Rick Steves - ACLU Joins Forces for Pot Law Reform

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 02/15/2008 - 6:17pm.

Travel guru Rick Steves wants America to take a cue from Europe and start talking seriously about marijuana.

Too many lives, according to Steves, are ruined by criminal penalties associated with pot possession, and too much law enforcement and too many court resources are tied up focusing on cannabis as a legal problem instead of a health issue.

Steves, who built his Edmonds travel business into a nationally known television show with travel books and tours, is now taking his marijuana message to the masses, too.

Wednesday, together with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Steves introduced a half-hour infomercial-style program he hosts called "Marijuana: It's Time for a Conversation." The program is available on Comcast on Demand, and promoters hope it will soon debut on local television stations.

Steves is a board member for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and has spoken openly in support of decriminalizing marijuana for five years, including during Seattle's annual Hempfest.

"Our government's war on drugs sounds very tough and results-driven, but all it really succeeds at is being enormously expensive, tearing families apart and treating nonconformists as criminals," said Steves. He compared marijuana laws to alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and urged differentiating between soft and hard drugs.

The campaign kicks off in the Puget Sound area, where Steves and the ACLU expect it will find a receptive audience. In 2003, Seattle voters overwhelmingly supported an initiative that made arrests and prosecution for personal marijuana use the lowest law enforcement priority.

"Washington state has a strong history of being on the leading edge of this issue, it is a good testing ground for the campaign," said Alison Chinn Holcomb, director of the Marijuana Education Project for the Washington ACLU.

Nationally, $7.5 billion is spent annually for marijuana law enforcement, with 830,000 arrested each year, according to ACLU research. In Washington, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor and carries a minimum sentence of one day in jail, and a $250 fine for the first offense.

"Is it fair to impose these penalties on adults who want to use marijuana in the privacy of their homes?" Steves asked. "In Europe, people smoke marijuana, and nobody is facing hard time. We just want to talk about new policies."

  

by Kathy Mulady -  P-I reporter - February 13, 2008 posted at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 02/15/2008 - 6:17pm.