The Fresno Bee (6.1.10) - "Poll: California voters favor legalizing pot."
"Legalize It!": Now that there is officially decriminalization legislature on the November ballot in California, this has become a serious political issue rather than a battle cry for hippies. It makes sense to legalize when you think about the facts: firstly, marijuana is California's biggest cash crop. A properly regulated and taxed business market for the plant is likely to save the state's economy and create jobs that span income brackets, from agricultural and transportation workers to lawyers and politicians. All of this without adding to the technological hierarchy that has thrown the business world off-balance for years! Second, Nixon's "drug war" has corrupted the law enforcement system. Thousands of federal prisoners are behind bars simply for marijuana charges. This leaves no room for the real criminals (sex offenders, armed robbers, etc.), and also makes it easier and more profitable for law enforcement officers to go after a pot smoker than a rapist at large. Third, the herb contains safe and therapeutic chemicals called cannabinoids which have been proven to soothe ailments from back pain to glaucoma and from anxiety to AIDS. It has also been proven that these chemicals have never caused death by toxicity (a statement that neither the tobacco industry nor the alcohol industry can make). Overall, the facts behind legalization show economic and political soundness.
Considering the possibility of legalization, proponents in California have also looked into the social effects of marijuana use. Researchers have already concluded that use of the herb does not contribute to addiction, mental disorders, long-term brain function impairment, aggressive behavior, or sexual assault. In fact, some groups such as SAFER go so far as to state that marijuana has the capacity to replace alcohol, which is known to cause many of these social and psychological problems, for people who enjoy using a "recreational substance" in their free time (http://www.saferchoice.org).
The medical marijuana movement in California has proven that thousands of people can use the herb and still contribute productively to society, including students, attorneys, and business executives, all the while managing chronic pain, anxiety, migraines, and negative side effects associated with several diseases.
The legalization movement is a culture shock in many ways. The government has manipulated the press and scientific reports on marijuana since the 1940s, and only now is all the true information being revealed to the public. Many older people who remember the "Reefer Madness" era are going to need lots of convincing by the time the election comes around, but once the facts are publicized and people realize that the herb is not a narcotic, acceptance will start to grow, and if California succeeds in legalizing it, other states will follow. The federal decriminalization of marijuana is actually a possibility for my generation, and I couldn't be more thrilled.