Us Vs Them: Why Marijuana Is The New Age Prohibition
Written by Confucius Jones
I grew up around a lot of pot heads. While no one I know directly in my family smokes marijuana, majority of my friends do. I’ve only smoked marijuana a few times in my life, and it isn’t my thing, but to others it’s as common as a cup of coffee. While known as an illegal drug, marijuana to me is no different, or out of the ordinary, than a beer or cigarette. The key word in that last sentence though is illegal. Marijuana is illegal in most places in the world (except Amsterdam) but here in the United States of America, marijuana is treated a bit more harshly than it should be when you look at the facts surrounding it. All that might be about to change in the near future.
A trio of bipartisan senators announced today the first medical marijuana legalization bill to be introduced into the Senate — a move that could pave the way for greater access to marijuana regardless of whether the bill passes, according to experts.
Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will sponsor the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS Act), which will allow states that have medical marijuana laws on the books to operate without being in conflict with federal law, they said today at a joint press conference.
The bill also seeks to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug, making it more widely available for researchers to study its potential as a medicinal substance. It will also allow doctors affiliated with Veterans Affairs hospitals to prescribe marijuana for veterans, and will make it legal to traffic certain strains of medical marijuana across state lines for medical purposes.
It is about damn time. While this new bill probably won’t make using or owning marijuana legal, it is an important step to erasing decades of a failed and misleading war on the drug itself.
My stance on marijuana stems less from a smokers point of view but from a judicial viewpoint. The war on drugs includes marijuana and the war on drugs in this country is the one war we will never win. One, because drugs that do cause harm will never go away and two, the war targets people in a lower demographic and users more than those who actually make and distribute the drug. The US spends $10 BILLION dollars annually enforcing marijuana laws and more than 693,000 people are arrested a year behind the drug as well. To put that in prospective that is more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 88 percent, about 609,000 Americans were charged with possession only. The remaining individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. Recently enacted changes in law in Colorado and Washington resulted in approximately 16,000 fewer marijuana arrests in those states in 2013.
Outside of the statistics that involve the legal failures of marijuana enforcement, the numbers for marijuana related deaths are almost nonexistent. Compared to the 50,000 people who die a year from alcohol poisoning and the 400,000 who die from tobacco smoking, and the 3,000 from food poisoning, guess how many die from overdosing on marijuana? 0.
There are actually very few documented cases of death by a marijuana overdose. For the most part, THC (the drug in marijuana) has never been thought of as a deadly drug. In the few instances that death has occurred with marijuana use it has been attribute to other drug use or the health condition of the individual. THC is so low in potency that very large amounts would need to be taken to cause a dangerous overdose.A fatal marijuana overdose in humans would take 40,000 times the amount of THC that it took to get them high in the first place. In comparison, it would only take 5 to 10 times the amount of alcohol to get drunk to kill a human. If you can get drunk on 3 beers, then 15 to 30 beers can cause death. If you inhale 3 puffs of marijuana smoke and get high, then you would have to take 120,000 puffs of marijuana smoke to be fatal. In this sense, it is nearly impossible to die from an overdose of marijuana. Again, it depends on the purity of the marijuana and the health status of the individual so these amounts may vary depending on the situation.
So why is marijuana still illegal? The answer may simply be money. Between 1920 and 1933, when Prohibition was active, the sale of illegal alcohol was taking in close to $3 billion a year. In 1998, marijuana accounted for 10.7 billion dollars in illegal sales according to the DEA. We live in a country that makes billions of dollars off people’s health and well-being so the key ingredient in marijuana legalization may just be how well, and how soon, the US government can find a way to tax and control the drug. But that doesn’t mean everyone is on board with marijuana legalization.
“If anybody is standing in the way of classification it’s [NIDA] or the DEA itself,” Neill said. “People in the DEA are generally opposed to any drug reform at all, that’s what the agency is built on, an anti-drug message, and it has invested a lot in that idea and to change and say marijuana is okay sometimes is going to be hard for some people to do.”
Neill also pointed out that the DEA receives funding to pursue marijuana crimes, and wouldn’t want to risk losing its resources.
While as of now, marijuana is illegal, I don’t see it being that way in the future. Outside of the lopsided drug laws and proven medical uses for marijuana, morally we have an obligation to give the drug a fair chance. If cigarettes and alcohol can be legal so can marijuana. This isn’t your grandmothers America where people think pot will destroy your life. In fact, more and more people agree with my opinion on pot as evident by legalization laws passed in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, D.C, and Washington state. So before you go on and on about how bad marijuana is look at the facts and history behind it and the prohibition laws of the early 19th century and ask yourself which side of history do you want to be on.