busted: america's war on marijuana


I started smoking pot in college. It was a group activity thing. The drug basically made me dumb. Dumb can be fun. Dumb, mellow, and generally at peace. Why did I smoke so much? At that time I was struggling with personal growth issues and frequently anxious. Getting stoned diminished my anxiety by retarding my conscious and unconscious drives. At least that is how I look at it now. Back then, there was this occasional craving and the inability to "say no" which had me stoned more than I liked. With a lot of effort and a little luck, I finally built up enough self-respect to stop sacrificing my potential with altered state adventures.

I think what happened to me was a shame against myself not a crime against the state. I did not hurt or steal from the state. I'm the victim. I do not feel any remorse for the people who sold or offered me pot. I had made the decision to participate freely. I do however feel remorse against society for having to hide my drug use, for fear of criminality, from the people who could have helped me control it better. A war on drugs cannot be won without the users themselves volunteering.

I think the state should decriminalize and concentrate it's effort helping the communities and families educate individuals of the real , not the "reefer madness" consequences of pot smoking.



I think the decriminalization of marijuana would be tantamount to signing our own death warrants.

I, for one, don't want to see: my surgeon mellowed out, the guy at the lab running my tests worrying about how his plants at home are doing, the foreman building the new bridge in town getting the munchies, the local law enforcement representative stoned out of his mind carrying a gun or every other driver coming at me having the giggles and doing everything but watching the road.

I realize this is going on now but think of how bad it would be if you could buy weed anytime anywhere?

And don't start with the retoric about how well it works in other countries, how many of those countries are world leaders and world powers? I wouldn't want the guy with his finger on the button mellowed out.

Dave Moore


Smoking pot is definitely a superior alternative to alcohol for me and while I have successfully curbed, and pretty much stopped my alcohol consumption, pot is my one vice that I care to retain.

I cannot truthfully say that I have not been handicapped by my habit but also believe that I am a better person and a happier one at that.

Life is full of choices and each person must be responsible for their own actions..

Marijuana smokers, I belive for the most part do take responsibility for their actions and to punish someone more harshly for a "personal" crime than a violent one, or even a "white collar" crime is ridiculous and inane and we need to rethink the laws.

John McCleary


A gateway to more illicit drugs is created in part due to the fact that kids and young adults are constantly told how dangerous marijuana is.

Upon experimenting with marijuana they find that it is not the evil that those in authority have told led them to beleive. This creates a lack of trust in the authority figures who have also told them that LSD, Heroin, Methamphetamines and other surely harmful drugs are. In short the kids feel like "if they lied to me about marijuana what else have they lied to me about?"

Daniel Hoxsey


Surveys regularly report that teens find marijuana easier to obtain than alcohol. That being the case, exactly what is marijuana prohibition prohibiting, anyway? Answer: Nothing.

In fact, an excellent case can be made that prohibition facilitates drug use. Alcohol is sold by known, licensed dealers who check IDs. Marijuana is sold by an unknown number of black market sellers who will sell anything to anybody. You can't control a black market. Prohibition gives the illusion of total control. In reality, it is no control at all.

Steve Wellcome


I don't feel comfortable releasing my name, but I just wanted to share my outrage at the extreme sentencing for drug possessors and distributors. Isn't there something in the Constitution about not implementing "cruel and unusual punishment"? This is not to say that I condone marijuana use. I have seen the deleterious effects on people I know. It takes away ambition and self-esteem. I have never used the stuff myself, and there will be no tolerance of its use in my family. As a parent, I am surprised that anyone with kids would risk the terrible consequences of family destruction. To me, the family and its concomitant responsibilities supersede any personal freedoms one should have the right to exercise. For better or for worse, the law is the law not that it can't or shouldn't be changed, and I think some of the people who were convicted unfortunately showed an extreme lack of judgment in putting their families on the line in the way they did.

Nevertheless,people like Orrin Hatch are truly insufferable. The level of hypocrisy among members of Congress never ceases to amaze and infuriate me! on many fronts I might add.


Maryrose Grossman


Why can't "our" government just leave its' citizens alone? The use of marijuana is not degrading this country. It is just a plant that gives you a good feeling without ill effect. Our law enforcement resources should be used elsewhere. The laws are a larger problem than the drug or the people the laws call criminals.

A person like Mr. Orin Hatch is an example of someone who fears what he has no first hand knowledge of and should not be deciding these laws. This is dangerous to my freedom and I am scared. Obviously locking up drug offenders has not worked. No lesson has been learned from the prohibition of alcohol. I expect eager law officers will be scanning these pages looking for the next victim of poorly thought out laws. What can we do????

DJ White
Keene, NH


as a young child i grew up with a father who smoked pot regularly. i guess he used to be pretty intelligent, but now his vocabulary does not extend past the words 'hey' and 'man.' although many people will say that marijuana use makes people more likely to become mellower, which was the case with my father, i know that he became paranoid of being caught and having his precious plants destroyed. this resulted in threats of violence toward loved ones if they ever ratted on him.

in cases of poorer families, not punishing drug users or being too lenient with them may result in families being torn apart, cause marijuana, along with alcohol and cigarettes, isn't cheap and if marijuana use is condoned, these people can continue to buy it and may spend their money on this rather than food or bills. of course, i'm not an expert on the deterance of use from being jailed, but my stepfather has confirmed my belief that this might scare people into discontinuing use or reducing it.

as a student in high school, i have had friends and know people who use this drug and in almost all cases it makes them very lazy and sometimes they come to school high. of course they feel that they need to make this known because it makes them seem so much cooler and rebellious so they act like idiots, stumbling around, red eyed and slurring their words. i do know one person who smokes marijuana and has kept her grades up. but then again i know tons more who drop out of school or used to be honor students, but started smoking marijuana, which led to their use of more drugs and eventually their dropping grades and loss of close friends.

portland, maine


Thank you Frontline for saying some of what needs to be said about the mass insanity which is called marijuana prohibition. I am an avid PBS watcher so the top quality of this presentation is no surprise to me.

It is heart wrenching to see prosecutors use the need of family oriented people to protect their children and spouse as a weapon in gaining plea agreements.

It is an Irony that the DARE officers were from Warsaw. Warsaw is a name burnt into the minds of the victims of another cultural cleansing agenda from WWII. Just like their counterparts in that hatefilled campaign these DARE officers utilize propaganda and the awesome power of the police state on innocent youth in their quest to weed out living evil and hide behind the simple phrase of "just following orders" when confronted with the damage that ensues.

I cry when I picture Meg Fosters tear stained face telling the tale of how she was leveraged into testifying against her better half. I clench my fists when I picture Orrin Hatche's emotionless call for a higher body count to call to his glory. I laugh at Mark Kleiman's call for more research, Nixon didn't accept positive research results why should Drug Czar McCaffrey if it doesn't please his purpose.

And finally I am nauseous because in this the country of my birth my prescription for Cannabis stands unfilled because my military service means nothing to those who would kill to send a strong message to children...


Michael Krawitz
Ironto, VA


If you break the law you should pay the price, its that simple. Pot is bad its that simple. Our youth begin with pot and move to more dangerous drugs, this has been proven time and time again. I am amazed that our Federal government has finally taken the correct steps on this issue. The Judges and the State courts have failed at punishment, therefore the Federal government should step in and require mandatory sentencing. If you dont break the law the consequences will not effect you!

Justin Forame
Stafford, TX


Even when government is justified in criminalizing a particular behavior, it is bad government to keep any law that itself causes more harm to society than the evil it's trying to cure.

These are laws that are impossible to enforce effectively: laws criminalizing sex between consenting adults, laws attempting to keep guns away from criminals by banning gun possession by ordinary citizens, laws against abortion in the first trimester, and laws criminalizing personal adult consumption or possession of mood altering drugs.

These are all laws with good moral intent, but largely ineffective, almost impossible and extremely expensive to enforce, and causing untold human misery in the attempt.

Eric Bram
Peoria, IL


After viewing the many responses already posted, all I can say is that I believe the outrage behind marijauna sales and useage is the fact that the government is not seeing any money for these transactions. Instead, they are watching many hard-working middle class citizens, who without black market marijauna sales, would just be "getting by."

That screws up the heirachy in this supposedly "free" country.

Medicinal Marijauna is another argument altogether. A close friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer a couple years ago.

She was 24 years old, and 6 months pregnant

with her 2nd child. Although she smoked marijauna during her late-teens, she had quit

for good when she became pregnant with her first child.

Yet after going through her first set of treatments, she began smoking again. And as a result, the cancer has been beaten and she's been in remission for over 9 months. Her doctor said that marijauna was a major contributiong factor in her recovery. She managed to keep her weight up despite massive amounts of radiation and chemotherapy.

I am actually against marijauna being legalized. This is because I feel the Government does not deserve any revenue off something they've deemed as "evil" for the

past 20 years plus. They have orphaned innocent children, gone against the constitution, torn apart families, and wasted

billions of dollars fighting this "dangerous"

plant. Alcohol is far more dangerous and destructive. Yet it is legal, and why?

Because the Government makes billions of dollars off it. Maybe more.

I choose not to smoke marijauna. But I am in full support of those who choose to do so. God put every plant, mineral, animal or otherwise on this planet for a purpose.

And I can't believe that a rapist, if even convicted, will spend far less time imprisoned than a person who has been caught with possession or distribution of marijauna.

Does that make you feel safe?

Charlotte, NC


It seems evident that the mandatory sentencing isn't working not surprising considering the small minds that thought it would be a deterient. DARE, based on scare tactics, is another candidate for the bone pile. I really don't want police befriending my child and holding themselves as examples of what my child should aspire to.

Thanks for program that brings to the fore a major problem our society is facing....a hangover from the '80's presidency. Smoke and mirrors is what Hollywood is about and we are still suffering for its product. To all the good citizens of Utah...please take a good look at Orrin Hatch. Do you really want someone who mouths the bromides I heard last night representing you? Very sad...

Jim Knutson


Regarding my self-outing as both cannabis consumer and cultivator, I cannot tell a lie. Three powerful influences daily affect my behavior. First, "a maligned vision of history," George Washington chopping cherry trees and not hemp, incites my civic duty to correct our misinformed cultural foundation. Next, "a lurking sense of inexorable injury" excites my social efforts to sidestep catastrophe with double-dare-honest education. Lastly, "a good hit off the homegrown" every now and then simply does wonders to revitalize the spirit, let me tell you.

A dozen years of dirt under the nails put me somewhere between parvenu and professional. With a degree in engineering and not botany, its just a hobby of mine - what I do, not what I am. However, if you agree that experience fosters credibility, then please consider the rehabilitation of this flowering founding father beyond my short, obviously cannabinoid-addled, appeal. After study and deliberation I do believe standards of public safety will not suffer and, in fact, standards of living will actually improve.

Describing American hemp prohibition - Grohibition, I call it - as an "island of insanity" insults the insane. Lifetime prison terms for shouting "Hes got nothing on!" leave the emperor still showing his nakedness. As the lock-step letter of the law marches over liberties, as taxpayer resources fund the extermination of a plant and its human sympathizers, as the "lucky" incarcerations of medical martyrs Will Foster and Todd McCormick re-illuminate the "unlucky" killings of Donald Scott, Gary Shepherd, and Scott Bryant, let us not forget that the price of zero-tolerance paranoia - I fear, so you suffer - includes the itchy trigger finger as well as the jailers key.

Yet zero-tolerance brings this story around to cancer. God willing I enjoy this fall my fourth year as a survivor of a metastatic testicular seminoma. At the time of prognosis my surgeon, oncologist, and most importantly wife shared one clear feeling on the matter: just say no to procrastinating with a life-threatening disease. My momentary poster-boy PSA, apt for everybody: sudden painless swelling is BAD. Check it out while you can.

In time health was restored with the help of strong faith, good people, and modern technology all pulled together in time of need. Not entirely the dunce, it occurs to me this same therapy might deal with another impersonal, life-threatening growth I know, and as with any war, information technology often proves the most valuable propaganda weapon for reaching good people. "Frontline" exposure of my example could potentially overturn decades of misinformation, sixty fields per second striking at the root of fear - ignorance.

You dont coddle cancer just because its yours - this senseless, aberrant War against Creation must be stopped. Its high time we look at big prison-state government and think "sudden, painless swelling." Like cannabis, self-examination cannot be administered in toxic doses.

April 1998

"Remember this, my friends, there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators." Victor Hugo

Doug Keenan
Noblesville, IN


while last night's program was certainly provocative, it was lacking in substantial information about the health effects of marijuana. Without a clear understanding of the "protective" need for such draconian measures as lifetime incarceration, the effect of your reporting was to accentuate the overtly political nature of our current and past drug laws. The closed-minded prattling of sen. hatch was but the 1998 version of the presumed "threat to democracy" solecism that has been used by politicians in this country to justify a decidely un-democratic social morality.

The irony of your reporting was the portrayal of the incarcerated as "normal" middle-Americans, who love their families and try to be productive citizens. I hope that these would be the same people that are deserving of the "truths we hold to be self-evident."



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