Should the Village of Park Forest Decriminalize Marijuana?

Commentary
By Gary Kopycinski

Should the Village of Park Forest decriminalize marijuana?

One board member thinks so.

eNews Park Forest posted a brief story today about the city of Evanston:

The city of Evanston’s 2012 budget passed on Monday night, included an ordinance that decriminalizes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.  People caught with less than 10 grams would be ticketed and fined, but would face no jail time and no criminal record.  Currently, they would have been charged with a misdemeanor and faced up to six months in jail.

(For more on that go here.)

In my five-years-plus reading police reports (and my experience pales against the men and women in blue who do this every day), I have reported on hundreds of arrests for possession of cannabis. The vast majority of these were very, very small amounts.

Now, to be fair, many of these arrests were made during traffic stops. Should anyone be driving while high?

Absolutely not.

But should we confiscate a vehicle and arrest someone if they simply are in possession of marijuana, whether in a vehicle or not?

Absolutely not.

This may sound strange, but the people who changed my thinking on this issue were none other than … some men and women in blue.

A few years ago, I interviewed Constable David Bratzer:

Yes, David is running for school board in Canada, but I’m not sharing his video with you here to advance his political career.

I’m sharing this with you because David Bratzer has over 20 years experience in law enforcement. This man is far from a flaming liberal. Bratzer simply sees the futility of the so-called "War on Drugs." David is also a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and, after speaking with him, considering what he said, I joined L.E.A.P.

It accomplished nothing.

Prohibition does not work.

Criminalizing addiction does nothing for society.

Criminalizing addiction does nothing for the addict.

Treatment for the addict makes a difference. For the addict and for society.

Why is our criminal justice system so punitive?

Blame the Puritans, or their proselytes.

Check out this video, all of it:

For what it’s worth, if you watched the video, marijuana does not lead to emphysema or lung cancer.

Cigarettes?

Yeah, they’ll get you.

All that aside, I would not trust the slop you can buy off the streets. And I’ve heard plenty of stories of people buying PCP-laced pot.

But we can change that by legalizing and regulating the production of marijuana. And we can stop these silly arrests and criminal records for smoking something that is far less serious than a cigarette, and far, far less harmful than alcohol. Furthermore, the evidence supporting addictive qualities of marijuana simply is not there. The only reason marijuana today serves as a gateway drug is that the person selling pot today actually wants customers to move to something else much stronger, more lucrative, and highly addictive.

Here is what L.E.A.P. has to say about legalazing drugs:

We believe that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal  damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. It is prohibition that makes marijuana worth more than gold, and heroin worth more than uranium –  while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control.

History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade.

We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could  focus  more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer. We believe that sending parents to prison for non-violent personal drug use destroys families. We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children. And we believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths.

Here’s the question: Is our punitive approach working?

Or might we try another approach?

Can we possibly do better for our society if we treat addiction as opposed to punishing addiction?

I believe we can.

The writer is a Village Trustee in Park Forest. His views are his own.