Libertarian Perspective: Ohio should decriminalize marijuanaWritten by Kenneth Sharp | | email@example.com
It was Flower Day at the Toledo Farmers’ Market Downtown over Memorial Day weekend. There were throngs of people seeking and purchasing a variety of plants and accessories. Nature is amazing in its diversity, beauty and usefulness. Sadly, we as a community, through the force of our government, have put damaging restrictions on one of nature’s most useful, safest and productive species: marijuana.
I was at the market with several other volunteers in an effort to remedy this wrong. The Northwest Ohio chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), of which I am a member, has a City of Toledo ballot initiative to completely decriminalize, not legalize, marijuana. We are working within the laws of the State of Ohio, which under home rule allow us to reduce the penalties, but not legalize. Let me briefly explain why this is important to our community and can position Toledo to be an economic leader.
We in America are at a crisis point in our prison system. We incarcerate more of our citizens — and by a great number — than any other nation. Nearly half of these are for nonviolent drug offenses. Those most likely to be sentenced are the most vulnerable in our society. There is no study that shows that poor people or minorities do more drugs than their affluent suburban counterparts, but they are more likely to spend time in prison and develop crippling records that then impact their abilities to live, work or become better educated. We are setting them up to fail and then complain when we have to support them.
Again, this is all over nonviolent drug offenses. They have not damaged or taken another’s property nor harmed or threatened to harm another human being. Our limited policing resources are best spent on criminals that endanger people and property, not on lifestyle choices, whether good or bad. For those we have health care professionals, clergy and other community resources. Toledoans care about their community and their fellow Toledoans. It is time we stopped destroying entire neighborhoods and families over a simple and safe plant.
Our federal government has classified marijuana as a schedule I drug. This means it has no medicinal value and cannot be prescribed by a physician. By contrast, cocaine is a schedule II drug along with methamphetamine. Your federal government believes cocaine and methamphetamine are safer than marijuana. This despite marijuana having no known cases of overdose in all of human history and that it is known to be less addictive than caffeine. Today many physicians, including well known Drs. Gupta and Oz, are debunking the myth that marijuana has no medicinal value. In fact it has tremendous value that is only just being explored. It can’t fully be explored until the Feds get off their own addiction to the costly and destructive War on Drugs. When it comes to another vulnerable segment of our society, the sick and suffering, we should not let prejudice trump reason.
Economically, marijuana and its close relative hemp, have enormous possibilities. They range from building materials, fibers for clothing and paper to alternative fuels to run our economy. In a world concerned with deforestation, climate change and resources that aren’t renewable on a scale equal to what we consume, marijuana and hemp offer the best answer. Kentucky has recently allowed its farmers to again explore these possibilities. Ohio needs and will have the opportunity to soon. State initiatives are in the works for medical and industrial marijuana/hemp and even legalization. By decriminalizing in advance, Toledo will position businesses to better take advantage of the new economy without the uncertainty that can accompany changes at the state level that precede federal changes.
This is a topic too big to explore in one column. NWO-NORML is seeking groups to present a fuller explanation and rationale. If your group or club would like to learn more please contact Ken Sharp at the email provided at the end of this article or go to firstname.lastname@example.org and request to learn more. We need your signature too.
Kenneth Sharp can be reached at email@example.com.