Source: City Paper (PA) Copyright: 1999 CP Communications, Inc. Pubdate: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 Secton: Slant Contact: Webform: FAX: (215) 875-1829 Mail: 123 Chestnut Street, 3rd Floor Philadelphia, PA 19106 Website: Author: Edward Forchion


In 1937 Congress outlawed marijuana in the midst of a firestorm of patently false, often misleading, definitely racist propaganda fed by tabloidlike hysteria. The cannabis (marijuana) plant which was on the verge of becoming a multibillion-dollar cash crop instead was banned. Congress hadn't learned all of its lessons from the alcohol prohibition, and as a consequence, millions have been arrested and tens of thousands have been imprisoned - making U.S. marijuana users the largest group of political prisoners in the world.

In 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) Act of 1970, thus launching the "War on Drugs," which many refer to as the "War on Citizens."

This war has been an absolute failure. There are far more drug users now than ever before.

It is easier for kids to get drugs because of the "war." With prohibition, there is no regulation of drugs, eliminating any quality controls or distribution guidelines such as age restrictions.

Marijuana was erroneously placed in the CDS Act's "schedule 1" classification - the same as heroin and cocaine. The act states that a schedule 1 drug must (1) have little or no medical value in the U.S.; (2) be addictive; (3) be subject to widespread abuse. If you examine the facts on marijuana you will know marijuana is not a schedule 1 drug.

Millions use marijuana for therapeutic reasons, and 20 percent of the U.S. population now live in states where marijuana has been legalized by citizen referendums. The 1998 UN World Health Organization report states that marijuana is far less addictive than legal drugs such as caffeine, and is much safer than drugs like tobacco or alcohol. In the 6,000 years man has recorded his use of marijuana there has never been one case of death by marijuana. More people die of aspirin use.

In 1996 the tide began to turn drastically with the medical marijuana ballot initiatives in Arizona and California. This past Nov. 3, voters in Arizona again voted to legalize marijuana, as did voters in Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and the District of Columbia. In Colorado and D.C., the Republican party was successful in nullifying the election results, a tactic they have tried in attempting to nullify the elections of Bill Clinton. In D.C., Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) slipped into a congressional budget bill an amendment ordering the barring of the election results on the D.C. medical marijuana initiative.

Voters opposed to the government's drug policies are now openly being encouraged to stop avoiding jury duty, by organizations such as The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA, Jurors are then encouraged to acquit citizens accused of "Drug War" offenses. Jurors cannot be punished for acquitting a defendant. A juror has the right to judge "law as well as evidence," although most party-picked judges will not allow this.

I myself have been charged with a "Drug War" offense; I'm putting my life where my mouth is. My choice is that I will be openly encouraging my jury to take the law into consideration.

Philadelphia lawyer Lawrence Hirsch ( has taken the matter to the federal court system in the form of a class action federal lawsuit contending the government's prohibition on marijuana is unconstitutional.

The year 2000 elections may give many the opportunity to oust both Republicans and Democrats and end the "War." Voters may choose the Reform Party of Jesse Ventura fame or the Libertarian party in record numbers.

Either way, register to vote.