Letters to the Editor for Jan. 3, 2014

Legalizing marijuana

To the Editor:

Recently, California, Colorado and Washington have begun to legalize marijuana. If marijuana becomes legalized for recreational use, it can benefit the economy and free up law enforcement for more significant criminal activity.

According to Kristen Gwynne, a reporter who has researched this issue extensively for Rolling Stone, FBI records indicated that “in 2011 more than 750,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana-related offenses, accounting for roughly half of all drug crimes in the United States.”

Most of those arrests were merely for possession. For a substance comparable to alcohol this has devastating repercussions on an individual’s life and costs to law enforcement.

In a study of marijuana done by Suzanne Weiss, who has received her MBA from the University of Chicago, Colorado estimates it will generate between $5 million and $60 million a year from fees and taxes on legally sold marijuana.

Weiss reports that Washington is implementing a 25 percent tax on marijuana production and sales, which is estimated to bring in about $500 million annually. This revenue is designated for education, health care and substance abuse programs.

Marijuana has a reputation for being a gateway drug. This reputation is undeserved. There are numerous factors that contribute to the “gateway effect” – age, ethnicity, sex and the environment a person lives in.

In fact, the real gateway drugs are tobacco and alcohol. As a physician of 20 years, Robert Volkman observed cigarettes and alcohol “are far more addictive in their nature than marijuana is, and they are inevitably the first drugs used by young people, largely because they are legal and more commonly accessible than any other.”

Marijuana also has a reputation of having a harmful effect on the brain. The Harvard Medical School “performed magnetic resonance imaging on the brains of 22 long-term cannabis users and 26 controls (subjects with no history of cannabis use).”

The results of the study showed that, between the controls and the marijuana smokers, there were no compelling differences.

This study disproves the idea of marijuana altering the brain and thus reinforces the fact that marijuana does not cause problems like depression, schizophrenia and anxiety.

From all the benefits of marijuana and the lack of side effects, which science reveals, I implore you to support any future legislation in the state of Minnesota for the recreational use of marijuana, starting with the medical marijuana bill that will been debated in the 2014 session.

Thomas Ekstrom

Promise has been broken

To the Editor:

In 2010, President Barack Obama promised, “If you like your health plan, you can keep it.” That promise has clearly been broken.

When asked to address President Obama’s broken promise, Gov. Mark Dayton stated that he “has little influence as governor.” The governor defended his own support by stating that, “the president says that if (they) like their present policies, they can keep the policy.”

Over the last two months, Minnesotans have collectively watched the Affordable Care Act AKA “Obamacare” wreak havoc on the lives of countless Americans.

I have consistently opposed the implementation of Obamacare, along with MNsure at the state level, since first being elected to the state Legislature in 2010.

However, while I am an avid opponent of both MNsure and Obamacare, I was elected as your state Senator to serve you.

I am here to help you redress your grievances with state government entities. Navigating the labyrinth of our state’s government can sometimes be a daunting task.

Therefore, I want to make clear that if you have problems with the new MNsure health insurance exchange, I am here to help.

If you have been having continuous problems with MNsure, I want to know about it. I look forward to hearing from you.

Branden Petersen
State senator, District 35

Campaign mailings

To the Editor:

Last week the Minnesota Democrat Farmer Labor Party was fined $100,000 for illegally coordinating $315,000 worth of campaign mailings on behalf of DFL Senate candidates during the last election.

Political parties can spend large sums on behalf of their candidates in the form of “independent expenditures.”

But they are strictly limited in the amount they can spend if the candidate participates in the production of the campaign material.  During the last election that limit was just $5,000.

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has ruled that the DFL illegally coordinated the production of campaign mailings with the help of 13 DFL senators, exceeding the $5,000 limit in each of the 13 cases.

DFL Senator Alice Johnson, who represents Blaine and Spring Lake Park, was the beneficiary of $34,000 in illegally coordinated spending. That’s $29,000 over the limit.

Voters can see the campaign finance board’s ruling at http://www.cfboard.state.mn.us/bdinfo/investigation/12_17_2013_Stipulation_of_Facts.pdf

To put it frankly, Sen. Alice Johnson and the DFL cheated. Remember this the next time Johnson is on the ballot.

Tom Knisely

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