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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Society's view on 'pot' is changing

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

If you hadn't heard, the city of Columbia on election day approved a first-of-its-kind law for Missouri that allows for the medical use of marijuana inside the city limits. Since Columbia is home to the University of Missouri, interest in the measure goes far beyond the Columbia city limits.

Voters also approved a companion measure that puts marijuana possession at the lowest priority for law enforcement - similar to a traffic fine.

The national struggle to ease penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana has been ongoing for years. A handful of states have approved measures putting "pot" at the bottom of the law enforcement ladder but Columbia is a first in Missouri.

What's interesting to me about the Columbia vote is the across-the-board support the measure attracted. Both pot referendums gained well over 60 percent approval with the medical exception nearing the 70 percent approval mark. Those are substantial numbers regardless of the proposal.

I certainly could be wrong but it seems to me the national sentiment is that marijuana falls well below crack cocaine or methamphetamine in the war on drugs. Crimes associated with drug use involve the "harder" drugs much more than marijuana. And the question of medical use for marijuana is gaining support in many areas.

With the court system overloaded with drug cases, many areas are trying to focus on the drugs that create the bulk of the crime and hardships. Marijuana rarely falls into that category.

Drug rehab clinics don't handle marijuana cases - they handle meth and crack cases. And there remains a heated national debate concerning whether marijuana is a "gateway" drug that leads to additional drug use.

Regardless of the facts, emotions play a role in this debate. I would imagine that in the coming years, more states and more municipal governments will take the approach under way in Columbia. Changing our attitudes is not an admission of defeat in the war on drugs. Changing attitudes is an admission that our limited resources should be focused on the real problem drugs. Today that means a focus on crack and meth. There really is little debate over these facts.

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