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News Briefs, part 2

Maryland Grand Jury Recommends Decriminalization of Pot

The Baltimore Sun

In a report meant to rekindle debate over drug policy, a Baltimore grand jury suggests that marijuana be "decriminalized" and that doctors be allowed to dispense drugs such as heroin and cocaine to addicts.

The grand jury, in a report made public Thursday, rejects the blanket legalization of drugs, arguing that that would increase drug addiction. However, the panel cautiously promotes a "medicalization" model - allowing addicts to receive treatment on demand and, in some cases, allotments of drugs - as a way to stem the tide of drugs on city streets.

The grand jury says striking down laws against possessing small amounts of marijuana is an "honest response" to a finding that authorities seldom enforce such laws. Its proposal also recommends treating drug abuse as a medical problem instead of a crime, and offering addicts treatment in lieu of jail time.

When the grand jury was sworn in for a four-month term Sept. 12, Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph P. McCurdy Jr. told it to look into the issue of drug decriminalization. "Many of us feel that the war on drugs has not succeeded, that we are losing ground with each passing day, that we are wasting resources and that we have to look at this problem anew," he said.

Minnesota Governor Says Unsayable about Social Security

The Washington Post

Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson was one of seven Republican governors who turned out on Capitol Hill Thursday to give the balanced budget amendment proposal a boost, but Carlson's message wasn't exactly what Senate Republicans wanted to hear.

At a time when Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole of Kansas, Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and other GOP leaders are trying to assure Democratic critics that Social Security would be exempted from the balanced budget amendment strictures, Carlson told reporters that "everything, and I mean everything," has to be placed on the budget-cutting table.

Senate Democratic critics have threatened to derail the constitutional amendment unless it is revised to prevent Congress from either cutting Social Security benefits or using Social Security revenue to balance the budget.

Carlson told reporters that while he opposes reducing the benefits of current beneficiaries, "it's certainly fair" to begin "talking about changing eligibility long term." He said that "to take something (like Social Security) arbitrarily off the table, and then impose a burden on the other spending systems is not going to be acceptable."