Letters to the editor for Feb. 21, 2014

Legalize marijuana, current laws impossible to enforce

To the Editor:

Gene Hodel’s letter (No legalization of Medical Marijuana, Feb 14) suggests that the liberal left is causing a deterioration of core values, with respect to recreational drug use. I hope our differences will disappear with a broader understanding of the issue.

Please note that the title on Mr. Hodel’s letter is in error. His letter deals only with recreational use.

Laws should punish harmful behavior. Penalties should be commensurate with the harm to society.

Marijuana-related health and behavior problems are rare. Marijuana is not physically addictive, does not result in deaths from overdose and does not incline users towards belligerent or risky behavior. Criminalization is not justified.

Mere possession in Minnesota is a misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense and results in an arrest and criminal record. It may result in an inability to get an appropriate job. Worse, illegal grass necessarily puts users in direct contact with people who really are criminals.

Society does not support the law. The last three presidents smoked grass. Roughly half the young people have tried it. A law that is held in such widespread contempt will be subverted at every turn.

We’ve spent $1 trillion on the War on Drugs. Our war threatens the stability of Mexico, where more than 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related gang wars.

Despite the laws and the war, the average young person can get marijuana whenever he/she wants it. Control efforts are abject failures.

This is a rerun of our war on alcohol almost 100 years ago but marijuana is far more benign.

I agree with Mr. Hodel, that the prospect of making money from marijuana taxes is a poor reason to legalize it. Instead, marijuana should be legalized because the current laws cannot be enforced, promote contempt for our justice system, ruin lives without justification, are more severely enforced in minority communities, have brought violence to our communities and war to neighboring countries.

Marijuana laws kill. Marijuana does not.

Rod Kuehn

Highly paid teachers?

To the Editor:

With both jobs and wages stuck in low gear, and unemployment high, it’s easy to get swept up in the oft-used Tea Party strategy that, “Let’s blame it all on those darn teachers. They are simply too highly paid.”

Our Anoka-Hennepin teachers are trying to loosen stuck salary negotiations with their “work-to-rule” strategy – driven there by a recalcitrant, Tea Party-controlled school board that recently cut $7.5 million from their budget while they hang onto $116 million in their coffers.

Here’s the Tea Party mantra: “Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work nine months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – baby-sit! And we can get that for less than minimum wage.”

That’s right. Let’s give them $3 an hour per child and only pay for the hours they work; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school helping faltering children or grading papers. That would be $19.50 for a 6.5 hour day. Remember they only work 180 days a year. We ought not to pay them for any vacations, right?

Multiplied by 30 students that’s $585 day for an annual salary of $105,300. What? Must be something wrong with my calculator!

What about those special education teachers and the ones with master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75/hour/child), which works out to $272,025 per year. Oops. There’s really something wrong here. There sure is.

The average teacher’s salary nationwide (and Anoka-Hennepin’s is about the same) is $50,000 per year.

A salary of $50,000 over 180 days equals $277.77 per day – $9.25 per day per student or $1.42 per hour per student – a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they educate your kids as a side benefit.

That’s less than half what we paid for a baby-sitter 30 years ago in Coon Rapids. Teachers are the best deal going.

Next time you hear a Tea Party proponent smear local teachers, set them straight. Call your school board representative and tell him or her to cough up a little change for the highly trained baby-sitter who cares for your (and their) children.

Roger Johnson
Coon Rapids

Block fast tracking for trade deals

To the Editor:

President Obama is trying to push through a process called Fast Track for a trade deal called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Fast tracking eliminates Congress’ ability to debate or amend the TPP trade deal.

This deal has been negotiated behind closed doors, not allowing Congress access to the document. What has been leaked shows pharmaceutical companies extending patents, keeping people from accessing generics.

Why would we go into trade deals with counties such as Vietnam that exploit children in their workforce? There is no time frame where this trade deal gets renegotiated.

We need Congress to block Fast Track, so our elected officials can do their job. Debate and amend any trade deals that are negotiated for the people of the United States.

Sharon Jessen

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