Bong-Hit Benefit

You've heard the arguments against America's tragic prohibition of marijuana: how pot was only made illegal to protect the profits of corporate robber barons, how dangerous criminals are set free because the nation's prisons are crowded with people arrested on reefer charges, how desperately ill citizens find respite in a bit of weed. There's the theory of relativity, which notes that marijuana isn't as deleterious as tobacco and alcohol.

One example of why marijuana was made illegal in 1937 comes in the form of famous (or infamous) publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, who owned vast timberlands harvested to supply newsprint. When a machine that harvested industrial-grade cannabis (a much cheaper and ecologically friendlier source of paper) was invented, Hearst's newspapers began running headlines screaming that pot breeds homicidal maniacs.

Here's another point, from a surprising source: Many of those fighting the war on drugs would be out of a job if drugs were decriminalized. That comes from people who fought the war on drugs, namely Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( According to a December article in The Providence Journal, U.S. taxpayers coughed up $69 billion last year to pay cops, feds, prosecutors, jailers. According to LEAP the cost of the 30-year war on drugs has emptied Americans' pockets of more than a half trillion tax dollars.

Those figures don't account for the reverse, how pot smugglers and growers make immeasurable fortunes that, with legalization and regulation, could be going to federal and state governments.

These are the reasons that organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML, exist. In the next two months the U.S. Supreme Court should render a ruling in a case that NORML, which lobbies on both the federal and state level, considers the most important anti-prohibition event of 2005: whether the federal government has a right to continue arresting people in the numerous states that have decriminalized marijuana.

NORML, formed in 1972, is a nonprofit organization, like LEAP and the Marijuana Policy Project, which also works to pass new laws legalizing marijuana. Some two dozen bands, along with spoken-word artists, dancers, artists, and speakers will put on a show to raise money for NORML at Tobacco Road (626 S. Miami Ave.) this weekend.

Irvin Rosenfeld, a longtime stockbroker and South Florida resident, will speak at the event. From age ten, Rosenfeld's body was riddled with painful bone tumors. A "very law-abiding citizen," Rosenfeld has been fighting prohibition for years. He once told a Miami crowd that he "wouldn't be here" without pot, even though he had an open prescription for any drugs he wanted, including cocaine and morphine. He was the second U.S. citizen to be permitted to smoke weed by the federal government. That was in 1983 and Rosenfeld isn't a homicidal maniac, yet.

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Greg Baker