The Year In Pot

Twelve Months in the Life of Marijuana Prohibition

One of the problems that the marijuana reform movement consistently faces is that everyone wants to talk about what marijuana does, but no one ever wants to look at what marijuana prohibition does. Marijuana never kicks down your door in the middle of the night. Marijuana never locks up sick and dying people, does not suppress medical research, does not peek in bedroom windows. Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could. —RICHARD COWAN, FORMER HEAD OF NORML, NOW EDITOR OF WWW.MARIJUANANEWS.COM

Estimated U.S. deaths in 2000 attributed to:

tobacco: 400,000
alcohol: 110,000
prescription drugs: 100,000
suicide: 30,000
murder: 15,000
aspirin and related over-the-counter painkillers: 7600
marijuana: 0

Number of americans arrested since 1965 on marijuana-related charges:
over 11 million

February 9: Arizona—Deborah Lynn Quinn, 39, born with no arms or legs, is sentenced to one year in Arizona prison for marijuana possession after violating probation on a previous drug offense—attempted sale of 4 grams of marijuana to a police informant for $20. Quinn will require around-the-clock care for feeding, bathing, and hygiene.

February 15: The United States' prison and jail population surpasses 2 million people. Prisons are one of the fastest-growing expenses of government. It costs about $100,000 to build a single prison cell and about $24,000 per year to house an individual prisoner. Some 1.3 million U.S. inmates are currently serving time for nonviolent offenses. One-quarter of the world's prisoners are now incarcerated in the "land of the free."

February 18: Atlanta—Louis E. Covar Jr., 51, a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident on July 4, 1967, who says he uses marijuana to relieve the pain from muscle spasms in his neck, is sentenced to seven years in prison after being accused of selling marijuana out of his home. Covar denies the charge, insisting the small amount seized (one and a quarter ounces) was for his personal medicinal use. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, the special care Covar needs will cost $258.33 a day—or more than 660,000 if he serves his full seven years. A typical prisoner costs taxpayers $47.63 per day.

February 23: The Hawaii Medical Association comes out against the pending state medical marijuana initiative. Heidi Singh, HMA's director of legislative and government affairs, says more studies should be done, and that "physicians cannot in good faith recommend a drug therapy without clinical evidence to back it up."

February 28: Madrid, Spain—The chemical in marijuana that produces a high shows promise as a weapon against deadly brain tumors, according to Spanish scientists. In a study on rats, a team from Complutense University and Autonoma University in Madrid found that one of marijuana's active ingredients, THC, eliminated tumor cells in advanced cases of glioma, a quick-killing cancer for which there is currently no effective treatment. The researchers found that pumping THC into the tumors cleared the cancer in more than a third of the test rats. The drug prolonged the life of another third by up to 40 days, but was ineffective in the rest. The cancer did not recur in any of the survivors.

March 2: Marijuana-like compounds ease tremors in mice with a condition similar to multiple sclerosis, researchers say in a study, published in the British journal Nature, that appears to corroborate patients' claims that pot helps them deal with the disease.

March 13: Mondovi, Wisconsin—Police raid the home of Jacki Rickert at 3:30 a.m. and seize a small amount of marijuana. Rickert, 49, who is wheelchair-bound and weighs 90 pounds, suffers from Ehlers-Danos syndrome and reflexive sympathetic dystrophy, bone and muscle diseases respectively. She smokes marijuana to ease her pain and strengthen her appetite. Rickert was promised but later denied entrance to the federal Investigative New Drug program, which distributes a tin of 300 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes to eight legally protected American citizens each month.

Rickert's daughter, Tammy, claims the police raid has left her mother a wreck. "She's tiny, frail," Tammy said. "She's not out to hurt anybody. She's trying to maintain some semblance of a quality of life. The marijuana, which the government pretty much told her she could use, helps a little. This whole thing is unbelievable."

March 16: New York City—An unarmed black security guard, Patrick Dorismond, is shot dead by undercover New York City police officers conducting a marijuana "buy-and-bust." Two plainclothes detectives approach Dorismond, asking if he will sell them "some weed." Dorismond rebuffs the men, a scuffle ensues, and a third officer, Anthony Vasquez, fires a single bullet into Dorismond's chest. No drugs or other contraband is found on Dorismond's body. The shooting is the third time in 13 months plainclothes New York City police officers kill an unarmed black man.

Under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, marijuana arrests have risen from 720 in 1992 to 59,945 in the first 11 months of 2000.

April 1: Canada's premier national newspaper, The National Post, editorializes in favor of an eventual legalization of marijuana: "Canada's police, judges, and prosecutors have better things to do with their time than track down those who produce and consume a substance no more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. We should begin the decriminalization of marijuana by immediately reducing the punishments that can be imposed for its possession to modest fines—and start thinking about how to regulate its use."

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