Pol Pot: Money and Politics Keep Pot Illegal in America

The United Kingdom has now joined the ranks of other industrialized countries to decriminalize the use of marijuana. And with their Oct. 23 conversion, the American cheese stands alone.

"We are the last industrialized country to criminalize marijuana use," says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for Marijuana Reform Laws (NORML) in Washington D.C.

"At NORML, the idea is to take marijuana out of (the Drug War's) charter, and if they want to concentrate on so-called 'hard drugs' like cocaine and heroin, that arguably would be a better thing," says St. Pierre.

Marijuana arrests take a lot of manpower and time: In 2000, police arrested 734,498 people for marijuana violations--the highest ever recorded by the FBI. Of those, 88 percent were for possession. The remaining 88,456 were charged with "sale/manufacture."

Those numbers exceed all violent crimes committed in the year. And they don't even begin to illustrate the jobs, relationships, money and time lost for the crime of smoking a joint.

When it comes to the War on Drugs, St. Pierre says our government harbors control over something that it should not. He says they continue to do so because they benefit financially from their control.

St. Pierre explains that when the Cold War ended, enormous needs for certain technology and personnel were eradicated. Once America declared its infamous War on Drugs, those needs were refilled. "It changed from the Cold War, inwards," he says.

Jobs were created by hundreds of anti-drug organizations, and complex technology was developed to detect drug use.

"We're talking about an incredible jobs program at the government level," says St. Pierre.

He also points out that many powerful Political Action Committees donate money to campaigns to push their own agenda, keeping marijuana illegal.

Las Vegas Weekly contacted a police source in hopes of getting an argument against legalization, and providing a semblance of balance. Sadly enough, the only reasoning the source could give for pot being illegal is, well, because it's illegal.

Kate Silver is a staff writer for the Las Vegas Weekly.

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