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Local Group High on Legalizing Pot

Northern Virginia NORML chapter would like to see marijuana laws handled on the state level, not the Federal level.

Howard “Cowboy” Wooldridge, a former police officer who is now a national lobbyist for repealing marijuana laws, turned his beliefs into a T-shirt that he proudly wears everywhere: “Cops Say Legalize Pot. Ask Me Why.”

Wooldridge wore the shirt Thursday night when speaking to more than 20 people at the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) meeting in Falls Church. For the last 15 years—the last eight full time—Wooldridge, a retired 18-year police veteran in Michigan, has traveled the country spreading his opinions that the prohibition of marijuana should be repealed.

Some NORML members at the meeting shared Wooldridge’s thoughts on the issue.

“The national polls say 54 percent of the people in the country are in favor of treating marijuana like alcohol,” Wooldridge said. “Let the commonwealth run the commonwealth.”

With marijuana now legal on a limited basis in Colorado, Washington State and elsewhere, some believe it’s time to let the individual states decide how to govern marijuana laws. According to a November story in the Huffington Post, Virginia Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th District) signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele Leonhart asking that they take no action against people whose activities related to marijuana are in compliance with state law. Colorado Democratic Congressman Jared Polis wrote the letter.

NORML’s mission, according to their website, 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.”

According to a Virginia State Police report, about 22,500 people were arrested for marijuana offenses in 2011. From 2010 to 2011, almost 2,500 first time marijuana offenders did jail time, according to the report.

Robert Sharpe, a Virginia NORML board member, said those arrests will follow the offenders for the rest of their lives and if marijuana was legalized, those people wouldn’t have those marks on their records.

“Virginia is behind the curve but who knows, we could be surprised,” Sharpe said.

It’s the money, said Wooldridge who was sporting a white cowboy hat, cowboy boots and a big shinny belt buckle, that prevents marijuana from being legalized. He said pharmaceutical drug companies, counselors and public and private prisons whom house offenders with marijuana arrests all benefit from keeping the drug illegal.

“This has been a lucrative business for the police and prison industry,” Wooldridge said. “We need to treat this substance like alcohol. It’s safer than alcohol.”

Wildermann February 12, 2013 at 05:22 PM
I'm addicted to caffeine among a few other things. There are many things in life that are addictive and condoned by society. One might say that the model of ownership, in a society organized around mass consumption, is addiction. Drugs are merely the most obvious form of addiction in societies. Consider life without oil, in fact,it would be so different that it is frightening to contemplate. We are addicted, and it is no comfortable addiction. Cell phones, texting, MySpace, Facebook and a host of computer games are addictions. Addictions can be physical or mental or both. No one is immune from addiction; it afflicts people of all ages, races, classes, and professions. We have fast food addictions, energy drink addictions, sports addictions, clothing/shoe addictions, gambling addictions, work addictions, hoarding addictions and lets not forget about political and religious junkies. There is not enough comment space here to list the addictions that afflict humankind. Addictions should never be treated as crimes. It has to be treated as a physical or mental health problem. We do not send alcoholics and nicotine addicts to jail in this country. Over 500,000 people are in our jails who are nonviolent drug users. It is time to end the discrimination against people in need of treatment for addiction(s). The single best way to do that is to decriminalize addictions. Science and reason should be the model, not crime and punishment.
Dick Kennedy February 12, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Jody et al, We actually have pretty good data on addiction, although the medical community now prefers to say "dependence", and the main statistic is the percentage of users of a drug who become dependent on it. I believe you can find the data at CDC or NIDA, among others. The absolute worst drug, legal or illegal, with a dependency rate of 32%, is nicotine. Alcohol is in the middle, at 15%, and marijuana is near the bottom, at 9%. One should also consider the severity of dependence: withdrawal from alcohol dependence has a name--delerium tremins[sp?], or DT's--and it's so stressful on the body that it can be fatal. Tobacco withdrawal is less stressful but it can take years before the craving for nicotine subsides--that's why it's so hard to quit smoking. For marijuana, all NIDA can say is that "some people report withdrawal symptoms". And one should consider the consequences of dependence. Both alcohol and tobacco cause cancer and a good many other serious diseases, while marijuana has no adverse physical effects, other than bronchitis (usually not a serious problem). It does impair driving ability--much less than alcohol does, but it's still not a good idea to drive while stoned. (Making marijuana more available actually seems to lower the number of fatal accidents, as some drivers start using it instead of alcohol.)
MP Resident 09 February 12, 2013 at 05:50 PM
Forgive me if I had trouble determining what your greater point was. I’m still not sure if I know what your position is on the subject, but I can deduce that you probably support legalization based on your comments? Maybe we are both on the same page when it comes to that. I think you are free to do whatever you wish with the money you do earn, even if you want to drink, smoke cigarettes, or get high before using or saving that money for food instead. Instead of rambling on though, I will focus on one statement you made: “You can’t be presented with risk, then say the associated benefits outweigh and invalidate said risk” People constantly make decisions in their head that involve possible benefit vs. risks. I don’t invalidate the risks that Jody pointed out; I actually agree that there are certain health risk associated with regular use of marijuana and that those who smoke it may become less ambitious, motivated, and/or productive. The same thing happens when I eat that big, juicy cheeseburger. However, I strongly stand by my assertion that the preservation of personal liberty certainly outweighs any benefit that may come from criminalizing marijuana. I have yet to see a good argument on why alcohol is legal (although regulated) and marijuana is not.
John February 12, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Mises-- "I think you are free to do whatever you wish with the money you do earn, even if you want to drink, smoke cigarettes, or get high before using or saving that money for food instead." Never once mentioned "drinking" in the context you're using it, but ok. I bum, on average, 15 cigarettes a day by simply living in D.C. (I realize I'm mooching on peoples' good intentions, but it's a hit or miss thing-- there isn't a snowballs chance in hell I'm paying 7 dollars for a pack of smokes), and smoking marijuana helps abate my hunger, despite the common side-effects of hunger. It helps me redirect my focus on whatever I'm doing and ignore the hunger pains operating in the background. "I actually agree that there are certain health risk associated with regular use of marijuana and that those who smoke it may become less ambitious, motivated, and/or productive. The same thing happens when I eat that big, juicy cheeseburger." -- No, the same thing most certainly does not happen, unless your big juicy cheeseburger has been laced up the ass with cannabanoids. Not to mention a cheeseburger, no matter how large it is, will come and go in the span of 15-30 minutes. The after-effects of said cheeseburger will energize you and increase productivity for the hours following consumption, none of which marijuana will do for you. Unless playing video games. Marijuana and video games are made to be. We are, however, on the same page about legalization and decriminalization.
MP Resident 09 February 12, 2013 at 06:56 PM
You said that when you drink, you "feel like crap the next morning and typically black out." In terms of cheeseburgers, I was referring to the possible long-term health risks associated with each item, not the immediate high they produce. Unhealthy eating habits are actually more deadly than using drugs...statistics show that more people die prematurely from eating unhealthy and not exercising than they do from drug use.

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