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Raleigh-Durham Newspaper Endorses Marijuana Legalization


June 1993

Marijuana should be legal, regulated, and taxed, according to an editorial in the May 23 issue of the News & Observer, one of the largest circulation newspapers in North Carolina. The same issue of the paper featured a column endorsing marijuana as an attractive economic alternative, if legalized, for the state's increasingly unpopular other cash crop -- tobacco (Editorial, "Pot-Patrol Absurdities," News & Observer, 5/23/93, 24A; Dennis Rogers, "Appeal Of Marijuana Could Save North Carolina's Economy," News & Observer, 5/23/93, 2C).

Both the editorial and the column were triggered by the arrest of a 65-year-old rural Wake County, N.C. woman on charges of growing five marijuana plants. The woman was arrested after helicopter surveillance revealed the plants. The woman, Alta Belle Mills, received only a suspended sentence, but federal officials have announced their intention to seize Mills' mobile home and her eight acres of land under federal forfeiture laws.

Rogers calls the bust a symbol of the lost war on drugs, and notes that tobacco, on which North Carolina is economically dependent, is becoming increasingly unpopular. He then compares tobacco to marijuana. The column is excerpted below:

"Like it or not, tobacco is a doomed crop. Americans have morally turned against it and it is only a matter of time before we'll be hard pressed to find anywhere we can smoke. And what they can't do with pressure, they're trying to do with taxes. Slap enough taxes on it -- and pretend you're doing it to raise badly needed revenue -- and people will eventually have to quit smoking. Where will North Carolina be then?

"Broke, that's where.

"Now compare tobacco to pot. Armies of drug agents around the world have fought marijuana with airplanes, dogs, chemicals, slogans and money and still Americans are firing up a doobie to relax and great-grandmothers are growing it. Americans don't want tobacco but obviously they do want pot.

"And North Carolina is a natural to take advantage of that market. Rather than growing it behind trailers ... we've got well-cultivated fields stretching to the horizon. Our plant beds are ready for the seeds to turn into seedlings ... Warehouses dot Eastern North Carolina and maybe if somebody was selling pot there, they'd quit burning them down for the insurance. North Carolina cigarette factories are standing by with armies of trained workers staring unemployment in the eye. They're eager to roll out ready-rolled reefers in packs of 20 to be sold in state-owned ABC stores.

"Or we can keep spending our money trying to stop a drug people do want while trying to save a drug they don't want. And then we can watch Eastern North Carolina disappear in the smoke."