There are plenty of problems that the federal government should focus on fixing. But according to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., stopping the sale and use of marijuana isn’t one of them. On Tuesday, Frank visited Harvard Law School (HLS) to make his case for legalizing the plant-based drug.HLS students study dozens of instances where a federal law has conflicted with state statutes, a messy byproduct of the American legal system. Now, as more and more states are loosening their laws to allow for medical prescriptions for marijuana or for carrying small amounts of the drug for personal use, unevenly enforced federal laws against marijuana are even more outdated, Frank said.Legalizing marijuana is one of very few “issues in America today where the voters are more enlightened than the elected officials,” said Frank, who was invited to campus by the HLS American Constitution Society, where he addressed a packed crowd of law students in Pound Hall.“Just because the federal government can prosecute constitutionally people who use medical marijuana in accordance with state laws doesn’t mean they have to, or even that they should,” he said.Previous administrations have varied in how strictly they prosecute the sale and possession of marijuana, he said, and Obama’s Justice Department has recently begun enforcing the law.The problem, Frank said, is that the current federal law is not clear on whether there is any way for a person to obtain marijuana for medicinal use legally, even in states that allow it.Frank and an unlikely ally, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, recently co-sponsored two bills in the hopes of settling the issue once and for all. One would remove federal prohibition in states that allow medicinal marijuana, and a second, broader bill would remove all federal criminal penalties for possession and personal use.“The fact is, the prohibition on marijuana does enormous amounts of harm, and no good that I can see,” Frank said.Frank pointed out that allowing states to fully legalize marijuana would open up new sources of tax revenue, allow for regulation, and get rid of one incentive that marijuana producers and dealers currently enjoy.“If you are in the business of selling marijuana, you are as tax-exempt as a church,” Frank said.Frank made the case that reforming marijuana laws could also be viewed as a civil rights issue. Ambiguous laws are more likely to be applied unfairly, he said.In New York, for example, carrying marijuana is only illegal if one displays it in public. Police who asked citizens to empty their pockets on the street — a practice disproportionately applied to minorities, Frank said — were forcing otherwise legal marijuana users to break the law.Production and distribution should be left to states to regulate. “It is, after all, a federal repeal,” he said. “If the law passed tomorrow, the nonmedical use of marijuana would still be illegal almost everywhere in America.”Frank said he doesn’t want to encourage marijuana use.There is “a fundamental misunderstanding of what ought to be the liberal approach to government,” Frank said. “There is this implicit notion that human activity is divided into two categories: those that the government makes illegal and those that the government encourages.“Of course, in the free society that we live in, there are three categories,” he continued, which include “the whole rash of human activity which should be none of the government’s business.”Marijuana, which causes neither socially disruptive behavior (like alcohol) nor physical addiction (like tobacco or narcotics), should fall safely into the third category, according to Frank.“There’s a category, ‘drunk and disorderly’ — I don’t think there’s one for ‘baked and disorderly,’ ” he said to audience laughter. “I am not in charge of whether or not people act stupid or waste their time. … That’s a great freedom, to waste your time.”Those who do want to discourage people from smoking marijuana would be better served by a good public health campaign aimed at getting users to quit. The tactic worked for anti-tobacco campaigns, he said.“The public is aware that [the current marijuana policy is] enormously hypocritical,” Frank said. “A large number of people in our society have smoked marijuana and have suffered no ill effects from it, and knowing that are sympathetic toward it not being illegal.”A Gallup poll released earlier this month showed that for the first time in the poll’s history, 50 percent of Americans were in favor of legalizing marijuana. (That figure is up from 46 percent a year ago.)Still, Frank wasn’t hopeful that either of his bills would become law anytime soon. Rather, he said, he wants to create a space where his fellow lawmakers can feel safer politically talking about the medical benefits of marijuana, such as its ability to soothe pain in patients with chronic illnesses.“I think if my colleagues [in Congress] knew what people really thought about this, things would change,” he said.
MGN ImageLITTLE VALLEY – The Cattaraugus County Health Department says three people died Tuesday due to COVID-19 complications.Officials say a 60-year-old woman, 62-year-old man, and 93-year-old man developed respiratory failure and were unable to overcome their illness despite medical treatment.These are the 25th, 26th and 27th deaths linked to COVID-19 in the county.The Health Department also reported 34 new cases on Tuesday, with 291 now active. The county’s seven day infection rate also increased to 7%, up from 6.8% the day before. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)
Some years ago, I listened to a conversation between my instructor and his colleague at a local university. He said to my instructor, “there would come a time when in Liberia we will have more university graduates then less educated people.” This conversation brings us to the educational aspect of our discussion. The poor performance of students in schools –and at the same time the high number of students graduating from schools –both grade schools and universities –the recent mass failure of students in public exams and university entrances are self-evidence to this assertion. Lack of interest to learning on the part of students is causing many students to perform poorly in Liberian schools and evidently this lackadaisical attitude is causing more and more students to flunk in public tests. Many students today do not devote much time to things that do matter most to learning. Instead, they do devote much times to television and the internet which are negatively impacting their lives. Although technological advancement is cardinal to the growth and development of any nation, it is beneficial when it is used for the good of the individual and the society at large. Contrarily, in Liberia today, many students devote most of their time to television, Facebook, Youtube, and the like just for amusement. These and other social media outlets can have adverse effects on the learning of students when they are used latently.Another point –for parents –there are times when their lives are straight as a spear, but instead of letting their children be placed in the hand of God by prayer, to be developed by Him into their unique potential, they try to force them into a particular direction. Some parents overindulge their children, giving them a profusion of wealth. This mistake can be disastrous. Take for example, a classroom teacher once told me some years ago that one of his fifth grade students carried as much as $100USD to school. He then seized the money and contacted the child’s mother to ascertain as to whether she was aware of the money. The mother replied that yes she was the one who gave the student the money for her recess. Some parents even go to the far extreme by giving teachers cash to give their child/children grades that they do not deserve, thereby creating the impression that they love them so much. As these children develop, they become accustomed to this kind of attitude and live with it in the greater society.The teachers have had their own share of this educational debauchery in our society. A lot of times the public is concerned over the poor performance of students. As a result it blames the teachers for ineffectiveness and/or incompetency, as the cause of the mass failure of students. While this assertion might incomprehensive, here is another side of the coin –some of the people today found in the classrooms are not qualified to teach. Being a graduate from high school or university does not make him/her qualified to teach. Teaching is a profession, indeed a noble one; therefore, those who want to teach must be trained to do so, for it is a delusional for today’s graduates who are not trained to teach in the very system that created them.Furthermore, just like the authority of the parents which was strong in the seventies and eighties is now weak and ineffective, so like the authority of the teachers today. Often, teachers are compelled to circumvent the ethical values that guide the profession. This becomes lucid when some school administrators and/or proprietors instruct teachers not to fail too many students as this might scare away students and would-be students, as a decrease in student enrollment means decline in revenue generation. This situation which arguably occurs in the private school system undermines the manifest function of the educational institution of our society.In addition to the foregoing, as we think about why our system of education has become a mess. A former US President once said, “The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves –in their separate, and individual capacities.” Putting this into context, it is the responsibility of the Liberian government –and this government –to provide for its citizen’s quality education. But it had failed to provide conducive, learning environment for this generation. For example, government institutions lack modern learning facilities –equipped laboratories and libraries as well as internet connectivity just to name a few. The fact that government itself lacks these essentials makes her unable to mandate private institutions to have them, thus creating an education gap between the old and the young. As I summed up this discussion, what we –your generation and my –must do now is to discover who we really are, where we come from, where we are, and how we got here. When this is done, honestly, we can then get out of where we are and move forward. We need to understand and accept why our generation as an extraordinary and different from all that have gone before it. For example, it got us into the longest and most devastating civil war, it has created a society with so much crime in it that the streets are no longer safe for decent people, and worse of all, our ‘institutions’––do almost nothing to improve conditions.In concluding this discussion, I am going to say one final thing which many (old and young) may not agree with. We are made to always stick-on to illusion. By this we are made to believe that by changing leaderships we will make Liberia a better place to live –utopia. Yet the world does need changing, society needs changing, the nation needs changing, but under this sky, we are never going to change it until we ourselves are changed. And we are never going to change until we look into the mirror of ourselves, and face the reality with honesty, what we really are inside, and accept change. Until that happens, our effort to ride our society of social problems would be like migrants travelling in a little boat that cannot get beyond shallow water and ill-luck.An African proverb says: ‘The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.’ Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)