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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2004 Scott Matalon Cannabis Freedom Press Release

Guess What? We Inhale!
By Scott Matalon

I don’t understand why Marijuana is an illegal substance. Seriously, I really don’t understand it at all. There are many differing and opposing sides to the story, from its medical uses to the stoner’s point-of-view, from the economic liberals to the drug czar himself. What surprises me most, though, is the lack of actual controversy since it represents billions and billions of dollars, and affects every American alive today.

Marijuana growing is currently estimated to be a $25 Billion per year industry; growing corn is only $19B. That makes Marijuana the largest cash crop in America by more than 24%. We could earn $6B per year in new tax revenue from farming Marijuana alone, not including the farming of ecologically-sound hemp products.

Many claim that Marijuana has been classified unfairly as a dangerous substance, especially when compared to the nation’s favorite; alcohol. In more than 5,000 years of recorded use, no one has ever died from ingesting Marijuana. That’s right – not a single person. It is estimated to require smoking 100 pounds of Marijuana per minute for 15 minutes to overdose. In case you don’t understand just how ridiculous this is, imagine smoking an entire dumpster full of Marijuana ($650,000 worth) in only 15 minutes – and inhaling every single puff of smoke along the way.

According to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health there were 22 million persons classified dependent upon or abusers of substances; 18.1 million just for alcohol - that’s 7.7 percent of the total US population aged 12 or older – plus another 3.2 million who combine alcohol with drugs (totaling 9.1% of the US population.) In stark contrast are the less than 1 million people dependent upon Marijuana alone (3/10ths of 1%.)

The U.S. Department of Health reports 100,000 alcohol-related deaths annually, including alcohol poisoning, traffic accidents, liver disease, falls, etc. More than 20,000 people die directly from alcohol ingestion; over the last ten years more than 1 million people have died from alcohol and more than 4.5 million from tobacco. Never, ever, in all of human history, has there been a single recorded death from Marijuana ingestion.

Many say Marijuana is a “gateway drug” that will lead users to hard drugs, but there isn’t one shred of evidence supporting this theory. Numerous studies have been conducted; the fact is less than one percent of Marijuana users go on to become cocaine addicts.

No amount of time, effort or money will ever eradicate Marijuana use. 1 in 3 Americans have tried Marijuana at least once and 1 in 7 use it daily, yet we spend an estimated $12B per year enforcing its prohibition. More than 14% of all Americans smoke it daily, yet there are 50,000 people in jail for Marijuana crimes alone - and another estimated 250,000 whose sentences were extended because of Marijuana. Many are there for life.

America now has more than 2 million prisoners in jail – that’s 1% of our entire adult population; more than half for non-violent and black-market related crimes. In 2002, we added 700 new prisoners/week – 35,5000 people that year - and drug offenders accounted for 50% of the increase in federal prisoners since 1995.

America has only 5% of the world’s population, yet we have more than 25% of the entire world’s prisoners. Land of the Free, huh? If more than 15% of our prison population is incarcerated for Marijuana offenses, and the national annual budget for jails is $40 Billion, that’s a price tag of $6 Billion per year just for jailing Marijuana offenders.

Lets face it; America biggest drug problem is drug use among children. 89% of middle school children surveyed knew where to get drugs. Why? Because they are illegal. Alcohol and tobacco are restricted substances; their sale is regulated and prices inflated through taxes – they’re available almost everywhere, but not for sale in schools; the economics simply aren’t there for illegal competition to arise.

Alcohol Prohibition in the Twenties achieved only one thing; it created a cash cow for organized crime. As long as alcohol was illegal, there was a lot of money for criminals selling it. Once alcohol was legalized the market for moonshine dried up. Now, drugs are funding organized crime to the tune of billions - perhaps even a trillion - dollars per year. It is economically impossible for us to fight a war on drugs head-to-head.

Lets try to assess the human toll. If there are a quarter of a million people incarcerated for Marijuana there are more than 1 million people whose lives have been seriously negatively affected, and quite often destroyed; mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Entire families have been ripped apart over the most commonly used substance in America after alcohol and tobacco.

Many people are in jail for life simply because “repeat offender” laws stipulated maximum sentences. In one extreme case, a man caught with .005 of an ounce (one half of one-hundredth of an ounce) in his home during a police search that turned up nothing else was sentenced to life imprisonment and has been there since 1992 - because he had previously been caught stealing. In another case, a paraplegic who smoked Marijuana to alleviate his pain was sentenced to life and lost his leg there due to poor medical treatment before being released. His prior felony conviction? Smoking Marijuana.

American citizens are guaranteed by the US Constitution freedom from Cruel and Unusual Punishment, and also from Double Jeopardy. These people, and many others like them, have been victims of both.

Don’t you think it’s the responsibility of the US government to protect its citizens? If 33% of the population is trying something, and 14% are doing it regularly, and it hasn’t been proven harmful to others - shouldn’t it be legal? If we all voted on it, a significant portion of the population would quite obviously be in favor of it.

Since 1994 we have spent an estimated $120B enforcing Marijuana prohibition and another $60B incarcerating people for it, while not realizing another $60B in taxes just from growing it. That’s a quarter of a trillion dollars. We could easily recover this $24B per year for our economy – PLUS earn untold new revenue from taxing retail sales to adults, while saving billions in legal fees, lawyers and court costs – and, for a super Double-Bonus, remove it from our schools and save families. Doesn’t it make sense?

The $50 Billion per year or more America could harness from the Marijuana industry could probably feed every starving child in America, provide them with education and healthcare, and still leave money for anti-drug education programs. We’re talking about 20% of the entire National Medicare budget. And, the sheer volume of illegal drug smuggling would immediately dwindle, making it easier - and far less costly – to target much more dangerous and life-threatening substances.

Our government is failing to protect us from some very serious Marijuana problems. The problem isn’t that Americans like Marijuana any more than we like alcohol and tobacco; the problem is that it’s illegal. What harm we feel as a society – funding crime, wasting time, money and lives, and its abuse among minors – stems directly from the illegal status of the substance itself.

In business we call this Fiduciary Irresponsibility. In other words, it’s a complete waste of money, and its all management’s fault. Of course, by management, I mean successive generations of our government. The incomprehensible mess we have created through prohibition; decades and trillions of dollars wasted, and tens of millions of human lives destroyed – is a crime against American citizenry beyond redemption.

Let’s stop destroying American lives over this nonsense. Let’s put the power of our Free Market economy to some good use. Demand Marijuana reform now, and free our people.

Scott Matalon is lead singer of the rock band daisycutter, and will be holding a Musical Voting Rally at the Coyote Ugly Saloon in Boston on Wed. July 28, 2004 with guest speakers from Rock The Vote, The ACLU, Dave Tree, Pete Cassani, Tiny the Terrible, and musical performances by Boston bands daisycutter, The Peasants and Save Yourself. For more info or to contact Scott, go to Matalon on myspace.

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