The Rockin Johnny B

Friday, November 16, 2012

Advocates hope new pot rules help Idaho

Sheriff says state should never make marijuana legal

By MIKE BUTTS    © 2012 Idaho Press-Tribune

   TREASURE VALLEY — Sarah Caldwell thinks marijuana should be regulated much like alcohol. And she hopes Washington’s newly passed pot legalization initiative will help Idaho move in the same direction.    On the other side of the debate are law enforcement officials like Canyon County Sheriff Chris Smith, who said it would be “crazy” for the state to even give legal marijuana a second thought.
     After a Nov. 6 state initiative passed, Washington residents, at least in theory, over the age of 21 will be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana starting Dec. 6.
     Caldwell, a Boise resident and treasurer for Idaho NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), compares responsible marijuana use to responsible alcohol use.    “You don’t walk into somebody’s house and arrest them because they’re having three beers after work,” Caldwell said. “People use cannabis the same way they use alcohol.”
     Idaho NORML will consider using petitions to get measures on ballots in Idaho cities or counties rather than trying for a statewide initiative because it will require less resources, Caldwell said.
     Lindsey Rinehart of Boise is director of Compassionate Idaho, a group that advocates legalizing medical marijuana. She hopes the Washington law helps change Idaho minds about medical use of pot.
     “I hope it softens people’s ideas and hearts,” Rinehart said. “Maybe having another law in a different state may allow us to get a better foothold.”
     Compassionate Idaho plans to start a petition in January to get medical marijuana on the 2014 state ballot.
     Smith sees the situation differently. He said 80 percent of inmates in the county jail attribute their problems to drug or alcohol use.
     “We don’t need another hallucinogenic drug,” Smith said. “Alcohol is bad enough. Look at all the decline that relates to drug and alcohol use.”
     The Sheriff Office’s biggest focus with illegal drugs is not marijuana, Smith said, but methamphetamine. Few jail inmates are incarcerated for simple possession. Only 32 inmates have been booked into the Canyon County Jail since the beginning of 2010 for trafficking in marijuana, according to Sheriff Office records.  [This, however, is Canyon County there are other counties in Idaho...what are their jail populations.  Say, for instance, Gem County does indeed target the pot smoking population.  Shouldn't laws and law enforcement be standardized across county borders?  Legalization would make that possible.]
     “We kind of focus on the drugs that are most detrimental to your health,” Smith said.
     In Nampa, police department Sgt. Tim Randall said one of the departments concerns is their employees using marijuana legally in Washington and then testing positive for it on the job.    “We have a no-drug use policy,” Randall said.    
    On Nov. 6 residents in Colorado and Washington voted in favor of ballot measures that will make marijuana legal for adults aged 21 and over, removing most criminal and civil penalties and replacing the current policies with a system similar to that used to regulate alcohol. Massachusetts also passed a law that allows the seriously ill to access medical marijuana. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have laws in place to protect medical marijuana patients, consisting of nearly a third of the national population. A Rasmussen Report from May showed 56 percent of voters nationwide supported removing criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and taxing and regulating the substance in a manner similar to alcohol.
     Source: Marijuana Policy Project

AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Erika Schultz    A 30-year-old woman smokes marijuana at a street party after I-502 was approved Nov. 6, in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Initiative 502 decriminalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in Washington, beginning Dec.

 As most of you all know, in my previous life, I was a drug/alcohol counselor and I have definite opinions regarding the use and misuse of drugs and alcohol.

This new Washington/Colorado situation is interesting and probably going to be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court to get a ruling.  Good!  It's time we came to a national consensus regarding the use of pot...and other drugs for that matter.  We need a national agreement regarding this issue.

About pot.  As a drug/alcohol counselor and somewhat of an expert in this area, I am of two minds regarding its legalization.  On the one hand, I really don't see marijuana use as a criminal activity.  I have never...I mean never...seen a pot smoker [only pot use] get out of hand and have to be arrested because pot just drove him/her over the 'edge.'  On the other hand, I've seen plenty of meth users or heroin users literally go out of their minds and have to be arrested for criminal behavior...same with alcohol.  In fact, more crimes are committed by drunks that pot smokers.  A lot more.  But, pot smokers do present a problem when they get behind the wheel of a 2.5 ton bullet and head down the freeway.  They are a problem on the job when the job requires precision manually, like operating heavy equipment or putting together delicate equipment like computers.

But, if the drug was controlled like alcohol is controlled, how much worse would it be than alcohol use?

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