Jewish World Review April 19, 2002 /8 Iyar 5762

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

It's high time to open up pot-law debate


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | My thanks go out to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for clearing away some of the smoke surrounding the marijuana debate.

It was not his idea. He was involuntarily drawn into it by a $500,000 print, broadcast and bus ad campaign by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Foundation.

As part of NORML's campaign against the city's policy of arresting and jailing public pot smokers, the ads feature a blown-up photo of Bloomberg next to a quote he gave last summer as a mayoral candidate.

A New York magazine writer asked whether Bloomberg had ever smoked pot and he responded cheerfully, "You bet I did. And I liked it."

NORML's ad praises Bloomberg's candor. "At last, an honest politician," it says.

With that, Bloomberg joins such other political notables as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich and Bill Bradley who have admitted to partaking of the demon weed in their youth. Some others, like President Bush, have simply refused to answer questions about such possible youthful indiscretions.

Bloomberg did not back away from his now-famous pot quote, although he told reporters that he wishes he had not answered it in a way that has come back to bite him.

He says he's not going to sue over the use of his likeness. ("Number one, I don't know that it would help," he says. "And number two, I think my ego probably would keep me from doing that.")

But he's not going to change the city's pot policy, either. Some 52,000 people were arrested and jailed for smoking marijuana in public last year, up from 720 in 1992.

Yes, a lot of seemingly knowledgeable folks will tell you, "Oh, nobody gets busted for pot anymore." But, quite a few people do.

Nationwide, the number of arrests and incarcerations has climbed from the hippie 1960s right through the eras of President Ronald Reagan who advised "Just Say No" and President Bill Clinton who "didn't inhale."

In 1970, when the marijuana legalization issue was just taking hold, there were 188,903 arrests, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reports. In 2000, the number climbed to a record 734,498, of which 88 percent were for simple possession, not sale or manufacture.

More than 59,000 inmates are in federal, state or local prison for marijuana offenses, including more than 15,000 for possession, not trafficking, according to Marijuana Policy Project estimates based on Bureau of Justice Statistics reports.

So, while late-night comedians have a high time at Bloomberg's expense, among those who are not laughing so hard are the thousands who have been busted for doing what the mayor and numerous other prominent oldsters can shrug off as a youthful indiscretion.

That's why I thank Mayor Bloomberg for exposing, if involuntarily, how our national hypocrisy over marijuana works. The same lawmakers who treat their own pot smoking lightly often turn amazingly self-righteous about enforcing pot laws on everyone else.

Even more sinister is the unequal way the laws are enforced. When the children of the big shots have a drug problem, there's a good chance that they will be sent to a clinic where their problem can be properly treated as the health problem that it is. When the children of the less fortunate have a drug problem, there's a better chance that they will be sent to jail.

I'm not ready to join NORML in calling for elimination of laws regarding public marijuana smoking. There are many places where it simply does not belong any more than public drinking or public smoking of tobacco does. But I am hardly alone among Americans who would like to see the debate opened up so that marijuana might be regulated like other legal drugs are.

Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have enacted laws legalizing possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes. But the Clinton and Bush administrations have overruled them. Voters in the District of Columbia overwhelmingly passed a similar local measure, which was overruled by Congress, where the District's "delegate" does not have a floor vote.

Polls indicate that most Americans (73 percent in a 1999 Gallup Poll) favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. But Washington's political leaders insist that their consciences should be our guides. I wonder what they've been smoking.



Comment on JWR contributor Clarence Page's column by clicking here.

Up

04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

© 2001 TMS