The fact that in a state the size of California you can get a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana for anything from cancer to a bad mood has changed the attitude toward pot nationwide, says Rose Ewing, a program director of drug courts in Tulsa, Okla.
Ewing says it has made it harder to help some of her clients.
“They’re like, ‘If we lived in another state we’d be able to use this medically for different conditions because they don’t consider it a bad drug or a hard-core drug,’ ” she says. “They really feel like it’s in a different class of drugs.”
Really? That is so weird! You mean people think that a non-toxic herb with medicinal uses that has never killed anyone is in a different class than highly addictive, extremely mind-altering drugs that can easily cause overdose death? Go on…
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Drug courts like Ewing’s work on a carrot-and-stick approach. Defendants get therapy and regular drug testing, and a judge monitors their progress. The success rate is high, but the defendants who fail to clean up their acts can go to jail. Yet even with so much at stake, it can be hard to convince marijuana users that they have a problem if few people around them see it that way, says Andrew Cummings, director of the drug court in Georgia’s DeKalb County.
So, you mean, aside from being pee tested regularly and threatened with imprisonment for failure, it is hard to convince marijuana users that their use is causing problems in their life? And even under that “carrot-and-stick”, the success rate is high, so how difficult was it for them to quit, and therefore, how much of a problem was the pot smoking, really?
I also think they misunderstand the “carrot-and-stick” metaphor. Here the carrot = “not going to jail”, the stick = “go to jail”. That’s more of a “whether or not we beat you with a stick” metaphor, isn’t it?
These days it’s difficult for a lot of people to see marijuana as a problem, even if they have never touched the stuff, says Judge John Creuzot of Dallas, who has presided over drug courts and regular felony courts.
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“When we get into guilt, innocence and punishment, you see a lot of pushback, especially on marijuana, from the citizens [juries],” he says. “They don’t think it should be a felony offense and … so it’s very difficult to get them to commit to sending someone to the penitentiary for possession of marijuana.”
It’s beginning to sound as if the only people who really think marijuana use is a problem aren’t the users and aren’t the people they live amongst, but the judges and rehabs who make a living on drug courts packed with marijuana users.
Cruezot says he thinks the people who don’t seem to care much about marijuana might become positively enthusiastic if California voters approve a measure on the November ballot to legalize and tax marijuana.
“When a state like California, a big state, moves in that direction — let’s say that becomes the law. If taxes can be raised and collected, if crime doesn’t rise or doesn’t change any, if jails are less populated, everybody else is going to look at it and see,” he says.
Gee, Judge, you think if California legalizes and the sky doesn’t fall that states like Texas might reconsider whether they ought to send otherwise-law abiding citizens to your drug court for using something that doesn’t seem to be destroying California?
But Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says don’t even think about it.
“Legalization is a nonstarter,” says Kerlikowske, who addressed the drug courts meeting.
Medical marijuana, he says, is not only still illegal but also may not really be medical.
“Medical marijuana is still one of those questions that science should decide and not popular vote,” he says.
Yes! Let’s let the science decide. Seeing as we have over 20,000 published scientific studies demonstrating medical utility of cannabis, I feel pretty confident. But I do wonder why in 2010 there isn’t enough scientific evidence for our federal government, but in 2003, there was enough evidence for them to secure patent #6630507 (cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants).
Or how there wasn’t enough evidence in 1978, but they created the federal medical marijuana program that is still sending 300 joints a month to four Americans. Or how there wasn’t enough evidence in 1974 when the government was first discovering the anti-cancer properties of THC.
Cummings, the director of the drug court in Georgia, says he worries about what might happen if marijuana use becomes more acceptable.
“People often think about marijuana, and understandably so, as one might think about having a drink at the end of the day and relaxing, but it doesn’t stop there for a lot of people,” he says. “And as the potency increases, the likelihood of dependency increases.”
Cummings wonders how those people would be able to find help if abusing marijuana no longer forced them to go to court.
Ummm, maybe it might take as long as it takes alcoholics to determine they have a problem, since they aren’t forced to go to court unless they actually commit a crime, like DUI or domestic abuse.
What all of these people in the article are having a problem with is something all us marijuana smokers already know: There is a difference between “use” and “abuse”. Just as most people can have a drink and we don’t send in the cops and force them all to go to “alcohol court”, the same should apply to cannabis. If your use is causing a severe problem in your life then I am completely in support of your self-admission to a rehab.
But if a court is forcing you to go to a rehab, with your only cannabis problem being “you got caught”, then they are wasting your time and the resources that could be better allocated to people with real drug problems.