BBSNews - 2003-02-22 -- Former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Mark Stepnoski has smoked marijuana for the past twenty years. For thirteen of those years he was a highly rated center in the NFL according to an AP wire story filed on Saturday. It seems that in spite of a sports star getting busted for "drugs" every other day or so, Stepnoski managed to lead a fit and successful life showing that the most horrendous consequences of marijuana use lie in its current legal status.
Stepnosky said, "Marijuana doesn't prevent you from going out and accomplishing what you want to," he said. "Since I was a kid, I wanted to play in the NFL, I wanted to be as good as I could, I wanted to play on a winning team, I wanted to play professional football. Even though I occasionally used marijuana, it never prevented me from ever attaining those goals." In steps the Office of National Drug Control Policy with a predictable response resorting to the logically questionable fallacy of 'what about the children?' ONDCP conveniently forgets at times like these that tobacco and alcohol are legal recreational drugs that tens of millions of adult Americans consume. Those dangerous drugs, while legal for adults, are strictly illegal for teens and children. Indeed, according to the AP story ONDCP said "It's really kind of sad that someone who could use his role as a role model for young children chooses not to use it constructively, but to use it for something that has caused devastation for families throughout this country," said Jennifer de Vallance, spokeswoman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy." Official US Marijuana Policy Devastates Families ONDCP needs to take a look in the mirror and identify who is really at fault here. It is certainly not Stepnosky who said, "We should be truthful to kids and educate them." Something ONDCP has proven for years it is not willing to do. William Bennett, Barry McCaffrey and now John P. Walters are unwilling to tell Americans the real truth about marijuana policy. THC Content (Potency) THC content is a red herring and irrelevent to the debate. The FDA approved Marinol which contains pure Delta-9-THC suspended in sesame oil and the DEA even downscheduled it citing it's safety, low potential for abuse and diversion. "In 1999, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), based in part from a concurring recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reclassified Marinol ® (dronabinol) Capsules from a Schedule II controlled substance to Schedule III. This action was taken after thorough review of the abuse potential of Marinol ® , which found that the drug has lower abuse and addiction potential than drugs or substances in Schedules I and II. The DEA also found little evidence of actual Marinol ® abuse, despite an increased number of prescriptions issued." The above is damning evidence, from the US federal government, that proves the campaign of terror and inhumane treatment of those medical marijuana patients who choose the natural substance over the pharmaceutical brand is, in the words of former DEA Administrative Law judge Francis Young, "arbitrary and capricious." This is akin to criminalizing oranges and making it highly illegal to consume them for the Vitamin C content and approving only Vitamin C tablets made by a large pharmaceutical company. Claiming that marijuana has no medical value is so insulting to the average intelligent person; while Marinol rakes in the profits and caregivers and patients using natural marijuana are sentenced to inhumane jail terms. It's so absurd that there is simply no defense. There is no defending persons or governments who are willing to terrorize their fellow citizens for using a natural and safe herbal medicine to ease their symptoms and suffering. Amotivation and Employment Another oft cited reason for punitive marijuana prohibition and mass arrests is that users are "lazy." Marijuana consumers are often portrayed as unemployed leeches taking away from the economy and draining resources. In fact, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) reports, "Although the rate of drug use was higher among unemployed persons than other employment groups, most drug users were employed. Of the 13.4 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2001, 10.2 million (76.4 percent) were employed either full or part time." A quick trip over to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the "employment-population ratio--the proportion of the population age 16 and older with jobs--was 62.5 percent. The civilian labor force in January was 145.8 million and the labor force participation rate was 66.3 percent." Thus it seems that the drug using population over the age of 18 is nearly 14% more likely to be employed as compared to the entire US population over the age of 16. Marijuana Use Finances Terrorism? It's no secret that the ONDCP will go to any length to further marijuana prohibition. Even cynically using the terrorist card in Madison Avenue created ads which claim smoking a joint leads to 9/11 style terrorism. This is ridiculous of course, those ads were sandwiched in between beer ads during the Super Bowl, and alcohol is one of the most destructive drugs by any measure. No government official appears to be saying that beer companies are financing terror by selling millions of gallons of beer. It would behoove the mass media to actually critically evaluate this fact and illustrate for Americans that the only way to have an illegal flow of money from a recreational drug such as alcohol is to artificially create a black market by prohibiting it. One would think this would be self evident in the face of America's Prohibition I in the last century. Unfortunately the lessons to be learned from Al Capone seem to have been lost on today's crop of drug warriors. Even more troublesome is the fact that the American appetite for marijuana, the country's most widely used currently illicit drug, is largely supplied either by domestic production or imported from Mexico and Canada. Hardly bastions of terrorism. It's not clear that either of those countries have been branded as state sponsors of terrorism due to their exporting of marijuana to the US. Gateway Theory Discredited The so-called "gateway theory" is another ONDCP failure to "get it." All one need do is look at annual survey data - the Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) - over the last twenty eight years of high school 12th graders to find that marijuana use among seniors has stayed fairly steady at an average of about 49.17% while heroin use has stayed in the single digits, around 1.47%. The two highest points were 1975 with 2.2% and 2000 with 2.4% respectively. This is data collected over the last twenty eight years. If marijuana was the "gateway" to heroin, surely a trend upwards would have been noticed by now. The same holds true for cocaine. Lifetime prevalence of cocaine use for 12th graders reached a peak of 16.9% for the class of 1986 and has been largely trending down ever since. For 2001 it's reported to be 7.8%. Alcohol prevalence over the last 10 years of the MTF (There was change in question wording in 1993.) has stayed at about 80% and interestingly, tobacco use peaked with the class of 1977 at 75.7%. In an almost unbroken trend downward ever since, tobacco prevalence for 12th graders has dropped to 57.2%. No mass arrests of citizens were required for this drop. The reduction in tobacco prevalence has hugely been attributed to education. For more about the gateway theory de-bunked please see Brian Bennett's excellent site. Artificially Created Consequences of Marijuana Use And yes, there are mass arrests. Marijuana arrests make up half of all annual arrests for currently illicit drugs. About eight out of ten of those arrests are for possession alone out of a total of almost three quarters of a million Americans each year. This according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report. When federal officials claim that marijuana users are not targeted they are ignoring the black and white truth from the FBI. BBSNews has uncovered that about 130,000 Americans are currently in prison for felony marijuana offenses alone, with about 50,000 of those for possession alone. When Will this Looney US Marijuana Policy End? Certainly it can't hurt that world class athletes such as Mark Stepnoski are stepping forward and proving for once and for all that the policy of arresting peaceful marijuana consumers is counter-productive. It does not hurt that at least four State Legislatures, Montana, New Mexico, Connecticut and Vermont are considering bills to legalize medical marijuana for their citizens. It's unquestionable that marijuana has medicinal uses so such moves make good sense. And even in Texas there is a bill to make the penalty for marijuana possession a Class C misdemeanor rather than a Class B offense. Odds are though, being Bush country, that the bill by Texas Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston will not go very far. Unless Texas legislators read the news of course. In what surely must be a misprint, the Washington Post has reported today that, "Like his brother and father, [Jeb] Bush attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. Jeb struggled with his course work, missed Texas and experimented with marijuana." Was this a perverse error in proof-reading and editing? Probably. It's doubtful that the first president Bush admitted smoking marijuana. And although it's been implied many times, this editor cannot find definitive evidence or testimony that George W. Bush has admitted past illegal drug use. ABC News reported in 1999 when then governor of Texas Bush was running for president, that Bush would not give a solid answer. Instead only saying, "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible." No word in that article on how Bush would have fared if marijuana laws had caught up with him and he had been arrested and charged back when he was "young and irresponsible." It is clear though that the Post is reporting that Jeb Bush, whose daughter Nicole has been the subject of much media attention with her Xanax woes, has smoked marijuana in the past. No word in that story either about how Jeb would have fared if he had been subjected to the marijuana laws that the rest of the country is saddled with. Marijuana laws seem to be more real to those like Webster Alexander, the Alabama teenager who is facing 26 years for selling the amount of marijuana equivalent to four packages of tobacco cigarettes. One wonders why the rich and powerful in the US can have "youthful indiscretions" but when it's an 18 year old teenager from a small rural town, and having almost no means to speak of, why do these kids always seem to get ludicrous jail sentences for a medicinal plant known and used for 5,000 years yet illegal in a twisted rendition of sending the "proper message" to children? The questions of drug use dog politicians. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich and now Jeb Bush have all admitted or have had reported their "experimenting" with marijuana. And now former Dallas Cowboy Mark Stepnoski joins legions of other sports stars who have admitted using marijuana or who have had reported in the media their marijuana use. Their lives are seemingly unaffected by their marijuana use. The illegality of the plant seems to have been unimportant to them at the time of their illegal marijuana use. Why are the Websters, the Rosenthals, the Corrals and all the rest of those hounded, arrested and threatened with prison sentences for their marijuana use singled out above the privileged? When will the mass media begin defending these people who have done nothing more than consume or grow marijuana? ###