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Pros and cons of marijuana use to be TV show topic

 

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From The Herald-Times
Bloomington, Indiana
Tuesday April 12, 1994

Pros and cons of marijuana use to be TV show topic

By Matthew Watson
H-T Staff Writer

The so-called drug war is being waged by the government against its own people, and the only way it will be stopped is through social protest, two Bloomington television producers say.

They will wage their own form of protest tonight by airing footage of themselves and about 10 other Bloomingtonians smoking marijuana on their Bloomington Community Access Television show "J&B on the ROX."

"The time has come for ordinary citizens and leaders to stand up and say, 'This is wrong!'" said co-host and co-producer Bart Everson.

"That's what we're trying to do in our own little way with the show," fellow host and producer Joe Nickell added.

They said they have been planning on doing a show promoting the legalization of marijuana for about a year and a half. Since the show began two years ago, it has developed a reputation for controversy.

"Like so many other people in the community, we enjoy smoking marijuana, and this show reflects our lives," Nickell said. "So it was inevitable that we'd have to deal with this part of our lives."

The show won't glorify marijuana and will contain opposing viewpoints, but it is "heavily laden with our own perspective -- our show never pretends to be objective," Nickell said.

In one scene, Nickell and Everson smoke a joint in front of the county courthouse. But they said they are confident their actions are protected by the First Amendment.

Deputy county prosecutor Pat Schrems agreed.

"My initial reaction is that this is protected speech," Schrems said. "Like (Republican 9th District congressional candidate Michael) Bailey and his abortion photos, it may he offensive to some. But the First Amendment says some of that has to be protected."

Moreover, prosecuting the case would be diffilcult since there is no way of proving the substance they smoked was actually marijuana, Bloomington Police Chief Steve Sharp said. An interview with Sharp appears in the show.

While Sharp conceded that legalizing marijuana would take some of the pressure off crowded jails and courtrooms, thereby saving taxpayer money, Sharp said he opposes legalization.

"The prohibition of alcohol didn't work before and probably wouldn't work now, but legalizing marijuana would just compound the problems we have now," he said.

But if government officials really wanted to address the roots of the violence involved in the drug trade, they would eliminate the black market by legalizing and regulating it, Everson said.

The U.S. government can't and doesn't want to stop the illegal drug trade, Nickell said. Rather, the "drug war" is used as a tool to repress the citizenry and divert attention from more pressing problems.

The motives for criminalizing marijuana on the federal level in 1937 had nothing to do with science or rational thought, according to Indiana Civil Liberties Union chairman Paul Hager.

Hager also appears on the show.

"Aside from racism against blacks and Mexicans and hysteria whipped up by some people who knew better, the decision was driven by bureaucratic entrepeneurship," he said. It was an attempt to expand the bureaucratic scope of power."

Hager, who plans to run for Congress in the 8th District and is in the process of petitioning to get his name on the ballot, said marijuana should be "re-legalized."

"I see my role as working within the system for change," he said. "But I have a certain admiration for people who are committed enough to a cause to take risks. After all, civil disobedience is quintessential American."

"J&B on the ROX" will air tonight at 11 p.m. on Channel 3.

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Production Notes:

August 29th, 2003
Through The Wire

B: The article about “J&B Get Baked” by Matthew Watson initially appeared in the Bloomington Herald-Times. But it also went up on the Associated Press wire, and apparently it was picked up by quite a few people around the country — maybe even the world.

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