President Obama should address Marijuana petition

By Parker Happ

Sept. 1, the Obama Administration unveiled a new addition to titled “We the People.”

The site is aimed at “giving Americans a direct line to the White House on the issues and concerns that matter most to them,” President Obama said. When the site launched, Americans responded and started submitting petitions. The most signed petition to date reads “Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol.”

Increasingly, Americans are changing their opinion on pot. According to Gallup’s October Crime poll, in 1970 only 12 percent of Americans believed marijuana should be legal compared to an 84 percent majority who disagreed. Fast forward to 2009 and the same poll marks the pro-pot lobby at 42 percent and naysayers at 54 percent.

What could cause the majority of Americans to change their mind? Possibly due to our overcrowded and increasingly costly prison system and how it deals with non-violent offenders.

Realize that America effectively puts more people behind bars than any other country in the world. Every year $60 billion dollars is spent to imprison 2.2 million people across America. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics marked marijuana offenders as accounting for 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates in 2004 contributing to an overall cost to taxpayers of $1 billion. That’s only the tip of the iceberg for hidden costs when it comes to pot. Aside from just purely jailing individuals, Americans will spend another $8 billion annually just to arrest marijuana offenders. What about other legal costs?

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and oddly coinciding with this theme, four federal prosecutors are attempting to prevent abuse in California’s marijuana market by trying to shut it down. Oct. 8, prosecutors argued that the blooming marijuana market contributes to national distribution of pot by people with “criminal backgrounds” and the 1996 referendum that permitted medicinal usage of marijuana has been abused.

“While California law permits collective cultivation of marijuana in limited circumstances, it does not allow commercial distribution through the storefront model we see across California,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said.

Yes, federal law trumps state law. Unfortunately, these days, in a cash-strapped state like California the $1 billion dollar marijuana market has greatly helped to curb the $25 billion. The statistics speak; prosecuting, jailing, arresting, and ticketing for marijuana is a costly venture for Americans. President Obama ought to offer some sort of deal for the American marijuana lobby because throwing the issue under the rug will no longer work.

We the people have an obligation to ourselves and citizens to stand up for injustices. We are talking about a drug, and drugs are not necessarily good for the people, but choice is what has always made America a great place to live. We have freedoms to make our own sensible or illogical decisions. A few feds trying to further their career hardly warrants destroying the progress gained on this issue. President Obama, where is your stand?