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Lawyer urges illegal drugs be sold by state, by Ellen Zurkey, State News Staff Writer
A Lansing lawyer proposed Monday that drugs which are currently illegal be put under state control and sold to users at cost.
James Starr, former state legislator, made the proposal before an ASMSU open hearing on marijuana. About 100 people attended the hearing.
ASMSU will hold a referendum Thursday to see if students support relegalization of marijuana.
Starr said the current approach to legislation on drugs is irrational and that all drugs, not only marijuana, should be investigated.
Starr said, "Stealing to obtain drugs creates social problems, not addiction." Starr noted it would take the profits out of the black market sale of drugs by putting them under state control. "It's that much of a problem in Michigan." he said.
Other speakers at the open hearing on marijuana were Donald Reisig, Ingham County prosecutor; John Sinclair, head of the Detroit branch of LeMar (Legalize Marijuana); and the Rev. Sebastian Batt, a Catholic priest.
Reisig said that not enough research has been done on marijuana to know its side effects or its long range effects. On legalizing marijuana he said, "If we are talking about marijuana being so free that anyone can get it then I have one conventional, middle-class answer and that is 'no.'"
Sinclair, bearded, long-haired and dressed in a crimson shirt and yellow indian beads, said marijuana puts the smoker more in touch with the world. "Drinking, golfing and watching television are all attempts to escape from reality," Sinclair said.
Batt, of St. Johns Catholic Student Center, said that if marijuana is addictive, it is a much more serious moral matter than if it is not. Batt said that if marijuana became legalized he would expect the Catholic church's position on its use to be about the same as it is on alcohol.
A somewhat noisy crowd composed of United Students, Greeks, average students and middle-aged people asked questions aimed mostly at Reisig. A man asked why marijuana was made illegal in 1937. Reisig said that in 1937 it was felt that the drug played no useful role in American life. "And until you can convice the legislature that it is useful and would cost less to legalize it than to try to stamp it out, it will be illegal," he said.
He said that most laws are based on ignorance and that marijuana could not be legalized until an educational campaign was undertaken to inform the public of how to use it.
Someone from the audience asked what kind of an educational campaign was undertaken when alcohol was legalized. Reisig said none and that he felt people were just as ignorant on alcohol today as they were 20 years ago.
The marijuana study committee cited numerous medical reports, among which was a study done by the World Health Organization, which state that marijuana is non-addictive and less harmful than alcohol. Reisig said that if medical authorities have these views they should "have the guts to say it should be legalized."
Dr. James S. Feurig, director of Olin Health Center, was invited three times to speak at the hearing. Feurig, who predicted with some restrictions marijuana would be legalized within two to five years and characterized the drug as a legal not a medical problem, refused the invitations, saying that he had received adverse national publicity for his statements.
Jim Sink, chairman of the ASMSU marijuana study committee, will submit a report on his committee's work to the ASMSU Student Board tonight. He is expected to recommend that ASMSU establish a standing committee on marijuana to press for its legalization.
State News Editor-in-Chief: James D. Spaniolo; Executive Editor; Eric Pianin; Managing Editor: Lawrence Werner; Campus Editor: Bobby Soden; Editorial Editor: Edward A. Brill; Sports Editor: Joe Mitch; Assistant Advertising Manager: William G. Papciak; Advertising Manager: Joel Stark.
Commentary: If Mr. Starr's idea had been implemented in 1967, think of the money we would have saved, the lives that wouldn't have been destroyed by prison sentences. Imagine if the black market had been undermined before it had taken control of our cities and towns. Without the illegal drugs, there would not have been the pressure for young people to join gangs and carry handguns.