I’d like to begin by saying I have not come to this view lightly or without considering its significance.
I believe the United States should repeal its current marijuana laws. I have been watching a number of documentaries and television shows which have detailed the horrendous failure of this nation’s “War on Drugs.” One of the most interesting things about this is the way in which our current policies were devised. In 1972, then President Richard Nixon ignored the advice of The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (a.k.a. “the Shafer Commission”) – which he appointed and decided that marijuana would remain a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. This decision and several since have done little more than help to imprison many of this nation’s citizens (primarily those of non-white ancestry). By imprisoning those who are found in possession of small amounts of marijuana, this nation has aided and abetted those who desire to imprison one of the most vulnerable segments of the population. In an episode of his Viceland Series Weediquette, Krishna Andavolu chronicles the case of Bernard Noble who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for what amounted to two marijuana joints… Krishna also points out how police forces across the nation are implicitly and in some cases explicitly sending the most vulnerable members of society to jail and prison for petty drug offenses. The prison industrial complex is benefiting the few at the hands of the many. It is unconscionable that this nation has the largest number of its citizens behind bars of any nation on the planet despite being only the 4th most populous worldwide.
Another unwanted consequence of the “War on Drugs” is the escalation of violence by those who are engaged in the drug trade. Looking at the statistics, there have been approximately 160,000 killings in Mexico since the beginning of 2007. Depending on who you believe, as many as 60% of those deaths are related to marijuana trafficking. One need only look back at how this country’s alcohol prohibition contributed to the rise of organized crime in this country to see the parallel.
One of the Schedule I arguments for marijuana prohibition is that “The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” I have to once again disagree with this position. Ask those who are using cannabis oil to treat diseases that would otherwise have them taking drugs with far worse potency for abuse and addiction and have even more harmful side effects. This is another case of following the money. Who has seen the greatest benefit from keeping marijuana illegal? Pharmaceutical companies.
In watching “The Culture High” one of the more humorous points was when DEA head was interviewed by a representative from Colorado about the danger of marijuana.
In my opinion, one of the greatest impediments to repealing current marijuana laws is all the national and international harm the US has caused with its draconian marijuana laws. This will not be a simple flip of the switch. By what we’ve seen in Colorado and Washington state, the tide is turning. What the King County DA did at the time of the passing of Initiative 502 in Washington is what could and should happen. Arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana is hideously oppressive because it comes at the hands of those who benefit from those arrests. The worst part about this and much of the ridiculously biased criminal justice system in this country is that those who wish to keep the status quo don’t realize that they are imprisoning those who would be of a much greater benefit to society on the outside as opposed to behind bars. They either don’t realize, they don’t care. Unfortunately, I’m betting on the latter.
As a final thought I’d like to post some links to some of the shows and docs I have reference in this post. I’d also like to point out that I was once a marijuana user. As one with some experience with the drug, I can negate the positions of those attempting to demonize the drug a la “Reefer Madness.” I’d also like to point out that it’s been 16+ years since I last used the drug, and I have had no such desire any time in the recent past. That being said, looking at all the ways that this “War” has become a tool to incarcerate this nation’s (primarily black) citizens, export violence to other nations, and keep people from medications which improve quality of life, I’m left raising my hands and saying “What’s the point?”