(Editor’s note: The following is a letter written as part of Ashley Carruth’s humanities class at Animas High School.)

Ending cannabis prohibition

To the editor,

Who’s to say it's not justified for one to consume marijuana in order to provide security for citizens on a small scale? In fact, Benjamin Franklin once acknowledged, “Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." It's about time the government receives a wake-up call and realizes that marijuana prohibition has failed dramatically. It has denied citizens the liberty to consume a substance with strong medical properties, as well as a vast amount of recreational pleasure. It has been almost 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, while inflicting impairment on society for a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The time is overdue for Congress to repeal that decision.

In order to ensure justice among citizens, the government must legalize medical marijuana to increase the economic opportunity that is currently untapped. The legal product should be taxed and the windfalls be used to fund our strapped public education system.

The United States faces substantial deficits, according to CNN Money, leaving us more than $18.1 trillion, or about 74 percent of GDP, in debt. Federal spending has taken a major cut in the last few years, and the legalization of marijuana could boost economic output and support government spending. Furthermore, the increase of jobs through legalization of cannabis could create more opportunity for those still struggling from the recession.

Opponents to marijuana point to its Schedule 1 status, claiming pot has a high potential for abuse and can be harmful. However, based on recent studies, marijuana has proven to have positive effects on patients that experience seizures, chronic pain, stress, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and HIV. In a recent report by the Epilepsy Foundation, seizures were found to decrease by an average of 54 percent after treatment with a cannabis-based drug, Epidiolex. Although further study is needed on long-term effects on children, the evidence supports that cannabis be reclassified as a Schedule 2 drug.

According to 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." So as a country that has clearly defined justice as liberty, shouldn't it be justified to allow adults the liberty of drug consumption as long as it does not pose harm to others?

The Huffington Post has suggested that tax from marijuana go to education, in order to provide the lower class with affordable education and teach children the risks associated with drugs. In addition, I would suggest part of the taxes be dedicated to substance abuse and mental health programs to address drug addiction. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 17 percent of individuals who begin using THC in their teens become dependent on other illegal and harmful substances. Studies have shown that 18.2 percent of adults suffer from mental illness, which can often relate to substance abuse. Unfortunately, there are not enough programs to address these issues. It would be beneficial to have federal funding to support this need.

One further regulatory measure I would recommend would be to pass a federal amendment similar to Colorado’s Amendment 64. This includes providing identification, strict background checks for medicalmarijuana licensing, and taxation that funds education. I would also recommend regulatory measures on the potency of marijuana in order to protect children and teens who might inadvertently (or purposely) consume marijuana.

Our country would benefit substantially through the economic opportunity legal marijuana would create and by the medical uses. Legalizing marijuana on the federal level will restore liberty to our citizens at a small moral cost, but will provide a huge public gain in terms of tax dollars and justice among citizens.

– Jake Beekmann, Animas High School

Caucus for Hillary on March 1

To the editor,

In response to the letter “Small changes add up to big ones” in the Dec. 10 Telegraph, I urge Democrats in the surrounding area to show up to their respective caucus on March 1, 2016, and NOT to wait around to cast a primary vote. There is no primary election in Colorado.

The purpose of this letter is to kindly correct Mikayla Bennion. I appreciate her passion and her contribution to raising awareness about the election, but I want to be sure that Democrats understand that there is no primary election in Colorado.  While I will be supporting Hillary Clinton at the caucus, I want to be sure that my fellow Democrats, regardless of who they support, know that they must attend the caucuses on March 1 in order to ensure their voices are heard in selecting our candidate for the 2016 presidential election.  The more people who participate in the caucus, the better the process – and the more engaged our party will be when our candidate is ultimately chosen. Please be aware that you must be 18 before Jan. 4 in order to participate in the caucus, and you must be registered to vote as a Democrat before Feb. 1.  You can find more information about caucusing in Colorado at coloradodems.org/action/caucus-2016.

Now, let me explain why I am proud to support Hillary Clinton. Hillary’s resume is unmatched. She has relevant experience at various levels of government, in addition to significant experience as an attorney in the nonprofit sector, including founding the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. Hillary is a moderate Democrat who has real ideas that are practical, achievable and nonpolarizing.

There is no dispute that our current political climate is divisive, polarized and driven by sound bites instead of substantive policy. The last thing we need is a candidate who is on the far left of the political spectrum.  While I respect the other Democrats running for president, and I appreciate their contribution to the discourse, I believe that they are not what our country needs. We need someone who will lead our country from the middle, pulling ideas from both sides of the aisle. I respect Bernie Sanders for his convictions and commitment to the disadvantaged and disenfranchised of our country. However, so many of his ideas are non-starters for Republicans, independents and even moderate Democrats, that he simply will not be the unifying force that is so badly needed. He will be the opposite. He will push the parties further apart instead of bringing them together.

Even if Bernie could win the general election, most of his ideas would never make it through Congress.  Bernie is a great senator, and like Elizabeth Warren, I wish he would realize that his talents, ideas and skills serve America and the Democratic Party better in the Senate. We do not need a divisive and extreme political figure in the White House.  We need someone who will lead our country by protecting the gains we have made as a country in the last eight years and who will keep making moderate, pragmatic progress. Hillary is the best candidate for the job. 

Thank you again to Bennion for her letter. I am glad she has decided to become engaged in the political process, and I hope she will support whichever candidate wins the party’s nomination with the same enthusiasm and vigor as she is showing now. I believe that Bennion, her generation and America will be better served by supporting Hillary Clinton because she can win the general election, unify our politically divided country and protect the gains we have made.

Last but not least, I encourage all Democrats to register to vote before Feb. 1 and participate in your local caucus on March 1. Let’s take this one step at a time so we can effectively counter the anger, hatred and fear being generated on the opposing side.

– Dave Albrechta, Durango


In the ragged fringe of memory,

0n the faded edges of remembrance,

there are those that touched our lives

in moments unanticipated;

those that came and went,

unexpectedly and held arbitrarily.

Those who gave a hand,

or lent a dime.

Those that showed direction,

quenched the thirsts,

gave the night or wiped the tear.

Those that ushered the thought, or

sold the dream.

Those that shared

their moments

like passing trains.

Forgotten names,

remembered faces,

under candle’s brief flame.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio