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(USA) Marijuana more mainstream, producing more arrests

Need more evidence that marijuana has gone mainstream in America? Two weeks ago on NBC’s “Today” show, Matt Lauer chatted up a piece on so-called Stiletto Stoners — educated, professional women with killer careers and enviable social lives who favor marijuana as their intoxicant of choice, and are increasingly comfortable admitting it.

The sympathetic piece featured interviews with a wide range of successful women who wind down at the end of the day with a joint instead of a martini.

The coming-out party is happening in more and more places. The entertainment newspaper Variety recently ran a story on the depiction of marijuana as an everyday, normal occurrence on TV and in movies. The story references NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” the CBS pilot “Accidentally on Purpose” and AMC’s “Mad Men,” all portraying marijuana use matter-of-factly without the “reefer madness” story line.

There’s more: Emblazoned on the cover of the September issue of Fortune Magazine is a photo of actress Mary Louise Parker, star of the popular Showtime hit “Weeds,” teasing the lead story: “How Marijuana Became Legal: Medical Marijuana is giving activists a chance to show how a legitimized pot business can work. Is the end of prohibition upon us?”

While it is important that people are owning up to their marijuana use without suffering adverse consequences and doing so is countering the “couch potato” stereotypes of marijuana users, we’ve sadly still got a ways to go when it comes to public policy.

You might be surprised to learn that in the United States more than 750,000 people are still arrested every year on marijuana possession alone. In New York City, under “moderate” Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there were 40,000 pot arrests last year, and the city now has the unfortunate distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world.

While marijuana use doesn’t discriminate, our marijuana policies do. Both nationally and in New York City, marijuana arrests show stark racial disparities. In 2008, 87 percent of those charged with pot possession in New York were black or Latino. U. S. government surveys consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks and Latinos yet blacks and Latinos are arrested for pot at much higher rates, in part because officers make stop-and-frisks disproportionately in black, Latino and low-income neighborhoods.

I applaud the Stiletto Stoners who are admitting that they smoke marijuana. It is brave to “come out” and cast aside shame and shatter stereotypes about who is a “pothead.” But we need to remember that the war on people who use marijuana is all too real and has not ended.

The Today Show said 8 million women tried marijuana in the last year. We need them to join the movement to end marijuana prohibition.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance Network ( ).

By Tony Newman

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