Sunday, June 21, 2009

25 Years in Prison for Pot? Drug Warrior Congressman's Idea Is Way Obsolete

By Paul Armentano, NORML. Posted June 15, 2009.

Rep. Mark Kirk thinks that the magic number of 15% THC concentration in marijuana should lead to a 25-year prison penalty.

They say that every action spurs an opposite reaction. Well, that certainly seems to be the case in Congress.

Just days after Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Barney Frank, along with 13 cosponsors, reintroduced HR 2835, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2009 in Congress, Republican Rep. Mark Kirk (Illinois) has called for federal legislation to sentence certain first-time marijuana offenders to up to 25 years in prison.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk to push tougher sentences for more-potent marijuana
via The Chicago Tribune

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk will call for legislation Monday that would toughen drug-trafficking laws regarding a highly potent form of marijuana, with penalties of up to 25 years in prison for a first-time offense.

The law would target offenders who sell or distribute marijuana that has a THC content exceeding 15 percent.

… Drug dealers are increasingly cross-breeding plants to produce high-potency variants of marijuana, which are called “kush” in street slang when they have 20 percent THC, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said. “When you amplify the strength of it, you are increasing the harm to the system,” said Curran, who supports the legislation, which would amend a federal law. “They are more dangerous behind the wheel of a vehicle. It’s not a good idea to have people that messed up.”

… The Republican North Shore lawmaker said he plans to release more information during a news conference in Chicago on Monday, where he will be joined by representatives from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group and Waukegan Police Department.

Okay, where to begin? Well, we can start with U.S. Representative Mark Kirk. According to the Congressman’s website, Rep. Kirk is “pro-personal responsibility.” Unless, of course, we’re talking about allowing responsible adults (or patients) the choice to relax (or medicate) in the privacy of their own homes with a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol (or most prescription pharmaceuticals). Then, naturally, all bets are off.

Representative Kirk’s website also alleges that the five-time-elected Congressman is “pro-science.” Unless, of course, we’re talking about cannabis — in which case he is actually “pro-ideology” and “anti-science.” After all, if Rep. Kirk was truly interested in the science of cannabis he would already know that:

1) According to a 2008 review (see page 12) of marijuana potency by the University of Mississippi, the average THC in domestically grown marijuana — which comprises the bulk of the U.S. market — is less than five percent, a figure that’s remained unchanged for nearly a decade.

2) THC — regardless of potency — is virtually non-toxic to healthy cells or organs, and is incapable of causing a fatal overdose. Currently, doctors may legally prescribe a FDA-approved pill that contains 100 percent THC, and curiously, nobody among Rep. Kirk’s staff or at the Lake County Sheriff’s office seems to be overly concerned about its potential health effects.

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Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).

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