Politics & Government

Letter: Countering Ocean City Prosecutor's Stance On Marijuana

Dr. Steven Fenichel pens a response to a recent editorial by the Ocean City Prosecutor.

To the Editor:

Recently the Ocean City Prosecutor was given the privilege to write his thoughts on marijuana in the largest newspaper in South Jersey. He used his allotted space to demonize Cannabis, and the attempts made to legalize it.

Seventeen years ago, on Nov. 9, 2000, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz and myself went head to head arguing for and against legalization of marijuana. Regrettably the same arguments supporting prohibition have not changed from 17 years ago, as seen by the Ocean City Prosecutor's thoughts.

However, two major changes since 2000 are the number of America's prisoners has escalated from 1.5 million to 2.3 million with the same percentage of drug prisoners being 33 percent of its total population, according to a recent report on prisonpolicy.org.

The other difference is that many states have legalized medical marijuana, and nine states have voted to legalize it for recreational use. In New Jersey, Governor Elect Phil Murphy has pledged to allow recreational use making us truly the Garden State.

The problem is Attorney General Sessions refuses to respect the laws of those state, and is maintaining the fear of federal agents making arbitrary arrests of patients and users.

The Ocean City Prosecutor's latest commentary was filled with unsubstantiated medical assertions such as: "Pot is a Schedule I drug because of its high potential for harm."

The truth is that when Alcohol Prohibition was ended, the Alcohol Czar at the time, Harry Anslinger, needed to justify his budget. Cannabis use was mainly confined to Mexicans, and by making it a Schedule I Controlled Substance — the same as heroin — Anslinger's Prohibition Warriors were back in business. Arresting, and imprisoning Mexicans was in full swing, and without any concern by the majority of ordinary Americans or the politicians. It is a racist and class war on African Americans, and Hispanics.

"African-Americans make up 14 percent of New Jersey's overall population, they make up more than 50 percent of the state's prison population," the report said. "African-Americans are also nearly three times as likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana in New Jersey than whites, even though more whites generally report using marijuana than African Americans."

In my view, Schedule I is all about politics, and nothing to do with a "high potential for harm." New Jersey Appellate Judge Guadagno stated on Oct. 31, 2017, "the state should at least consider removing the drug from its list of the most dangerous controlled substances," according to NJ Law Journal.

The Ocean City Prosecutor claims that "an overwhelming percentage of drug addicts started out smoking pot. A senior probation officer said pot is 'socially addictive'." This unfounded assertion based on the observation of someone whose livelihood depends on maintaining Prohibition is meaningless. Continuing with unfounded assertions he states: "Pot use often leads to meth or cocaine use, which often leads to heroin use."

Scientists long ago abandoned the idea that marijuana causes users to try other drugs: as far back as 1999. In a report commissioned by Congress to look at the possible dangers of medical marijuana, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences wrote: "…There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."

People who work in the criminal justice system have a vested interest in demonizing Cannabis. According to a recent report, "NJ state spending on corrections has jumped from $241 million in 1985 to over $1 billion in 2015." Affordable housing, healthcare, transportation and education are a more constructive use of limited resources.

America today has more than 2.3 million prisoners, many of whom are Black and Hispanic non-violent drug offenders. How does the fact that America incarcerates more people per capita than any nation in the world square with the myth that we live in a land of freedom where people may pursue life, liberty and happiness?
Andre Gide, French author gives me the best insight to the drug warriors: "The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity. They have told themselves so many rational lies about their deception, that they deceive even themselves."

Those who lose track of their hypocrisy, especially who begin to consider it virtuous, are the most dangerous hypocrites of all. Alas, when it comes to consensual crimes, they are the most prevalent form.

Sincerely,
Steven Fenichel, MD
Ocean City resident

Patch file photo

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