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Friday, October 24, 2014

Support for the legalization of marijuana increases

Medical and economic benefits of the drug are being discussed.

March 2, 2009

Although an increasing percentage of Americans support legalizing marijuana, studies by various agencies show a country far from descent into reefer madness.

Polls from different research groups show similar percentages of Americans who believe marijuana should be legalized.

A February telephone survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports found 40 percent of participants in favor of legalizing the drug, with 46 percent opposed.

A CBS and New York Times poll conducted in January reported similar numbers, with 41 percent in favor and 52 percent opposed.

But this increasing support for legalization is not accompanied by an increase in use, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center's 2008 Drug Threat Assessment. The report states the U.S. demand for marijuana is relatively stable and declining slightly in some areas.

A national study conducted by Partnership for a Drug-Free America in 2008 stated 16 percent of teenagers in grades 7-12 reported using marijuana in the past month, down from 24 percent in 1998.

Although the debate around marijuana legalization often centers on social and health consequences, a California state lawmaker introduced a bill that would make it a matter of economics.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, proposed a bill that would set up a wholesale and retail sales regulation program. Growers and distributors would have to pay fines of up to $5,000 to conduct business, and the state would mandate a tax of $50 per ounce on legally sold marijuana.

Ammiano estimated the fees and taxes could generate more than $1 billion in state revenue.

Canadian economist Stephen Easton studied marijuana production and use in British Columbia and found taxing marijuana cigarettes could generate more than $2 billion.

"The broader social question becomes less whether or not we approve or disapprove of local production, but rather who shall enjoy the spoils," Easton said in the report, which was released in 2000.

An MU student who sells marijuana, who asked to remain anonymous for possible legal consequences, said he would personally support legalization, though it would put him out of business as a dealer.

"(Legalization) would change my whole life," the student said. "I wouldn't be able to sell weed anymore."

He also said legalization would cause him to consider selling cocaine to make more money.

"Dealers would only focus on drugs like crack and meth," the student said.

Evan Groll, Students for Sensible Drug Policy MU chapter president, said he would support legalization but doesn't think it would happen in Missouri anytime soon, unless there was a collective push from state officials and grassroots organizations.

Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City, proposed a bill that would allow voters to decide in 2010 whether to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

The House read the bill Jan. 15, but it is not on a calendar or scheduled for a hearing.

Mark Pedersen, a medical marijuana patient and activist, said he helped provide patient recommendations for the bill.

Pedersen said he started using cannabis medicinally 11 years ago after he was diagnosed with fibromyalgia with severe migraine headaches. He said using marijuana reduced the number of migraines he had and helped him with memory loss associated with the disease.

He said he would support full legalization but said the bill is not to promote recreational use.

"Parents need to protect their children from all intoxicants," Pedersen said. "But it's not the job of police and the government to hold back cannabis from patients."

In 2004, Columbia voters approved two marijuana-friendly propositions: an initiative that legalized the drug for medicinal purposes and another that reduced possession of small amounts and paraphernalia to a fine-only offense.

This differs from state law, which classifies possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana as a misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

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