The central theme around which Jamaican Flowers revolves is marijuana. I’m frequently asked if marijuana and drug use is a part of my life. It’s not. I won’t say that I’ve never indulged, but it’s definitely not something that I consider a cornerstone of my being. That being said, I don’t demonize those that do make it a regular part of their life if they so choose. I’m proponent for the legalization of Cannabis in the US at the Federal level. I believe what a LOT of other people believe – pot is pretty harmless. Can it be abused? Sure. Anything not used in moderation has the potential for abuse. My views on the issue, however, aren’t based on my perception of whether or not I think pot is good or bad for you. If they were, let’s face it, I’d be better off fighting against nicotine and alcohol than I would be fighting for the legalization of marijuana. Put simply, I believe in laws that make sense and appeal to common logic. The continued criminalization of cannabis just doesn’t make sense to a bunch of Americans, me included.
Cannabis use and the government’s attempt to control it have always fascinated me. It’s a crazy little war that’s been fought here in the U.S. for over 100 years now. Legalize? Prohibit? Decriminalize? Legalize and regulate for medical use? Impose mandatory punishments for violators? Allow hemp to be grown for commercial paper and fabric production? These are all questions that have been asked, answered, enforced, changed, repealed, and then asked again a dozen times over the course of the last century. The fact that I’m writing this opinion post only further acknowledges that the issue is still as heated and bizarre as ever in 2012.
If we were to tag along with Mr.Peabody and Sherman and take a ride in the Wayback machine, we’d see hemp as a fashionable narcotic in the mid-1800’s. Then, doctors started using it in medicine. Those medicines needed to be labeled, and because there had been some complaining about certain drugs helping pain but not curing the disease, cannabis was labeled as a narcotic by pharmaceutical boards. Laws sprung up to control narcotic use and, by the turn of the century, regulations had been imposed to further restrict their availability. Cannabis was only to be prescribed by pharmacies and doctors. Restrictions in various forms continued until 1930. It was then that the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was formed. The head of the bureau, a dude named Harry J. Anslinger, said that cannabis caused people to commit violent crimes and act irrationally and overly sexual. It was part of a broad push to outlaw all recreational drugs. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax act was formed, making it illegal at the Federal level. Congress passed the law based on hearings and reports submitted by the FBN. Anslinger reported a link between cannabis use and violent crime. A man named William Randolph Hearst (a newspaper mogul) started running stories further vilifying cannabis to the public. Some believe he did it to hinder production of hemp-based news print. The 1950’s and 60’s saw Americans facing harsh jail time and sentencing for cannabis related crimes but those mandatory sentences were repealed in 1970. In 1971, the DEA was formed under Nixon. Several states like Oregon, Alaska, Ohio, California, and Colorado began decriminalizing marijuana, reducing penalties and fines to misdemeanors. Then, in the 80’s, came Reagan with his war on drugs, just say no, and 3 strikes campaign. Marijuana was, once again, at the forefront of public villainy. It wasn’t until the mid-90’s that the wave of states pushing to legalize cannabis for medical use started happening. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia now have laws allowing the medical use of cannabis.
So what does all of this history have to do with the price of tea in China? Well I’ll tell you… It has everything to do with the price of tea in China. Well not really, but there are so many inconsistencies with regard to this plant, this vile weed, that I need only illustrate a few for you to get the idea.
Believe it or not, according to the Federal list of controlled substances, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1. The definition of Schedule 1 is substances that have a high potential for abuse. They have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. 16 states and DC have passed laws allowing the legalization for medical use yet according to the Federal Govt., it has no accepted medical use. In case you were wondering, some of marijuana’s buddies on the schedule 1 list are; heroin and LSD. A few of the less harmful schedule 2 drugs that have a “medical use” are; morphine, phencyclidine (PCP), cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamine. Curious, right? I have yet to see or hear of a single documented case of a human death from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – the active chemical ingredient in marijuana) overdose.
- Because marijuana is still a federally controlled Schedule 1 narcotic, states that pass laws legalizing its medical use are in direct violation of Federal law. The DEA has used this to raid and shut down many medical dispensaries. How would you feel as the proprietor of a dispensary who was shut down? Wait! It’s legal in California. Nope. It’s still illegal in the United States. The concept of this type of governance outside this particular issue should be enough to get your blood boiling. I blame myself for casting my vote for people who would allow this to happen.
- California recently tried to pass proposition 19 which would have made possession and cultivation for recreational marijuana use legal. It lost by 54% of the vote. It will be back on the ballot this coming election and I’m betting it will pass.
- The money. See the Miron Report discussing the budgetary implications of the marijuana prohibition. In short, if legalized, prohibition expense would be reduced by 5.3 billion at state and local levels and 2.4 billion at the Federal level. The tax revenue would yield 2.4 billion annually if taxed like a normal good. If it were taxed like alcohol and cigarettes, it would yield 6.2 billion. Report here: http://www.prohibitioncosts.org/MironReport.pdf. This report was shown to former President Bush. It obviously had little impact.
- Most people don’t know that the rating scale for drugs (other factors are considered as well) is typically measured by the severity of withdrawal. Which drug is the worst? Alcohol, the only legal drug. A severe enough alcoholic’s body can actually shut down and die during withdrawal. A heroin or coke addict will experience hell during detox, but they won’t die. Heroin deaths are typically overdose related. Where is marijuana on this list? Yep, dead last. Why? Because it has no physically addictive properties. The body doesn’t become dependent. The addiction component to marijuana is purely mental. People can become mentally addicted to just about anything. Tell me again why it’s a Schedule 1 controlled substance?
- Opponents will cite that marijuana is a gateway into harder drugs. I don’t know about you, but I had a beer before I ever smoked weed. If America has a gateway drug, it’s alcohol, tobacco, and nicotine. The days of pointing the finger at Mary Jane are waning.
My personal opinion is that the folks in government have been drinking and serving up the “marijuana is harmful” Kool Aid for so long that nobody at the top wants to be the one to openly admit that the Government was wrong. At the very least, the folks in DC could simply abolish Federal Criminalization and defer to states rights on this issue. The biggest irony to me is that California was in such dire financial straits that someone at the top thought that the complete legalization would help refill their coffers. What California government did for the rest of the country with Proposition 19 was to openly admit that, according to their science, trusted officials, and over 40% of their state, that marijuana isn’t so bad after all. The propaganda that we the public have been fed for the last 100 years has been about what it’s always about – business and politics.
So now I ask you, smart reader, to lend your own common sense to this issue. Whether you’re for or against marijuana as a recreational tool, the style around which it’s been prohibited and classified is in dire need of reformation.
Thanks for reading
All of my historical research was derived from various internet sources. Most of it was from Wikipedia. There are organizations out there fighting the current laws in spades. NORML seems to be the most prominent. I’d encourage you to become active in learning more about not only this issue, but other social issues that affect you as well.