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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police veteran in Michigan, has traveled the country spreading his opinions that the prohibition of marijuana should be repealed.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.”

Jody February 09, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Police don't really waste time/money going after pot smokers. Black people have more arrests for possession because police find pot on them when stopped for some other offense. To remedy the bad effects of those arrests, you could wipe out convictions for minors who have no other convictions (I think this is what we do already) and for adults who stay pot-free for a period of time using drug tests. I know pot isn't the most addictive, dangerous drug out there but I also know potheads who waste their lives getting "wasted." It seems to rob people of their ambition and is just another way to tune out and escape into fantasy land. It may not be killing them, but it certainly isn't just a harmless drug that is only used occasionally and recreationally by responsible high-achieving adults. The left-over dopers of the 60's should just switch to booze to get their buzz. (and, of course, not drive while drinking)
Frederick C. Cassiday February 10, 2013 at 02:29 PM
There are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes regarding pot users and the supposed "harm" it does society. That is pure propaganda started by a gentleman named Harry Anslinger back in the 1930's in order to build an enforcement empire that targeted Blacks in an even more harmful way than Jim Crow laws. The propaganda today is pushed by many organizations, many of which have financial interests in making sure American farmers can't grow marijuana and that our prison industry continues to flourish. Let me ask you, did society go to hell after repeal of prohibition, or did organized crime decrease and our economy recover from the worst depression in US history? Do the research and think for yourself. Does the Government have the right to tell you what you can and can not put into your own body? Do the words "Nanny State" ring a bell?
Frederick C. Cassiday February 10, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Hey Jody, one more thing. MJ doesn't cause liver damage but can improve music appreciation and artistic creativity. Too bad you didn't get to enjoy the 60's. Of course, being subject to the draft right out of college and facing going off to fight in a totally unjust and wrongful war, I didn't enjoy them too much either. Nor did I during my 30+ year military career serving your right to disagree with me, but I would hope you might catch up on some research. Peace and Love to all.
Wildermann February 10, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Jody, You raise the idea of conspiracy not I. It is an irrefutable fact that there are more people imprisoned in the US that in any other free country in the world. In the twenty-five years since the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the United States penal population rose from around 300,000 to more than two million. Between 1986 and 1991, African-American women's incarceration in state prisons for drug offenses increased by 828 percent. Not theories but factual data. A Virginian named Thomas Jefferson said it best..."laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times." We live in a universe where change is inevitable though not always recognizable because physical change on the surface of a dynamic planet or the evolutionary changes of living things through the process of natural selection may take a vast amount of time or generations to occur. It took the progress of the human mind to grasp and accept factual data that the Earth and the life upon it is not the same today as it was in past Eras or periods of time. Such discussions as this are requisite to our understanding that change is needed with respect to how we view the use of and or laws governing the role of drugs in our society.
Sharp-Tongue-Enterprises February 10, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Marijuana Prohibition has led to the needless squandering of resources, human, financial and otherwise. In the meantime, cartels in Mexico as well as dealers in the US make incredible profits and sometimes, participate in shootings that often result in the needless taking of human lives. For those in favor of legalization, and maybe even wearing a shirt advocating same, please check us out at www.sharptongue.net.
Scooby's Doo February 10, 2013 at 10:52 PM
I have recently purchased Frito-Lay stock in anticipation of MJ legal reform.
Rick Montague February 11, 2013 at 01:58 AM
Can't you all tell. Jody is a closed-minded person that is probably a law enforcement official. She is so narrow-minded she can look through a straw with both eyes.
MP Resident 09 February 11, 2013 at 02:18 AM
I am a firm believer that if someone wants to waste their life away by using marijuana on a daily basis, that is their choice. All that I ask is that they do not violate my rights or safety in any way. At the end of the day, I can't honestly accept any explanation for keeping marijuana illegal when the damage done by alcohol is astronomical in comparison. Just thinking about deaths and injuries related to drunk driving, alcohol-fueled fights, abuse, and health issues. The biggest losers when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse is the children...but if I had to choose, I would take care of those substances that are more of the threat to society.
Wildermann February 11, 2013 at 02:16 PM
So people could instead choose to waste their time espousing archaic ideals no longer relevant to the 21st century. Better yet, how about countless hours glued to vacuous reality television programming or repetitive video games. Contemporary society provides humans with countless opportunities for wasting time via escapist fantasies. Instead of wasting time with rhetoric from the Reagan Era of "Just Say No To Drugs" I recommend a book by Dr. Andrew Weil "The Natural Mind", which suggests that the desire to alter consciousness periodically is an innate, normal human drive. It seems that this innate drive to alter ones conscious is achieved by a pharmacopoeia so vast that it is hard to fathom how in a free society that advocates religious freedom and the free expression of ideas would make illegal any naturally occurring substance used to alter ones state of consiousness. The book is a landmark in America’s approach to the drug problem in general.
John February 11, 2013 at 03:11 PM
I'm not sure why everyone's jumping on Jody for having a differing opinion. His / her opinion isn't really even a radical one-- to assume marijuana has no adverse effects on an individual, when used in excess, is naive. All substances have that potential-- it's called substance abuse. "It seems to rob people of their ambition and is just another way to tune out and escape into fantasy land." This isn't far from the truth. Let's be honest-- not many Fortune 500 CEO's are smoking pot. It's a recreational plant used for recreational purposes, for people with time to be recreational, or a lack of funds to truly be ambitious. I'm currently working for a think tank in Washington D.C. that focuses on foreign policy and international relations, am applying for my M.A. this upcoming Fall, and aspire to be a pilot. It's my dream to fly. But it's unattainable for now, and my ambition robs my mind of its sanity as I idle in poverty, knowing full well that the grind ahead will be a grueling clawing mess given the state of our economy. Simply put-- I can't afford all those things without amassing intense levels of debt, something I'm not willing to marry myself to for the next dozen or so years. So, I could drink, but I feel like crap the next morning and typically black out. I could smoke cigarettes, but they're absurdly expensive now. Or, I could smoke pot, in the comfort of my home, and lose my ambition for a few hours to recharge and try again.
John February 11, 2013 at 04:01 PM
I'm not sure why everyone's jumping on Jody for having a differing opinion. His / her opinion isn't really even a radical one-- to assume marijuana has no adverse effects on an individual, when used in excess, is naive. All substances have that potential-- it's called substance abuse. "It seems to rob people of their ambition and is just another way to tune out and escape into fantasy land." This isn't far from the truth. Let's be honest-- not many Fortune 500 CEO's are smoking pot. It's a recreational plant used for recreational purposes, for people with time to be recreational, or a lack of funds to truly be ambitious. I'm currently working for a think tank in Washington D.C. that focuses on foreign policy and international relations, am applying for my M.A. this upcoming Fall, and aspire to be a pilot. It's my dream to fly. But it's unattainable for now, and my ambition robs my mind of its sanity as I idle in poverty, knowing full well that the grind ahead will be a grueling clawing mess given the state of our economy. Simply put-- I can't afford all those things without amassing intense levels of debt, something I'm not willing to marry myself to for the next dozen or so years. So, I could drink, but I feel like crap the next morning and typically black out. I could smoke cigarettes, but they're absurdly expensive now. Or, I could smoke pot, in the comfort of my home, and lose my ambition for a few hours to recharge and try again.
Jody February 11, 2013 at 04:37 PM
I actually enjoyed the 60's. But as responsible adults, I think we should weigh the risks vs. benefits of pot. There are many issues of personal freedom that people aren't on the same page about such as gun rights, abortion, gay marriage, free porn on the internet, legal prostitution, public nudity etc. Things that we would personally love to legalize and seem harmless to us may become more harmful to society as a whole if they are legalized. How about legalizing the oxycodone type pills that so many people are abusing now? That's seems like a similar category of mind altering drug that people "enjoy." Should we try to legislate morality? Should we try to protect people from things the majority thinks are harmful? Does the pure freedom of "anything goes as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else" have any limits? I'm just asking. I just wonder how many people, young and old, who would never have violated the law will take up pot smoking if it's legalized. Seems like an encouragement to me.
Jody February 11, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Martin, you raised the conspiracy idea, not me. You said pot laws are primarily only being enforced to fill our for-profit prisons.
MP Resident 09 February 11, 2013 at 05:44 PM
We aren’t jumping on her, we are just offering counter-opinions. “my ambition robs my mind of its sanity as I idle in poverty”…not sure where you are going with this, but you hardly qualify as impoverished if you work for a think tank in DC and are currently sitting on a computer using the internet. Those who are jobless, homeless, and starving are more deserving of our sympathy. The amount of debt you may incur is understandable, but what alternative would you propose? Learning is free, especially with internet access. What you are really paying for is the piece of paper.
MP Resident 09 February 11, 2013 at 06:23 PM
How do you measure “harmful to society as a whole”? Is it the number of deaths or injuries? Health related problems? Total costs? Most offensive to those running society? The phrase is used to justify the slow erosion of various liberties until eventually we are so used to it that we just accept whatever laws are enacted because we are told they benefit society as a whole. We can’t even keep track of them all…not to mention their effectiveness is rarely proven.
Jody February 11, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Good point Mises. I certainly desire individual liberty and responsibility over a nanny state. I'm just trying to visualize what the US would look like with legalized pot and what the unintended consequences of legalization would be, because there always seem to be some. Is there any moral objection to taking drugs? Should we worry about having to support/house dopers who use so much they can't keep a job? How many more young people will start toking because it's legal and assume it's harmless? I'm still thinking "our society" would be better off not endorsing its use by legalizing it.
MP Resident 09 February 11, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Morality to a large extent is subjective. Ofcourse there will be unintended consequences, but not all negative. What is your view on alcohol? A comparitive analysis would show that alcohol is much more damaging in every aspect. During prohibition, there were probably people who thought legalizing booze again would mean the end of the world. But here we are, 80 years later. I am much more likely to die this weekend from a drunk driver than I am from someone high on marijuana. I think about this every time I am out on the road late at night. Driving while high on drugs is already a crime, but it should stop there. Smoking marijuana in ones own house or the equivalent of a bar is not harmful to me.
Wildermann February 11, 2013 at 09:45 PM
Mises, it is more than just keeping track of all the laws. What about enforcement of laws? There are laws that simply go unenforced unless there is complaint issued en masse compelling officials to action. ( Gun laws a recent case in point) Why is it that some laws are vigorously enforced while others are ignored? Laws legislating morality ( anti gay, alcohol prohibition, marijuana, abortion) are such that people outwardly ignore them with enforcement seemingly a device of convenience for dealing with targeted groups that are on & off the radar of either the police, politicians, government agents, or the self proclaiming moral majority and religious thrashing types. The laws are unevenly applied with economics being the deciding factor regarding enforcement, arrest, prosecution and incarceration. Justice in the good ole USA is GREEN. It has always been easier to enforce laws against poor people ( and by default minorities & immigrants who by percentage are more likely to be in poverty) and if prosecutions resulting in incarceration are the gauge for success in law enforcement, then your success rate is higher when poor people are your target. Finding pot or drugs during arrests of poor people are additional charges leveraged against them to build a winning case.
Wildermann February 11, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Jody, I suspect that the US with legalized pot would look a lot like the 13 States where it is partly legal now or the laws are no longer actively enforced. I've been to several of these States on travels in the US and also abroad in Amsterdam, Netherlands where pot is sold in regulated coffee houses. There are no unintended consequences thus far beyond fewer people getting arrested and increased tourism where people wish to indulge without being hassled needlessly by law enforcement. You don't get any sense that there is anything different going on in the communities of these States other than an occasional green cross sign or logo in a window or on a building indicating the place as a source of Medical Marijuana. Most such businesses are regulated by zoning and are typically limited to industrial/commercial park settings. The clients of these places are as obscure and unnoticed as would any other citizen visiting a store or business. Like you and the rest of us, they are citizens that only desire individual liberty and not a nanny state telling them you can drink alcohol and smoke tobacco which we acknowledge scientific studies show it will harm to you but don't you dare smoke pot because we say it is bad for you though we have no credible science proving it to be so. No wonder young people are cynical about government and laws.
Dick Kennedy February 11, 2013 at 11:10 PM
Below are the health risks of marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco, lifted straight from the " Commonly Abused Drugs Chart" put out by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a US government agency that no one has ever accused of supporting drug law reform. I call then drugs A, B, and C, so you can read without preconceptions and judge which is most/least dangerous. An answer key is at the bottom. Drug A Health Risks - Chronic lung disease; cardiovascular disease; stroke; cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, and acute myeloid leukemia; adverse pregnancy outcomes; addiction Drug B Health Risks - Increased risk of injuries, violence, fetal damage (in pregnant women); depression; neurologic deficits; hypertension; liver and heart disease; addiction; fatal overdose Drug C Health Risks - Cough, frequent respiratory infections; possible mental health decline; addiction If marijuana were legal, more people would use it, but they would use less alcohol (and probably tobacco) because almost all marijuana users start with alcohol, So how did you rate drugs A, B, and C? Here is the answer key A=tobacco, B=alcohol, C=marijuana
MP Resident 09 February 11, 2013 at 11:50 PM
I support decriminalizing in the name of individual liberty, not because I think it's a racist law or because it targets the poor. I suppose there are many theories why its illegal...take your pick. From the worthless words of Hillary Clinton, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" If the origins are as sinister as they may be, even better for decriminalization. At the very least, let states or cities decide whether to have it legal. The Feds need to focus on what their real job is.
Jody February 12, 2013 at 12:04 AM
I guess I just wish that people wouldn't need to drink or smoke pot to enhance their enjoyment of life. The pot smokers I knew were paranoid, unenergetic losers who were definitely addicted to the stuff. Unless a large portion of people in the US are clamoring for legalization, why open pandora's box. Other illegal drugs will continue to put black folks in jail and still fuel gangs and crime syndicates, and spawn addicts who steal to buy the stuff. Maybe there are few marijuana deaths because it's illegal and you have to do it at home so you won't be driving anywhere. I'd also like to see the percentage of people who smoke pot who do it only occasionally and are not addicted and those who are addicted and need it all the time.
MP Resident 09 February 12, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Pandora's box opens both ways. Why do you think large fountain sodas are illegal in NYC? They enact laws to force a behavior that supposedly benefits society as a whole, regardless of how stupid the law really is. It may be true that fat people or pot heads are a drag on society, but only because of the socialist agenda that is shoved down our throats. Let people suffer the consequences of their decisions instead of giving them incentives to make the wrong ones. And just to show you how stupid laws can be, here is a Manassas Park law that is still contained within the City Code: Sec. 17-17. - Adultery and fornication generally. (a) Any person, being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any person not his or her spouse shall be deemed guilty of adultery. (b) Any person, not being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any other person shall be deemed guilty of fornication. (c) No person shall commit adultery or fornication within the city. Any person violating this provision shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.
John February 12, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Misses-- Not sure what my job or the fact that I have internet has anything to do with my inability to buy food on a regular basis. The internet I use is from the local Starbucks or McDonalds, depending where I am during the day. I make enough to pay for a small apartment that I share with two other people. I often go several days without food and have learned to live and function off of cold water, coffee, and cigarettes alone. Poverty isn't as black and white as the textbook definition you've obviously never experienced. “my ambition robs my mind of its sanity as I idle in poverty” -- Not sure how you couldn't see where I was going with this. And frankly, this one sentence that you chose to focus on, had essentially nothing to do with my greater point. But way to stay topical. To call Jody a close-minded cop, as if cop is a derogatory phrase that suggests police officers aren't people that understand the plights of marijuana advocates, and then continuously dismiss her personal observations that I can confirm as someone who has been smoking for close to a decade now, is indeed quite the opposite of offering "counter-points." That's simply being dismissive of information that doesn't suit you. You can't be presented with risk, then say the associated benefits outweigh and invalidate said risk. Marijuana, like with all things, have negative consequences if used over a prolonged period of time. I'm not sure why that's such a hard notion to grasp.
Jody February 12, 2013 at 04:02 PM
John- Just to clarify: Mises didn't call me a closed-minded cop, someone else did. Good point that the possibility of addiction and its consequences is a huge consideration not to be glossed over.
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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