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Posted Apr 20, 2010, 6:27 pm
About 200 marijuana advocates marched through the streets of Tucson on Tuesday in an effort to raise public awareness and encourage legalization of the drug.
The government has told "75 years of profound lies" about marijuana and “people are seeing through that,” said Jon Gettel, director of AZ4Norml, a nonprofit organization created to educate the public about the value of medicinal cannabis, the safety of recreational marijuana and the importance of industrial hemp.
"Some people have a relative who’s gotten better [due to using marijuana] . . . or someone who smoked a joint after a hard day feels better . . . responsibly, of course.”
Tucson’s version of the 12th annual World Marijuana March, organized by AZ4Norml, began near Plummer and Broadway and had activists travel several blocks to Cheba Hut at Sixth Street and Campbell Avenue. Live music, food, prize giveaways and a dunk tank were waiting. AZ4Norml is funded by donations from its nearly 1,400 members in Arizona.
California, New Mexico and Nevada are among 14 states that have already legalized medical marijuana, with nearly 14 others contemplating the same through legislation and the ballot box, Gettel said. He added that legalization could create a taxable product, which in turn could generate much needed funding for the state.
“Take the revenue and use it for drug treatment, education for kids – an honest education, though,” he said.
Irving Lozano, who said he was corporal in the United States Army who trained Mexican Federal Officers, said while legalization of marijuana could stem border violence, it will simply elevate the use of other drugs.
“What will happen is other drugs such as methamphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy will all become more popular," he said.
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However he agrees with Gettel and Tucson native Florintino Bedoya about the possible income.
“One of the good things that came come out of it, is that we can use that money that is taxed to pay off some of the national debt. But it needs to be regulated by the government because private corporations can be easily corrupted and then instead of a foreign cartel, it will be a local one.”
Ironically, Gettel said, the government is to blame when people jump from pot to harder drugs. When they discover that, despite what they've been told, marijuana's effects are relatively mild, they think other drugs – such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin – might also not be as dangerous as they've been told.
“They think the government is lying about the harder drugs, so they try them. That’s what we have to fight. With the overdoses of prescription drugs out of sight, we can devote resources to help people.”
Gettel said once the excitement of pot goes away, teens will stop using it.
“What we’ve seen, especially in California, who has had marijuana legalized the longest of any state, is teen use has gone down.”
Tucson resident Jeff Davis said, “Look at the alcohol and tobacco and look at how many deaths they’re causing. Weed has never been known to cause cancer. They need to concentrate on meth, cocaine and heroin. No one has ever smoked a joint and then killed somebody. Get meth tubes out of certain locations. That’s what’s killing America, not marijuana.”
Bedoya said that there are several benefits to legalizing the drug.
“First, you can tax it, which will give more money to agencies that need it. Secondly, it could help stop the violence in Mexico with the cartels.”
More than 500 people, including a United States consulate employee and his pregnant wife, have been murdered this year due to the rising violence over drugs in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, near the Texas border. Closer to Tucson, in Nogales, Sonora, the number of people murdered this year due to drug related incidents doubled that of 2006 and 2007 combined.
Gettel said, like alcohol in the prohibition era, millions of dollars and lives could be saved by legalizing the drug and regulating it as opposed to making it a multi-billion dollar empire to cartels.
“That’s really why it’s so important to end the marijuana prohibition. We have done everything possible. It’s now time to try something different.”