American Morning

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April 13th, 2009
12:25 PM ET

Commentary: Legalize drugs

Economist Jeffrey Miron says legalization of drugs makes more sense than prohibition.

Economist Jeffrey Miron says legalization of drugs makes more sense than prohibition.

By Jeffrey A. Miron
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University.

The CNN story that provided the hook for my debate with former DEA official Robert Guttman might appear at first glance to make a convincing case against legalizing drugs like heroin or cocaine; the story recounts the tragic death of a teenager from heroin use. Read the story

In fact, the story illustrates perfectly why legalization makes more sense than prohibition, even for hard drugs.

The incident recounted in the story occurred under current policy: prohibition did not prevent this teenager from using heroin.

As the story emphasized, moreover, heroin prices have fallen dramatically over the past several decades to the point where heroin is available in a relatively pure form at prices most teenagers can afford. This shows that government anti-drug policies have been a dismal failure, since the express purpose of those policies is to raise drug prices and reduce use. Federal and state government have spent hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to enforce prohibition, yet availability and purity are higher than ever while price is at record lows.

Thus prohibition has failed to accomplish its stated goals, and it generates enormous negative side effects.

Counterpoint – Drug legalization: "A great idea whose time has not come!"

One side effect is violence and corruption, as recent events in Mexico illustrate dramatically. In underground markets, participants resolve disputes with guns because they cannot use lawyers or advertising.

A second side effect is accidental poisonings and overdoses, since quality control in underground markets is difficult. In a legal market, potentially dangerous substances come with purity clearly indicated. This does not prevent all overdoses, since some users make poor decisions about how much to consume, but it allows responsible user to avoid excessive consumption.

The prohibitionist view of human nature is that if a potentially dangerous substance like heroin were legal, huge numbers of people would use it a way that harmed themselves and others.

No evidence validates this view. Yes, some people would misuse drugs if they were legal, but most of those people are misusing drugs now. Overall, most people try to avoid stupid or irresponsible risks, whether the substance is legal or prohibited. The difference is therefore the ancillary consequences of the legal regime imposed, and on that criterion prohibition is a disaster.

Vote! Should drugs be legal in the U.S.?


Filed under: Controversy • Drugs
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Open Your Eyes

    When are the people in this country going to wake up???? What does the constitution state?? We the people right??? Not as long as we let the political people keep running things. Get rid of the problem. The government, IRS and all the corrupt evil people that keep taking away our rights. Now look at the country are we living in a free country NO!!! We have all of our rights taken away from us daily and what do we do about it??? Stand up people open your eyes to what we have left here before it is too late. Our country is more of a communistic country than anywhere else in the world. They have taken away our religion in schools, our right to speak, our thoughts. They want to put IR chips in everyone to track our moves, tracking our cell phones so they know our whereabouts at all times. Make us work like slaves just to barely survive. Tax us that didn't have enough money to have food, heat, hot water in our homes. When IRS is an agency that was hired by the government to collect taxes and its also stated that paying taxes is not a law but an option. What else will happen if we don't stand up. You don't see people missing work when they smoke pot. How many of you called out of work because you are hung over?? How many accidents and lives has alcohol caused? How many people get into fights or killed during an argument while drinking??? OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE!!! Quit being just a stupid flock of sheep. Quit putting people in jail that were not hurting anyone cause they smoke pot or maybe they sold some pot just to put food on their table. This world is going to see more a more people doing illegal things trying to survive. I know someone that was put in jail for aggravated stalking but has never paid the restitution nor paid probation in the past 6 years. This person raped someone beat them and they did almost a year and took the plea given. They paid only $100 in the past 6 yrs and walked out. The victim has never received any more money and called both states for assistance to get what little is owed. Judge gave him work release and he escaped. Every time he has violated probation and every time the punishment has gotten easier and he has came back or contacted the victim. Now who is more dangerous a person that has sold a bag of weed to someone or a violent man that has escaped from jail, caught fleeing from the law, raped, threw them through a wall and gave them a disease that has tragically changed their life forever, Look around you at all the free sex offenders living on your street. But its OK that they are free and you put someone in jail for selling, buying or using drugs. Now what kind of government is this?? God put marijuana on this earth. Where do you think a lot of our pharmaceutical drugs come from? Natural plants. But its all about money here. A chemist that had made a cure for cancer was told by the government if he didn't take his cure for cancer of the market he would never get a USDA or FDA approval on his products again. OPEN YOUR EYES!! OR CONTINUE TO BE SHEEP...

    April 25, 2009 at 1:50 am |
  2. Nicholas Payne

    The professor is from Harvard, so let's take Boston. 63 murders in 2008, of which about 25 were drug and gang related. Most are not and never will be solved, because of witness intimidation. For instance in 2007 a man was shot dead on a city bus. 60 people saw it happen, none would talk to the police. So we have a large section of a major city in a country which prides itself on the rule of law where one can murder with almost complete impunity. This situation might apply to 10% of the country ie. 30 million people which happens to be the population of Afghanistan where with much ballyhoo we are trying to impose the rule of law. The Europeans are reluctant to help. They are too polite to say it, but we should put our own house in order first. Drug legalisation would immediately put an end to the 3,000 to 5,000 drug related murders in the US every year, never mind Mexico. True most of these murders do not happen in leafy suburbs, so do not receive the attention of even the Mexican murders, but the tears of the mothers are just as bitter

    April 17, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Ervin from NC

    I wish CNN would call the drug war what it is – a prohibition, with resulting violence, organized crime, corruption of law enforcement and politicians, etc...and call the drug warriors to task for supporting the chaos of prohibition.

    April 17, 2009 at 8:14 am |
  4. D

    Marijuana is nowhere near as damaging as Alcohol or Prescriptions drugs. Legalize It!

    April 17, 2009 at 6:46 am |
  5. lyle diamond

    Make drugs Legal : I do not use drugs even it was legal I would not do drugs .I know drugs are bad but who are we kidding that by making it illegal we can control it ,does anyone really believe that.
    The issues, murders, gangs, corruption are much worst than the drugs themselves. The only way to control drugs is to make it legal.Every time we make a major drug bust we take out someone's competition making them richer .If we could keep 50% of the drugs from coming in this country instead of the 3% we stop now that would make it even more profitable a business .Why can't people understand that the way to put out of business the gangs ,mafia,street pushers,the murders in Mexico and here in the US is to control the flow of drugs in the US by making it legal .We can control where it comes from ,who gets it ,the price we sell it for and than we would have money for education against drugs ,treatment facility's .
    We would have less murders ,less criminals ,less drug activity and less crime overall .Lets get smart think outside the box

    April 17, 2009 at 3:47 am |
  6. CSTEWART

    Legalize – just like other "bad" human things such as sugar and alcohol. Our government should NOT be spending money in this area.

    April 16, 2009 at 9:33 pm |
  7. Chelsey Dingledine

    ignorant people: you have to do your reseach- if you walk in a movie at the end your going to see the ending you don't know how it ended up that way its like marijuana if you do your reseach and don't believe the govenment (there not on your side by the way) youll find out that its illegal because it made alchol controled by the federal govenment lost big money they don't care about you they care about your money thats why its illegal despite whatever you hear which is just wasting your tax money
    marijuana is very safe you can drive just fine youll feel peaceful and happy experiencing things like movies and music will be so much better food will taste better you will come up with good ideas like google your dreams will be so nice and after it wares off thats it you won't suffer from any "long term effects" its not a gateway drug if someone switches to somthing hard its their own road to self destruction if it was legal people wouldn't want to make a transistion to bigger cheaper more avalible things if it was avalible like alchol people would just stay on it
    people in rehab for marijuana arnt there cause they want to be they were forced to be by the govenment
    people in there for alchol they are trying to get there life back together but they really cant fix the terrible things they did before my friend cassies dad used to be an alcholic hes off it now but she still never feels cofortable around him
    bottom line legalizing marijuana would benifit everyone except the govenment and its supporters (mindless pupets)

    April 16, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  8. Randy

    Melissa, it's great that you are in recovery, hope that continues to go well. But here's a thought. Could it be possible that you may never have started using in the first place if the easy "street" or black market availability hadn't been there? If this stuff were legal through the medical system and with medical oversight, people would choose the legal alternative, eventually shutting down the black market which so readily provided you with the commodity you sought. In addition, most responsible physicians would be in a great position to present valid medical information to patients that would perhaps persuade them to either hold off or seek a more acceptable alternative. People have shown over decades and worldwide that their determination ability to obtain drugs from sources willing to provide them is not deterred by any legal status of these drugs. Do you truly believe that any amount of stepped up enforcement of current laws will ultimately make any more difference? My money says no. The tactics used to wage the war on drugs need to change. As radical as some still believe it is, our drug problems continue to exist and corresponding black markets continue to thrive (note the recent addition of a cartel member to the Forbe's List) simply due to prohibition. When enough people realize that illegal drugs can't possibly become any more available to our citizens than they are now under the current system of "control" and enforcement (black market controls now), the government is going to have to address this issue honestly as well. In my opinion, there at the very least, needs to be a comprehensive honest dialogue started between the government and we the people about this issue. We want a viable solution as well.

    April 16, 2009 at 9:07 am |
  9. Melissa

    iam a recovering drug addict, and no legalization shouldn't happen. These substances change you , they can destroy lives. I dont care if the gov. tries to regulate the potency or not , addiction will skyrocket.It took me 15 years of using to finally go to rehab and get sober. If they legalize drugs we will see many lives destroyed, children neglected, and alot of miserable addicts walking around. I wouldnt wish that on my worst enemy, mind altering substances are just that mind altering.If legalized we are telling our children , its ok to not feel anything, just numb yourself with legal drugs.....Not a good idea. Addiction happens to all types of people, and the hardest people to get clean are those who say "well, I have a prescription so its ok," or " it's legal, whats the big deal?" Alcoholism is a prime example, due to the social acceptability of the substance. Educate yourself on addiction and you may think again .....

    April 16, 2009 at 8:25 am |
  10. Randy

    Ditto to most. Legalization and distribution through our medical system in conjunction with a serious revamping of the "hit list" (Schedule of Controlled Substances) would take these drugs off of black market shelves. The government could manufacture and regulate as they do with alcohol and tobacco, which prove to be tougher to obtain by our youth than any other drug. Prohibition and it's laws have been proven a failed system over and over throughout history. If not legalization, then we the people are still waiting (now over 70 years), for a viable alternative. And the silence is deafening.

    April 16, 2009 at 7:48 am |
  11. John

    Drug laws create drug lords

    If the words ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on. – Terence McKenna

    “Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded” -Abraham Lincoln

    “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.” -Thomas Jefferson

    “The oppressed should rebel, and they will continue to rebel and raise disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them and all partial distinctions, exclusions and incapacitations are removed.”
    – Thomas Jefferson, 1776

    These substances have not always been shunned like they are now. They have been illegal for about 1% of human history. Hemp was used for thousands of products before it was illegal to grow. The plant can be used to make fiber, biodegradable plastic, fuel, paper, medicine, and even food. Hemp has had a mayor involvement with human history. Entire wars were fought over hemp. At one point in our U.S. history, it was illegal not to grow hemp. Hemp was even used as currency at one time.

    The ancient cultures have involved themselves with these substances for a long time. They play a part in their society. These cultures are not extinct. Many still continue to use them in their way of life. Some villages survive on the coco plant, and others use peyote in tribal rituals. No matter how a person views these substances, there is no doubt that they have played and continue to play a large roll in our global culture..

    By 1839, cannabis hemp products for fiber, paper, nautical use, lamp oil, food, etc., were possibly the largest agricultural and industrial businesses in America and, of course, throughout the world, the hundreds of medical uses of cannabis (known for thousands of years in the Orient and Middle East) were still almost entirely unknown in much of Western Europe and America because of the earlier Medieval Catholic Church’s suppression.
    From 1850 to 1937, cannabis was used as the prime medicine for more than 100 separate illnesses or diseases in U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
    By the start of the 20th century almost four generations of Americans had been using cannabis. Virtually everyone in this country was familiar from childhood on with the “highs” of cannabis extract – yet doctors did not consider it habit forming, anti-social or violent at all, after 60 years of use.

    Governments make laws against substances that have been a part of human culture for thousands of years. There will always be an underground market that generates billions for drug lords. No drug laws equal no drug lords. Using a drug should be a choice. The health consequences should be the only concern for the person using it. Why should we suffer with jail time, fines, restrictions, and many other hassles that make our lives that much harder to live. We need to get a hold of our rights. These laws make it harder for a society to function. Governments take control of peoples lives when its the people who should be in control of their lives. Wake up and take control. Educate yourself.

    Read “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer

    April 16, 2009 at 4:14 am |
  12. Austinite

    The fact that Marijuana is illegal is truly laughable. My grandmother was dying of cancer and could find no synthetic pain relief that did not make her incoherent and sick. I talked her into trying marijuana which I baked in some cookies for her. It was the only thing that gave her relief, comfort, and joy in her last days. How could you argue with that?

    April 15, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  13. Tyler

    PLEASE legalize drugs. It is well overdue. As long as these drugs are illegal, we will have underground drug markets where the CRIMINALS make all the money. Why do we want to continue to feed our criminals cold, hard cash, when the government could be using all that money to build roads, bridges, schools, etc.? It just makes no sense.

    And please, get these damn DEA guys off of your show. Think about it – if drugs are legalized, what are they going to do for a living? Their jobs are at stake! Conflict of interest? I think so.

    They come on to CNN and LIE to you. They say that if drugs are legalized, then 12 year olds will be smoking pot and walking past meth dealers on their way to school.

    First of all, if the government sells the drug CHEAPER (which is very possible, unlike the DEA agents told you, since the CRIMINALS turn a huge profit off drug sales), these drug dealers will have no business. Why would they buy it from criminals (illegally) when they could buy it from the government (legally), much like people do with alcohol today?

    Secondly, I'm a high school student, and it is very hard for me to get alcohol (a legal drug), which it is extremely easy for me to obtain marijuana, or even heroin! If drugs are made legal, we will certainly place an age restriction on them (probably 18 or 21), and it will be the same thing as buying alcohol today. You will need a valid ID to purchase the drug, unlike today where you can find some dealer where a 12 year old could buy it.

    Prohibition simply makes no sense. All it does is promote corruption and profit opportunities for criminals and gangs. It is estimated that our percentage of marijuana use is almost DOUBLE that of Holland, where marijuana is LEGAL. It is also shown that drug use has gone UP since it has become ILLEGAL.

    I cannot stress enough how wrong some of these people on CNN are. They have been lying to us for centuries, and will continue to lie to us to protect their jobs. DON'T LET THEM. Let your government know that we will not tolerate this nonsense anymore!

    April 15, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  14. Average Joe

    This should not be a debate over whether any drugs are good or bad. This should be a debate about our basic rights to choose what we do or do not do with our own bodies. I have no right to tell anyone how to live their lives nor does anyone have the right to tell me how to live mine.We all have the right to decide the fates of only one person...ourselves...period. You can try to teach your children your philosophies of life but in the end it is still up to them to choose their path.
    Under the constitution we are supposed to be free to choose our own path in life, so long as we do not infringe upon someone elses rights.We are not supposed to make laws based on "what if's".A perfect example of this thinking is the DUI laws..."We need to remove these drunk drivers from the highways before they hurt or kill someone". Excuse me for pissing in your wheaties this morning but.....Until those drunks have actually injured someone or someones property...NO CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITED! Read your Constitution people...no injury or loss of property....no crime.
    The biggest problem that we have in this country is a Federal Government that has run amok.....they have their hands in the tills of every major corporation in the world and since those corporations aren't handing out that money with no expectaions of our government to "help them out" in the future...they are catered to upon request.. Drugs are illegal for a variety of reasons:
    1. The drug manufacturers aren't making a profit. They cant patent mother nature.
    2. Law enforcement gets huge Federal Handouts to combat a immagined "WAR"on Drugs.....when actually it is a War on rights and liberties.
    3. The Prison system gets huge subsidies from the Feds to keep those people locked up...approximately 40k per inmate per year.(I don't know about you, But I have a decent life on the outside for under 30k per year....so why does it take more to support people behind bars who supposedly have less than we do?)
    Keeping it illegal will continue to support all of those things mentioned above. Not to mention the millions of families and lives that have been ruined because of this thinking!
    Let's face it folks, there will always be those that will use drugs and no amount of laws can possibly change that fact anymore than the War on Terror will work....somewhere in this world.....someone is gonna be angry ...about something. We cannot dictate peoples thought processes......we are all different and we all believe differently.
    Passing a law cannot and will not change that fact....learn this, deal with it and get over our "moral selves". People are people and they are not always going to agree...period. So grow up and stop trying to make the world a better place to live by micro-managing our "RIGHTS". To Micro-manage rights, is to take these rights away. I for one am not giving my rights up without a fight!!!!!!!

    April 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  15. Living Proof

    I have used marijuana all most on a daily basis for over the past thirty years. I have a very successful business, a wonderful wife and relationship. I have two children in collage that doesn't even use tobacco. I all so have a fear of getting caught. I use marijuana as my evening martini. I don't use alcohol, or any other drug. I consider myself an average American. Give the average American a break. Legalize personal use now. God Bless

    April 15, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  16. Richard L

    They say the reason drugs are illegal is because they are dangerous.
    Has any one listened to all the warnings on the drugs they are trying to sell on TV... Then it's about kids... no one is saying kids should do drugs, they're saying for adults, regulate it... here where I live parents give their kids alcohol which kills more people than all the illegal drugs combined... I've lived in Amsterdam and they have almost no hard drug problem and a very small use by kids... it's all about the drug companies... the cops could be used to fight terrorist and secure our boarders instead of chasing sick people... Like prison is a lot safe than smoking marijuana, more likely to be killed and raped in prison,

    April 15, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  17. The Thinker

    Soon it will be time for my 30 year HS reunion, just to give you an idea of how long I've watched this insane policy not work. It is clear to me that there are forces other than logic and reason at play here, otherwise the failed policy of prohibition would have been done away with a long time ago. What's really sad is that the drugs are better and easier to get today than they were 30 years ago.

    The best thing that could happen in America would be for the news organizations to quit trying to suck up to those in power and start acting like responsible journalists and challenge some of the indefensible policies and outright lies that our government has foisted upon us. I don't need my news to entertain me, I need it to inform me, but the news outlets all think that I need to see the latest train wreck/car crash/high speed chase instead of something that impacts my life. Yes, CNN is just as guilty as the rest of the them, every time I see a headline about a celebrity divorce/beating/dui, I have less respect for your news operation.

    What's missing from the equation is an open dialog on the subject of prohibition. This issue will not move forward until we can talk about it openly in public without being ridiculed or laughed at. Even president Obama snickered when he had to address the question that was the one that the most people wanted to hear an honest answer to.

    I can't remember which comedian pointed this out, I believe it may have been Jon Stewart, but consider this: Our last 3 presidents are on the record as having at least tried marijuana, does that mean by extension that marijuana is a gateway drug to the presidency?

    April 15, 2009 at 3:14 am |
  18. Realist

    Let's see... When alcohol was prohibited, what was the result? A huge black market appeared. Criminals organized to maximize their share of the black market. Alcohol cartels got a lot of money and they used it to corrupt government and law enforcement.

    Conflicts between organized crime groups resulted in lot of violence. Assassinations and drive-by shootings on public streets were not unusual.

    Some consumers of illegal alcohol died as a result of the lack of any quality controls.

    As always, the market forces worked the way they always do, but since the commodity was illegal, guess who made all the money? It was capitalism working just the way it is supposed to.

    But drugs are different! Oh really?

    Read the above replacing the word "alcohol" with "drugs" and see if it doesn't describe the current situation. Actually it is worse. The criminals have been able to intimidate and bribe to the point that they basically control some countries.

    We had alcohol prohibition as a great learning opportunity and we have apparently learned nothing.

    April 15, 2009 at 12:29 am |
  19. Boka

    Of course Drugs should be legalized. What's more important. – finding and arresting Someone doing drugs in there house or using the same police to find a child abductor, arresting car theives and keeping burglaries from happening?

    People should think for themselves.

    April 14, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  20. Marc

    One thing I keep seeing in these comments is the confusion between drug use and drug abuse.

    Is a person who comes home from work and has a beer a "drug abuser"? How is he different from a person who comes home after work and smokes a joint? Drug abusers constitute a small percentage of users, just as alcoholics constitute a small percentage of people who consume alcohol.

    The so–called "hard drugs" can be used responsibly. All it takes is a decision to not use them excessively. There are people with poor self-control who can become habituated to anything pleasurable. Most people want to enjoy their lives without becoming dependent on a drug.

    If we continue to stereotype drug users as society's losers, we're not seeing reality. Most of us, as adults, use some form of recreational drug. The fact that alcohol and tobacco are legal makes them no less addictive and dangerous. That danger lies in abuse, as it does with all recreational drugs.

    April 14, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  21. Sensible

    What will it take to get the Government to wake up?

    The "PROHO" (prohibitionist) menallity must be examined!

    They want to put people in jail.
    especially if the person has dark skin.

    They want to dictate our rights.
    We are free to do what we are told.

    They like to lie and lie and lie and lie.................
    Refer Madness, gateway theory, "This is your brain on drugs".

    They find self worth in spouting diinformation rather than learning truth.
    "Just say No" "If you use drugs you are a terrorist" "anything said by the ONDCP" "We need the DEA to make us safer" "Homeland Security is going to protect us from the Terrorist"

    I hope we are seeing this society grow up and that we can end these PROHO pollicies and take our Freedoms and Liberties back!

    April 14, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  22. findgold

    Tea Party time

    April 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  23. Paul Cooper

    I am not personally a user of cannabis though many years ago in my youth during and after my service in Vietnam I was a regular user.
    Unlike others, I am very lucky not to have been caught and suffer a permanent criminal record as a result.
    Over the years, the public was led to believe that cannabis caused death, brain damage, psychosis and loss of will resulting in horrific criminal acts.
    Through education, we now know none of these dire predictions were likely or even realistic. Unfortunately we have been fed an ongoing political lie.
    This is an activity engaged in by many people from all walks of life with no harm done to others.
    The sad downside are the many thousands of people are caught, jailed and their lives turned upside down.
    This shouldn’t be allowed to happen to anyone especially when this activity affects no one but the user.
    It certainly doesn’t lead to the use of harder drugs other than forcing the person buying cannabis to frequent a dealer who likely also sells the hard drugs.
    With the wealth of information available today, it’s hard for me to understand anyone still believing in the evils of the “killer weed”.
    Cannabis has been decriminalized in Massachusetts since January and I have not read or heard of any drastic increases in its use or of problems associated with the new law.
    It appears crime has not gone up significantly nor have reports of accidents increased as a result of decriminalization.
    It seems fear of the unknown has been the driving force in some communities to increase local penalties for public consumption.
    The down side to our decriminalization law is that a user must still break the law to grow or purchase their cannabis.
    It seems to me this may be the time to legalize and the US once again lead the world in standing up for individual liberty and freedom.
    No less important would be the benefits to be gained from taxation and regulation on a Federal level.
    In the 1930s when New York State realized the futility of prohibition they rescinded their liquor laws placing the burden of prosecution on the Federal government.
    No law, no matter how well intended or well written can force people to abstain if the people feel the law is unjust.
    The last 80 years of cannabis prohibition has borne this out and has instead had the unintended consequence of putting many hundreds of thousands of otherwise law abiding people in jail.
    I think many will agree that the time has come to take a stand for personal privacy and individual liberty.

    April 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  24. Charlie

    Even though I don't think the use of hard drugs are a good idea I think the war on drugs is an outrage. People are going to put whatever they want into thier body anyways and that is thier right. I am sick of paying to put these "criminals" in jail. I think they all should be legilized, regulated and taxed. The money would be better spent helping people get off the drugs if they want help. Educate people about the truth on the drug and let them decide if it is worth the risk of being addiced and trashing thier life. The just say no campaines and dare have been proven over and over not to work. Yet we still pump millions of our money into them. They have an ounce of truth burried in a pound of lies and misinformation. How can people make an educated choice if the truth is being withheld from them. We are not that stupid. I know for a fact that marijuana is less harmful than most thinhgs that are legal. When kids find this out for themselves they question if the hard drugs are surronded by the same lies. As a firefighter/EMT I have seen so many lives lost due to drinking and not one from the use of marijuana, besides the criminal records and jail time caused by prohibition. It is time we stop this "war on drugs" and stop wasting our hard earned tax money on programs that don't work. I proudly choose marijuana over drinking at a bar and driving home. To me it is a much safer alternitive. And remember marijuana doesn't make you stupid but some stupid people do smoke marijuana.

    April 14, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  25. Mike Parkis, Victoria, B.C., Canada

    The continuing tragedy of failed drug policy is finally coming under scrutiny by the U.S. Government. With a new, vigorous president and cabinet, and a reinvigorated Congress, we can expect rational debate instead of the previous iron fisted, and wooden-brained, approach that has caused so much harm and so little benefit. When the enforcers of improper laws speak out against their mission, as the members of LEAP are doing, they should be listened to with great care. As a member of LEAP with enough experience to recognize right from wrong, I see the destruction of U.S., Canadian and Mexican inner cities to be the result of uncontrolled drug cartels whose defeat would be assured by a mental health approach. Change Now.

    April 14, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  26. findgold

    Trust your government... They know what is best for us...get used to it..

    April 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  27. Paul J. von Hartmann

    If the "authorities" really wanted to kill the black market in marijuana they'd encourage farmers to cultivate industrial hemp. Cross-pollination between low- and high-THC strains would make it much more difficult to grow 'sensimilla' ("without seeds") pot, so there wouldn't be criminal plantations in the back country.

    Let people grow outdoors as much as they want, and the market will flood so that the indoor (high electricity bills, major carbon footprint, chemical "Frankenweed") grow scene would become much less profitable.

    Prohibition of marijuana was motivated by the industrial competition it posed. Ending prohibition of industrial hemp will eliminate that economic block and solve a lot of problems all at once.

    Eliminating the DEA and the IRS will do more to recover balance than locking up all the drug dealers in the world.

    Organic, non-GMO Cannabis agriculture is critical to resolving environmental, economic and social crises that are potentiating irreversible synergistic collapse in the near future. The freedom to farm "every herb bearing seed" is the first test of religious freedom. The price of ingratitude may well be extinction.

    Until mankind reconnects agriculture and spirituality, the endless debate about our right to grow the world's most useful and nutritious crop will prove extinctionistic. Time is the limiting factor in the equation of survival. Global broiling by increasing UV-B radiation demands that we grow Cannabis to sequester carbon, produce atmospheric aerosols called "monterpenes" to effect radiative forcing and shield the Earth against the Sun with reflective clouds. Cannabis agriculture manufacture and trade are the best available, proportionate global response to climate change that the greatest number of people can implement in the shortest span of time .

    Carbon sequestration from increasing the prevalence of organic agriculture (made possible by the biogenic pesticides produced by Cannabis), and increased vegetable protein production in the form of hemp seed, all argue for an immediate suspension of Cannabis prohibition.

    Executive Order 12919 recognizes hemp as a "strategic food resource" available by "essential civilian demand." The First Amendment secures our fundamental human right to farm "every herb bearing seed." Use it or lose it America.

    The rest of the world is growing hemp, except where the military chemical agricultural industrial complex has managed to impose 'marijuana' prohibition on industrial hemp farming in order to sell ag chemicals.

    If americans had the Balls to stand up to their outlaw government, we all wouldn't be in the mess we're all in.

    Quit giving money to the unaccountable, criminally negligent, outlaw government, until our money recovers a spiritual dimension of gratitude for what we've been given. Be thankful for the harvest, even if you've been deeply programmed to believe the absurdity's of the war machine.

    WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Google "global broiling" to understand why you don't need to woory about global warming. At the rate we're going, our species won't see the end of this Century.

    April 14, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  28. Ima Stoner

    Im tired of hearing all the news media saying im fueling wars in mexico from purchasing marijuana Why doesnt the government let me purchase a permit to grow a few plants at my house.There wont be anymore people sponsoring terrorism and the money can be used for usefull ideas.420

    April 14, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  29. findgold

    I have been tell friends and others that it is time for another Tea Party...It seems that someone else was also thinking the same thing and started the movement.. Perhaps the real awnser is "Less government-More freedom" But all we are getting is more government and a lot less freedom.

    April 14, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  30. findgold

    Or to say it another way.... can we truly trust our government?

    April 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  31. findgold

    The way I see it our government is doing more and more to protect us from ourselfves then it is doing to protect us from others that will harm us.

    April 14, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  32. Sweetpoison

    Imagine stimulant drugs like cofffee and chocolate being illegal, Millions clamouring for their daily fix. Coffee and chocolate cartels forming across South America, Illegal chocolate factories popping up across the country,Coffee speakeasies in inconspicuous basements and hundreds of thousands imprisioned along with the other drug users. Let’s stop the war and return to common sense laws.

    April 14, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  33. Jean Francois Mourier

    Legalize drugs, its a bit strange that its so hard to understand that everyone has taken strong drugs or prescription drugs at one point in their lives. Mainly true for the elderly people, these are drugs too that impact our nervous system. Legalizing is the only way and would help the American economy and would be a much more mature and honest approach to the problem.

    1. Keep the billions of dollars in America by farming these products in America
    2. Tax the hell out of it, like cigarettes and Alcohol
    3. Use this money to Educate on drugs
    4. Control and monitor the people abusing these substances by giving them a special ID card that looks into their consumption and guide them to counseling
    5. Use this money to find ways to cure addiction, vaccines already exists to immunize the drug users from feeling the high by using a vaccine, more money into that would yield great results.

    America needs to lead the way, rather than trying to fight a battle we can't win let us use our brains for a change and fight it smartly. Lets learn what lessons we learned from prohibiton, the day we legalized it the mafia and bandits all went out of business overnight.

    Stop the killing, stop the gangs, stop a big chunck of crime lets stop being blind to what a real working solution would be instead of paying politics..

    What could the results be?
    1. All these billions going out of the states stay inside
    2. Crime will decrease, decriminilize and whatch the mexican border killings vanish instantly.
    3. Spending on security will decrease dramatically, we spend billions to control America's addiction, with less spending may be we get a tax break.
    4. Control and monitor and potentially cure addicts.

    That's the smart way, people die because they overdose and use drugs that are of very bad quality, usage would decrease as well since one of the main reasons people do it is the exitment of the unknow and the forbidden, once this is taken away and replaced with education it will vanish or decrease enormously. Let's decriminilize drugs in a smart way and this problem will decrease dramatically, the parents that have lost their kids to drugs can also still be instrumental in teaching kids in schools of what to do or not to do. In Holland its decriminilzed and the local population is probably the lowest users of drugs in Europe. Lets remember that the past presidents have also all smoked: Reagan (probably), Clinton we know he really inhaled, Bush did everything, Obama admitted he smoked. Lets be mature about this problem and not repeat strategies that just dont work.

    April 14, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  34. Tim bowen

    with he number of jobs out there we are just putting people in prison for doing what they have to do to survive. Hurray for the USA being pricks to the lower class

    April 14, 2009 at 9:05 am |
  35. Tim bowen

    it would still save money even if it wouldn't be reasonable to tax it cuz drug dealers can supply cheaper. We spend how much money on drug probation and all that its stupid to not think of legalizing

    April 14, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  36. Tim bowen

    Even if we couldn't tax it it'd be better to make it legal unless our government wants to put people in jail

    April 14, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  37. Tim bowen

    Yeah i agree our laws are meant to ensure certain companies and people get money and they will fight to death for it even if it means putting people in prison that's all that having Pot illegal is doing is putting people in jail and prisons and costing the USA billions

    April 14, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  38. Gail McLean

    Our laws are not designed to protect us. They are designed to protect certain interests. So many major entities would face competition by legalizing cannabis they will fight tooth and nail to prevent it. Those powerful lobbies: pharmaceutical, farming, energy, etc. stand to lose money if they have to compete with a weed anyone can grow and no one can patent.
    Our government obviously doesn't care if we kill ourselves or alcohol, cigarettes, toxic foods and over the counter medications would all be illegal because they can all kill you. Cannabis, on the other hand, is non toxic and incapable of producing death through overdose yet is is considered more dangerous and continues to be illegal. What is worse for my health than death? Where I come from, this rationale is called what it is: bullsh*t.

    April 14, 2009 at 8:37 am |
  39. Sweetpoison

    I see and hear the comments concerning how teenagers are becoming addicted and dying from drugs and that is a concern.. If you think logically about this, the reason teenagers have access to drugs is that they are readily more available to them precisesly because it is illegal. As a teenager growing up during the 60’s and 70’s I remember how much easier to obtain drugs than alcohol.
    Another point I’d like to make is the anti-drug ads create the the mystique of the forbidden fruit that attracts so many young people to experiment. It’s time to take a common sense approach to this issue

    April 14, 2009 at 8:29 am |
  40. Tim bowen

    Yeah very good point all we are doing now is supporting criminal activities and putting people in prison. We give people a chance to make a good living then through then in jail pretty much is that realy the right thing to do. u can still educate kids on drugs and tell them what they do what the negatives are i think drug use would decline over time if we made drugs legal. marijuana will never stop being sold and the money will never stop supporting criminals unless we legalize it! SOMEONE ASK SOME OF THEM EXPERTS would u rather through people in prison or give people a choice to do drugs. I really really wanna see this answered on TV. People will always do drugs do we really wanna put them in prison for it when we could make it legal and benefit from the extra money and then only thing we would have to do to reduce the drug use is educate our kids about the negatives. But hey if USA wants to through all our drug users in prison hell why not punish people for doing what makes them feel better that's how the USA works i guess! PLEASE HAVE SOMEONE RESPOND TO THIS CNN!

    April 14, 2009 at 8:20 am |
  41. LGB

    Re: marijuana. Why not allow each individual grow no more than 3 plants at a time for our own use. We can pay taxes on the plants and give the money to our law enforcement so they can concentrate on serious crimes.

    April 14, 2009 at 8:16 am |
  42. Don

    Things need to change in this country why do we put 1,000,000 to
    1,200,000 people in jail for none violent drug crimes each year at a
    cost of over 40 Billion dollars per year per million people just to
    houses them. This money goes in to privet company's that are sub
    company's of the people in the government. When the C.I.A brings cocaine
    and heroin in to this country. Since we went to Afghanistan and took
    over the country Afghanistan is now putting 80% of the heroin on the
    streets world wide and there number two export is body parts for
    transplants that does not say much for us running the country. The
    C.I.A. got caught putting cocaine on the streets for sale in the 80s to
    fund the Contras war more than once and did not get even a slap on the
    hand for it. Marijuana should be legal for medical use in all states for
    that matter if
    marijuana was treated like alcohol and cigarettes and sin tax the hell
    out of it. There is less kids doing cigarettes and alcohol then smoking
    marijuana in this country because it is controlled better by the
    government and tax payers would save over 40 to 50 Billion dollars a
    year alone going in to these privet pockets just by doing this the drug
    would be controlled better and less kids under the age of 21 would be
    able to get marijuana as easy and the money for this would not be going
    down the line and out of the country every one that is getting put in
    jail for this would be out working paying taxes having homes paying
    taxes
    instead of costing the tax payer 40 Billion dollars per year. Then take
    a bunch of this money and stop cocaine and heroin from getting in to the
    country at all at the borders!. Any one that really looks at the whole
    picture it looks like are government is trying to make money from both
    ends of this bring the drugs in with the C.I.A. and make money putting
    Americans in jail for using it. The average person in this country pays
    his bills one week at a time cutting out food,medicines,vacations,not
    being even able to keep home payments paid you name it. And be using
    this money to help fund new way for every one to get to work ,travel
    heat are home with out fossil fuel. if you think we had a depression in
    the 30s it will not be nothing compared to what is coming The whole
    world needs to worry about global warming more also how about taking
    some of this money and putting in water treatment plants to take ocean
    water to clean water on all are coasts lines with pipe lines to get it
    to all the big city's and the crop land in the middle of this country
    that most of are food is grown before it is to late. How about stronger
    laws on all the scams people are trying to do to the average person like
    make the commercials and advertisements run on TV really work just as
    they say or be fined. THE PEOPLE NEED HELP

    How many times do you think the people of this country will put up
    with are rights being taken from us ?And how long will this country last
    before people will be stealing or killing just to stay warm or have food
    to feed there family's. If things go the way they are
    right now you will not even recognize the world that is coming !!! If
    there is not another way other than fossil fuel found soon and brought
    to the people at a cost that will keep this country going so the people
    of this country can work and make money enough to keep
    warm keep food in front of are kids there will BE NO ONE PAYING TAXES OR
    EVEN A NEED FOR A GOVERNMENT AT ALL...
    This should NOT be put in the hands of the county prosecutors because they
    are just out to put as many in jail for as long as possible because this
    makes there records better not looking at the person or the circumstance
    that drove the person to do drugs or sell them what would any one do if it
    came to the point that you had no money to feed your childern or get your
    parents the things they need to even stay alive and the only way you seen
    was to try to sell a drug to keep your child from starving or cloths on
    there back ? "

    April 14, 2009 at 8:11 am |
  43. Zika Braimah

    One thing is certain, people will alter their mood whether by tobaco, coffeeor illegal drugs. Legalizing Marijuana will provide an avenue for these people to get high without the government ruinining their lives though prosecution.
    The government also stands to reduce its drug enforcement budget and increasing its revenue through taxation of marijuana. This is a win win situation in this reduced tax revenue low economice growth times.
    Legaliztion of pot may also reduce the incidence of asthma and glaucoma in our society.

    April 14, 2009 at 7:59 am |
  44. Loren Santiago

    I say legalize it. It would be safer buying it in a store then going to some armed drug dealer. Also why would a drug dealer be armed if what he is dealing in legal.

    April 14, 2009 at 7:59 am |
  45. Brad S.

    It's time to end the failed drug war. Let's start by decriminalizing marijuana. Every poll I see shows that people are ready for this. It's time for politicians to just stand up and do it.

    April 14, 2009 at 7:51 am |
  46. Rocky

    Legalize drugs,.with strict controls

    April 14, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  47. SaintGenesius

    Well reasoned and thought out.

    As a journalist, I heard a federal appeals court judge speak on this issue about 15 years ago. He had some stunning statistics and had completely changed his view of the war on drugs and drug legalization.

    Remember, this is a federal judge who had spent decades on the bench –and he concluded that keeping drugs illegal actually had exactly the opposite of the desired effect. His points were more leveled at drug overdose deaths, which are usually the result of chemicals added to the raw drugs to cut them (that was the case then, it may not be now).

    But his points are well taken. I would say this, what is the benefit to the US to spend blood and treasure to stop drugs and in the process make our enemies richer and more powerful?

    The drug war is a failure –no amount of lipstick will dress up that pig. It is an unmitigated, absolute and unequivocal failure. Period.

    It it not an experiment or a test. We have decades of data to prove it is a failure and when something fails so spectacularly one must ask the question, why continue it. In this case, it is a show of public policy insanity to expect some different result from doing the same thing over and over.

    The only reason for the continuation of this farce is political cowardice. Because the government has invested so heavily in this, and spent so much time and effort selling it, most politicians are afraid to suggest we need a change.

    But the time for change is here. We need to stop treating drug use as criminal justice issue and being treating it for what it is, a public health issue.

    April 14, 2009 at 12:59 am |
  48. Les Stark

    The climate of prohibition for too long has prevented even a rational discussion or debate about drugs. A person can't even be honest about their experiences, therefore only the most negative of stereotypes is portrayed.

    I will never glorify drugs but my psychedelic years were great. I guarantee that I or my friends were not criminals. We just liked to explore a bit. For most people drugs is a phase that they will get over. Imagine if Obama or Bush or Clinton would have been busted in their youth. They would have never become presidents. Yet all three would rule like tyrants over other people's lives who do the same things they did.

    A world without prohibition will never be a perfect world. To claim otherwise would be false, but it would be a lot better than what we got now.

    End the prohibition.

    April 14, 2009 at 12:45 am |
  49. Deborah AKA The Vocal Citizen

    Bravo, Mr. Miron. I have become a huge fan of yours. Perhaps you can have lunch with California Superior Court Judge James Gray and hammer out a formidable strategy to get a special national election initiated. All we need is a yes or no question... then our terrified elected officials will be off the hook, so to speak.

    With more than 20 million Americans addicted to alcohol and approximately the same number addicted to tobacco, I would think our elected officials would see the disparity in the current laws.
    In 1913, approximately 1.3 percent of our population was addicted to drugs. In 1971 (when Nixon started the “war on drugs”), approximately 1.3 percent of our population was addicted to drugs. In 2009 (after 72 years of prohibition), approximately 1.3 percent of our population is addicted to drugs.

    Prohibition does not work. So, my elected officials… MY PRESIDENT, either legalize and regulate drugs or enact prohibition against tobacco and alcohol.

    If there were a law on the books which read “driving a car is dangerous and therefore illegal” and yet people were allowed to drive only trucks, car enthusiasts would demand the law be changed, because a person can be involved in an accident in a truck just as easily as a car.

    By the by, decriminalization of drugs will only remove the legal repercussions of purchasing and possessing drugs, without imposing regulation of purity, potency, or to whom they are sold. Decriminalization will only make the problem worse.

    Legalization, responsible regulation, and taxation (of cannabis to purchasers over 21 years of age) is the only logical method of drug policy.

    April 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  50. Stephen

    Chris,

    I think you need to re-evaluate the information you have gotten pertaining to heroin use. The government would have us believe that the majority of heroin users are IV addicts, with an out of control addiction. The reality is that although heroin is addictive, there are many people who use heroin recreationaly. The majority of soldiers who used heroin during Vietnam were able to return to the US and stop using.

    Legalizing drugs is a bold, calculated risk. One that is worth taking.

    Other countries that have decriminalized have seen drug use go down. Look at Portugal as an example.

    April 13, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  51. Crevels

    I agree that the responsible use of heroin is an "oxymoron" due to the fact that this drug is not only psychologically addictive it is physically addictive. If it were legalized, perhaps the stigma of the addiction could be removed so that many of the addicts wanting help will be more inclined to get help. Legalization would also lower the cost of housing addicts in a penal system (where these black market drugs are readily available ) when what they really need is medical help. Get rid of the black market through legalization and we can alleviate alot of our country's social ills.

    April 13, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  52. Michael

    Take a look at the statistics for Teen Marijuana use in State that have enacted medical marijuana laws both pre-enactment and post enactment.

    http://www.mpp.org/assets/pdfs/general/TeenUseReport_0608.pdf

    California (where there are Dispensaries for distributuion):
    1995 to 2005 – 9th Graders Marijuana use in the past 30 days decreased by 47% whereas the corresponding data for the Nation is only an 11% decrease.

    Studdies also show that 5-10% of any population will use drugs regardless of whether they are legal or not. This demand is never going to go away. This is anywhere from 16 Million to 33 Million users in the US. If this is not going to change and these people are going to continue to use, why in the world would our government want this money folwing to criminals instead of to the government.

    Anyone who really believes the usage will go up has little self-respect. Think about it... would you start using Herion just because it became legal??? Would you not want to research the effects before you tried it? If you believe that rational people will use drugs just because they became legal you are lost in the hypocricy that has occured since 1937.

    I make a personal choice: I do not drink alcohol... if I drink too much I get sick... I get loud... and I choose to engage in activities that could hurt myself and others (driving at high speeds down the highway)..... My vice of choice is marijuana... it doesn't make me sick.... I don't speed after using... I don't get into fights...

    Why do you think that you have a right to legislate what I put in my body? Why does the government think that they have a right (based on our Constitution) to tell me what i can and cannot do that does not impact others (me smoking a joint in my living room has no affect on you)? Who actually believes that controlling the possesion of a plant is the right thing to do????

    April 13, 2009 at 3:41 pm |
  53. Joe

    Chris,

    I used to live in San Francisco and be part of the house music scene back in the late 90's to early 00's. Most of my friends during this period of time were weekend users of many different drugs, particularly exstacy, crystal meth, and GHB. But, unlike the stereotype frequently promoted by the media, all these people – with some exceptions to be honest – held daytime jobs with $80K to $250K salaries, some had kids, most were very honest, moral, upstanding and responsible people. I never saw any violence among any of these people, just good times, a lot of love and great conversations about deep topics. Women were respected, not hit on. No one got into fights. No one slurred their speech, or argued without being able to represent their point of view intelligently with clear train of thought, most of the time. All but a few of these people are still my great friends, many more are now parents, all have great jobs, most rarely use any drugs other than alchohol any more, but look back very fondly upon that time in their lives.

    There is such a thing as a responsible drug user. I personally know many such people. You can draw your own conclusions about me.

    I have seen many more people who can't control their use of alchohol than those who can't control their use of other drugs in my life, to be honest.

    April 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  54. Indrid Cold

    The entire (and I mean ENTIRE) reason for drug prohibition lies with the desire on the part of law enforcement agencies to fund their obscene levels of overtime and government funding. Exactly how many police do you think we'd need if the illegality of drugs, and the associated crime that comes with prohibition were to end? I'd guess that 25% of current law enforcement agencies could be trimmed off of government payrolls. That's why even the obvious failure of the "drug war" will not put an end to this foolishness.

    Additionally, drug prohibition makes is increasingly difficult for people in real need of effective pain control medication to often be treated like potential criminals. Doctors are justifiably frightened of being investigated if they prescribe what is deemed to be too many opioid prescriptions even if they enable the ill to deal with intractable pain.

    Finally, as it's been pointed out, people can and will do harm to themselves while in search of a "high" that our current society cannot provide through non-chemical means. My god, in South America, whole impoverished communities sniff glue! If people want to get high, no law enforcement agency in the world is going to be able to stop them. Better to deal with the underlying social causes of the problem. Like the fact that a lot of the drug using population live at or below the poverty line. They just don't have a chance at the "natural high" that one gets from buying stuff. But that's probably too deep fro most of you reading this.

    Now I know that many people out there who have young children are horrified at the thought that your kids might get hooked on some drug or O/D or something. You know what? You need to do a better job of raising your kids. Maybe spend some time with them instead of chasing the corporate brass ring and trying to buy their love with "stuff." Because well adjusted kids don't make a habit of doing drugs. Oh, they may experiment. Most do. I'll bet you did too. But if you gave them a decent set of values, they'll likely not give drugs a central role in their life.

    April 13, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  55. khabeer

    If you really think about it legalizing drugs is a no brainer, but the problem that certain individuals which systematically targeted the less fortunate communities will have is that their plan for destroying a class of people will indirectly be jeopardized. How did crack in the 80 become predominately a black social issue. Why were crack crimes more punishable than cocaine crimes. In order to make crack it all begins with cocaine. You cannot bake a cake without flour. For those of you who may not know this, but in order to turn cocaine into crack you need baking soda, water and fire. So whats more dangerous the coke or the crack. No coke No crack.

    April 13, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  56. jeff s

    I have diabetis and need insulin, can't get it, ilegal!

    April 13, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  57. Chris

    In presenting his case for the legalization of drugs like heroin, Miron argues that properly indicating a drugs purity will "...allow responsible users to avoid excessive consumption." Responsible heroin users...really? Isn't that an oxymoron? In choosing to use/abuse drugs like heroin, are you not already acting irresponsibly? Not to mention that once on the drug, most people tend to act very irresponsible, making poor decisions that come with serious consequences...driving under the influence, clearing out bank accounts to fund the high, seeking more of the drug to extend/continue the high, etc... Great argument...responsible heroin users...try again!

    April 13, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  58. EGH46

    It makes perfect sence to legalize, its almost like saying if gay marraige were legal would the amount of homosexuals go up? I don't think so, if your gay your gay, if your going to use drugs your goining to use. You'll just take the seedy element out of it, and mexican violence which is completely out of control and spilling over into our country.
    Time to advance our thinking past the Nancy Reagen mentality.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:40 pm |