Catharine Leach has two sons and is married. She has a job with a federal contractor and she said she smokes pot almost every day of the week. Leach worries that by showing public support for marijuana she could lose her job or have the police show up at her home but she decided she no longer wanted to remain in hiding.
“I’m done being afraid,” she said. “People in this country are finally coming around and seeing that putting someone in jail for this doesn’t make sense. It’s just a changing of the time.”
Supporters of marijuana are helping the drug come closer and closer to becoming legal at some point in the United States. In fact, 17 states and the District of Columbia have authorized medical marijuana. Also, 14 states have reduced criminal penalties for small amounts of pot found in possession of people. The state of Rhode Island is looking to become the 15th state to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Earlier last week, the General Assembly in the state passed legislation that would eliminate large fines and jail time for possessing an ounce or less of pot. Any adult found with a small portion of pot would face a civil fine of $150. The pot would be confiscated by police and the incident would not be posted to the criminal record. Any minor caught with marijuana would need to attend and complete a drug awareness program and perform community service. Governor Lincoln Chafee has told the public that he is planning to sign the legislation into law.
“America’s 50-year war on drugs has been an abysmal failure,” said Rep. John Savage. “Marijuana in this country should be legalized. It should be sold and taxed.”
“What kind of message are we sending to our youth? We are more worried about soda – for health reasons – than we are about marijuana,” Rhode Island state Rep. John Carnevale, an opponent, said.
Last month, a survey conducted by Rasmussen showed that 56 percent of those who responded favored the legalization and regulation of marijuana. Last year, a poll conducted nationally by Gallup found that support for the legalization of pot increased to 50 percent. The support levels were at 46 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in the middle of the 1990s.
“It’s now politically viable to talk about these things,” said Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “The public understands that there are substances that are far more harmful – alcohol, tobacco – that we regulate. People are realizing just how much money is being wasted on prohibition.”
Robert DuPont served as the nation’s drug czar for presidents Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon.
“It is a major drug of abuse,” he said. “People ask me what the most dangerous drug is, and I say marijuana. Other drugs have serious consequences that are easy to recognize. Marijuana saps people’s motivation, their direction. It’s a drug that makes people stupid and lazy. That’s in a way more dangerous.”