Friday, February 27, 2015

So do something about it

Seldom does a day pass when I don't write a story for East Niagara Post about someone getting arrested for marijuana possession.

Seldom do I post a story about someone getting arrested for marijuana possession when we don't get Facebook comments about the unjustness of the state's drug laws, either pointing out the dangers of alcohol in relation to pot, the scant amount of weed that the arrestee had on him/her, or how ENP has somehow ruined that person's life by publishing their arrest.

Seldom do I read comments about the unjustness of the state's drug laws when I don't think to myself, "So do something about it."

Personally, I don't have a problem with people smoking pot. I see no societal value from preventing people from growing, buying, selling, owning or smoking the stuff. But as I don't make a habit of growing, buying, selling, owning or smoking it myself, I see no personal value in fighting the laws which prevent people from growing, buying, selling, owning or smoking it either. Frankly, it doesn't affect my life one way or another.

Some people, though, it would seem, are incredibly offended by these laws. They feel their friends (or maybe complete strangers, for all I know) have been unjustly charged with a crime and had their name smeared in the press, ruining their chances at a good life ... or something.

So to those of you who feel that way, I say, "Do something about it."

The United States is a nation governed "of the people, by the people, for the people," as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently put in the Gettysburg Address. Our representatives at every level are Americans just like us, out to represent the rest of us.

Those who represent us, from our local municipal officials to county legislators, state legislators, and U.S. congressmen, have the power to create, change or strike down laws. They get the impetus to do so from the rest of us.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. In New York, a very stringent medical marijuana law was passed last year. Many believe this to be the first step to complete decriminalization in the state. Four other states have completely decriminalized it already, allowing recreational use — although often with strict guidelines. There's no reason that New York couldn't be the fifth.

As stated previously, our elected officials have the power to change these laws. Our representatives have the power to strike down laws that they feel are unjust or unnecessary. But they have no real motivation to do so without their constituents asking them to. Basically, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. So if people aren't clamoring for a law to be created, changed or eliminated, they're going to focus on other laws that people are passionate about.

On the executive level, police are instructed to enforce the laws and Constitution of their state and the United States as a whole. However, there have been several documented cases of local municipalities instructing their paid police forces to ignore certain laws. In other words, the Niagara County Legislature could instruct the Niagara County Sheriff's Department to ignore the state's marijuana laws. This could create a bit of a schism because the police have taken an oath stating that they would uphold state laws and continue to feel obligated to do so. But it's not unheard of.

A more assured method would be to band together with like-minded individuals to pressure state legislators to change or eliminate the law altogether. If police have no law to enforce, there's nothing to get arrested for. But that requires time and diligence on the part of those opposed to the law. And would likely have at least some opposition from those who for one reason or another want the law to remain in place.

Look, I'll be completely honest, I hate writing stories about people being arrested for having "a small baggie containing a green vegetable-like matter" on them or "some weed," as we published the other day. It seems trite to me. But ENP publishes all arrest reports. ALL of them. We do this as a matter of fairness. I don't feel qualified to pick and choose what arrests are "important enough" to publicize. So we publish them all. We're not about to change that, no matter how much complaining people do on Facebook.

If you want to not read any more stories about people getting charged with pot possession, the onus is on you to make pot possession legal. In other words, do something about it.

+Scott Leffler is the News Editor of East Niagara Post and has better ways to spend his time than writing about minor violations like pot possession. So do something about it. Also, follow him on Twitter @scottleffler

This column was originally published on East Niagara Post.