Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 16, 2012

VASICEK: Human trafficking, legal marijuana in America

Getting the word out on two Main Street issues

By Ed Vasicek
Tribune columnist

— I was driving home from Christmas shopping when I saw my friend Emil at the door. Unlike his brother Elmer, I consider it a pleasure to chat with Emil.

“Ed, got time to shoot the breeze?” he inquired.

“Sure do. I am armed with some newspaper clippings. How about you?”

“I’ll begin,” started Emil. “Did you see this article about marijuana regulation? This is from UPI, and it reads: ‘Sixty-four percent of Americans said they oppose federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where smoking marijuana is legal, Gallup said.

“‘Americans who say they think marijuana should be legal overwhelmingly said the federal government should not get involved at the state level, as do 4 in 10 of those opposed to decriminalized marijuana, results of the USA Today-Gallup poll…’”

“That’s crazy,” I lunged. “Legalizing marijuana will increase use, not decrease it; a lot of folks do not mess with marijuana precisely because it is illegal. Legalization could force drug dealers to push harder stuff; they are not going to surrender their cash cow. When Prohibition ended, criminal organizations pushed worse stuff, like drugs. Same will happen here.”

“Maybe, but I think it’s terrible for the federal government to trump the states,” Emil argued.

“Emil, the federal government does that with the new health care law. It does it with education, and it does it with immigration. As a matter of fact, Uncle Sam messes with the states a lot. It cannot be both ways. Why should this be any different?”

“Ed,” Emil replied, “even the state sheriff suggested making weed legal. Don’t you read the Kokomo Tribune?”

“I read it,” I replied. “I do see the positive side: Legalization could help our justice system to focus on more serious matters. But I think the negatives outweigh the positives.”

“Ed, the only pot you have is your pot belly. Let’s move on.”

“OK, Emil. But let me change gears and direct our thoughts toward a solemn matter. Did you hear about that woman who helped rescue hundreds of sex slaves in Argentina? The AP ran this article:

“‘Susana Trimarco’s … daughter … never came back. After getting little help from police, Trimarco launched her own investigation into a tip that the 23-year-old was abducted and forced into sex slavery. Soon, Trimarco was visiting brothels seeking clues about her daughter and the search took an additional goal: rescuing sex slaves and helping them start new lives.

“‘What began as a one-woman campaign a decade ago developed into a movement and Trimarco today is a hero to hundreds of women she’s rescued from Argentine prostitution rings. She’s been honored with the “Women of Courage” award by the U.S. State Department and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on Nov. 28.’”

“Ed, this is so sad to think about, and the story bittersweet,” Emil answered soberly. “On the positive side, there is a growing movement to fight human trafficking around the world. It is building momentum. Back around two hundred years ago, there was a growing movement to eliminate slavery. I think we might see a similar success.”

“I hope so. Although we think of countries like Thailand, India or Argentina – where the problem is epidemic – Christianity Today ran an article on the problem here in the US:

““‘Most Americans do not realize that child trafficking is a major problem on Main Street USA,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, at a February congressional hearing. “These kids are victims. This is 21st-century slavery.”

“‘Researchers estimate that between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are trafficked within the U.S. each year. There is credible evidence, based on arrest statistics and field research, that sex trafficking is getting worse and that U.S. children under age 18 compose the largest segment of trafficking victims in the U.S.’”

“Sure is tragic,” Emil reflected. “We really need to get the word out.”

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.