist, Benjamin Kunkel from Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, of the 372nd MP Company, attached to the 504th MP Battalion is currently fighting in his first tour in Afghanistan. While Kunkel was on his two week leave he had some things to say about the war.
     According to Kunkel, his company’s main missions include training the Afghan Police Force so that they can properly handle themselves and to perform drug raids to capture high ranking drug lords and stop the circulation of opium. Kunkel’s squad’s main duty is Security Force Assistance, (SFA) which requires them to execute convoy security as they escort high ranking officials such as Colonel Sherzad who is the head of the Afghan Police Force. Kunkel is also a part of a Quick Reaction Force Team, who is always ready to assist in any engagement whenever they are needed. This battalion also provides security for IED disposal, (Improvised Explosive Devices) and they perform presence patrols in the streets in order to ease the minds of the locals and to as Kunkel stated, “let them know that we are here to protect them against the Taliban.”
     In regard to the locals and their appreciation for the soldiers, Kunkel said," Most of the locals are very friendly and support what we are doing. On the other hand, some think we are causing more harm than good.” As far as morale is concerned, Kunkel said, “It’s not terrible but, there aren’t many troops who are happy to be here. It’s a lot of stress, constant lethargy, constant danger, and your mind is never at ease.” Afghanistan civilians that are in favor for U.S insolvent invite soldiers into their homes, feed, them, talk to them, and in some cases even give up valuable possessions to show their gratitude.
     As this soldiers tale began to become more difficult to keep a dry for, Kunkel admitted that he has 5 confirmed kills and a few possible others. When asked how he felt about those shots he fired, Kunkel said, “It is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and I see their faces every night. The worst part about being over here is seeing others get hurt and having to hurt others. I don’t like to do it; However, I must protect those around me and myself… It’s my job.” An excerpt from The Soldier’s Creed reinforces the mentality that America’s armed forces live by to ensure success: “I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American Soldier.”
     As far as jobs are concerned, the hardest part about some of our occupations is making it out of bed in the morning and the most danger we face is in our automobiles, but for these soldiers, waking up means another day of dodging bullets, stepping over explosives, and surviving the day only to return to the same task in the morning. Kunkel commented on how “We are putting our lives on the line every day for less pay than people think; and there are sports stars out there getting paid millions to kick a football, but it is not about the money… We are fighting for you.” The majority of soldiers Kunkel has spoken with have agreed that a simple “thank you” is worth more than money. There are too many citizens crying out not only against the war, but the men and women struggling through this bloody conflict. Our soldiers need our support. A simple, yet great way to show our gratitude is by sending care packages. As Kunkel stated, “we can use anything and everything we can get our hands on.”
     It is men and women like Specialist Kunkel that should make every American proud. We need to recognize the selfless actions of our soldiers, who put their lives on hold to ensure that the rest of us are able to sleep soundly at night and enjoy all of the freedoms we all take for granted as they look death and despair in the face and keep pushing forward. If a simple thank you is these heroes request than why aren’t more of us showing our appreciation? I couldn’t be more proud of my best friend, Ben Kunkel and he stated, “I am glad I am in the United States ARMY. I surprise myself everyday discovering what I can do. This war has taught me to accept other people and their ways of life. I am able to work with some great people and am continuing to learn a lot.” Having said all of that Kunkel expressed that, “If there was no more fighting I would be the happiest person in the world. I wish people could solve their problems without violence, but this is my job and we do what we have to do and we do it for you.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Time for Marijuana Reform? (Journalism Assignment)

Do you think it is time for a change as far as marijuana is concerned? Why or why not? I set out to the middle of Frostburg State University campus to find out how my fellow students felt about the idea of legalization and Proposition 19 that will appear on California ballots.

Louis Mozzano, a junior international business major and homecoming king hopeful from Middletown MD. said "It is already happening." Louis believes that the government is ignorant to believe that they can actually stop or control the underground business. He believes that the government should go with the flow of fully legalizing the substance for recreational use as well as medicinal and reap the benefits as far as taxes are concerned. No one person or group can stop the circulation and because studies are showing its medicinal benefits, it is time to let the people have what they want without the worry of prosecution.

History major/super senior, (5.5 years) Jen Gover from Carrel County said, "It would get out of hand." When asked "How would marijuana get more out of control than alcohol is today?," her response was " Alcohol isn't out of control." My follow-up question for her was "What does it matter if marijuana does get 'out of control' when studies show its medicinal properties?" Jen responded with "It's not dangerous, it will just make people stupid." Before I had time to write down her response in full, Louis Mazzono, who was still standing nearby, interjected with "Not going to provide names but, I know quite a few people who got here on academic scholarships who smoke marijuana daily."

Katherine Neubauer, a business major set to graduate in 2012, from Waldorf, MD. said, "Marijuana should definitely be legalized for recreational use!" Because of America's huge/growing debt. Katie feels that marijuana legalization can help with the increasing national debt issue. Instead of throwing people in jail for buying from drug dealers, why not tax it like alcohol and make a profit, instead of continuing to overcrowd our prisons?

In-school Counseling Graduate student, Ashley Ford, from Severna Park MD believes times are changing and the only way to stay ahead is to change with the times. The public view on the vegetation is changing and the medicinal qualities are becoming clearer. "I saw on the news about an ice cream shop in California where one bite of the dessert is equivalent to four to five puffs of a cannabis cigarette." said Ashley.

"People are getting into too much trouble over something that isn't harmful, violent, or dangerous." These are the words of Randy Ogu, a Freshman biology major from Prince George's County,MD. Ogu didn't have much to say because he was already late for class but, he wanted to add that "Yes, it is time for a change.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Tattoo Dreams VS Tattoo Discrimination

     I never really thought of about getting hand tattoo before, until now. I searched 'google image's for palm tattoos out of curiosity... and as the images loaded and as the "Marching Bands of Manhattan ", buffered simultaneously, I knew I wanted a tattoo of something Death Cab For Cutie. A pretty crazy image of a girl with a "LIVE LONG AND PROSPER" tattoo on her hand kinda stuck out. I already mentioned the word crazy in the sentence before, and that's exactly what I was thinking at first, but then I thought that I could maybe see myself getting a tattoo of a Death Cab For Cutie lyric in the same retrospect and am actually considering which one.

     I've been chewing over the tattoo idea for a couple years now but haven't been entirely sure but, do have a couple ideas as to which ones if any. I am probably going to run with this idea (not necessarily on the hand but probably somewhere.) Another strong possibility is the Stairway to Heaven album art (left in yellow outline) on one side or the other of my back and if I have that, then there probably will be no doubt that I will then have some kind of Beatles lyrics to add as well... probably "Let it be." There are a couple others but, I do think if I can figure up an idea for a really unique peace sign design, that will probably launch to the top of the list. Suggestions are welcome.

   Because I still haven't pinpointed which direction I wish to go as far as career goes, this could arguably bring up tattoo acceptance in the work place. I am not a person who likes to hide many things. At times I may even be too open, but that's just me. So with the tattoo idea, I do not want to have to 'hide' any of my potential body art. Tattoos are about self expression and shouldn't be hindered because of job restrictions. There is one particular case involving, Marine Corps and Firefighter veteran, Christopher Piggott, who was fired from Wood County Sheriff’s Office in West Virginia, on April 15th 2010 because of his forearm tattoo (right). The man served two tours in Iraq and faces discrimination after fighting for the very lives he still wishes to protect. Join the facebook groups to show support for this Marine!
 Two more sites containing petition details are included below.

Petition to End Discrimination Against Visible Tattoos in the Workplace
Tattoo Acceptance in the Workplace - Petition Site

Stairway to Heaven LIVE