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Half a Heart on Marijuana Better Than No Heart at All

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Give thanks for the little things, they say. A bill that would stop the feds from going after medical marijuana users in states that permit such activity is something for which we should give thanks. But it is little.

Let's not criticize the sponsoring senators -- Rand Paul, R-Ky., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. -- for such a small reprieve from the war on drugs. They've probably gone about as far as they could within the two-faced confines of our national politics.

If the measure becomes law, federal authorities could continue harassing and arresting patients, dispensaries, cultivators and banks serving the business in states that don't allow medical marijuana.

And what about Colorado, Washington and Oregon, states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes? Their non-medical pot users are still disobeying federal laws. The Obama administration is pretty much leaving them alone, but that's just a matter of current policy, Sean Dunagan, a former intelligence analyst at the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, told me.

"That could change with a different administration, with a different attorney general," he said.

Dunagan is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former law officers backing legalization of all drugs. They welcome such halfhearted reforms, but argue that they do not break the violent cartels that our drug laws keep in business. And they preserve our two-tiered system of justice, which ruins the lives of little people and lets the well-connected off the hook.

Speaking of which, Jeb Bush admits to having smoked pot in high school. Actually, Bush's dorm room at Phillips Academy Andover reportedly served as stoner central, where students would smoke hash to the strains of Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride."

Kids from modest backgrounds were being jailed at that time for doing far less. Today, even a minor drug conviction bars one from many jobs, including joining the military.

Yet Florida's former Republican governor evidently doesn't think his illegal behavior should disqualify him from serving as commander in chief. Why would he? The current holder of that job, President Barack Obama, also admitted to smoking pot, as did his predecessor, Jeb's brother George W. Bush.

If Jeb owned up to the rank injustice and fully supported ending the war on marijuana, that might lighten the hypocrisy factor. But Bush piously insists that he's against legalizing marijuana. If states want to do it, that's OK, he says. But that leaves the vast majority of Americans subject to arrest for smoking a joint after dinner.

Here's an idea. Why doesn't Bush volunteer to do the time behind bars that youths from less powerful families were being sentenced to in the 1960s? He could share a cell with Patrick Kennedy, the former liberal congressman from Rhode Island.

In the wee hours of May 4, 2006, Rep. Kennedy crashed his car into a barricade on Capitol Hill while under the influence of who knows how many controlled substances. He served in Congress for four more years, leaving at a time of his choosing.

Kennedy is now a staunch foe of legalizing marijuana, but, like Bush, has not offered to do his time. Given Kennedy's decades of addiction, that would be no small piece of change.

Many argue that marijuana at high potency and in great quantity can be harmful. That may be so, but the same is true of many things we can legally consume.

If states rights is the excuse for easing up on the ludicrous drug war, so be it. Any change that makes life less miserable for good people -- and saves the taxpayers huge sums -- is to be cheered. But oh the waste!

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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