Recently, the town I live in held a public city council meeting regarding the legality of marijuana within the city limits. Actually, it turned out to be merely a “public filing” of a report on the different ways the city could approach legalizing marijuana. People were expecting the city to hold a vote on legalization, but by doing this “filing”, they’re effectively saying “no” to taking any action.
Even though the state of California made marijuana use legal state-wide, it left it up to individual cities whether or not to allow it within their boundaries. This is causing a major setback in the overall progressive movement towards national/federal legalization. By leaving it up to the cities, the state basically pulled an “ask your father” move.
Racism made cannabis illegal
Let’s face facts: pretty much the only people who are against the legalization of cannabis are those who are misinformed, or overly-conservative.
This all stems back to the first major wave of Mexican immigrants coming into the country in the early 1900s, after the Mexican Revolution. For some reason, they mostly ended up in southern states (I would think they’d head into the southwestern states, which were previously Mexican territory). Southerners didn’t care for their new neighbors and began a campaign of demonizing the Mexican’s preferred herbal remedy, marijuana.
White people (mostly community leaders and politicians) began spreading lies about how marijuana drove people to kill, and made black men want to rape white women. This ultimately resulted in marijuana being banned nationwide in 1937, in order to control the Mexican (and ultimately black) population.
Remember how rednecks in the south who wanted to get rid of “Obamacare” didn’t realize that it was the same “Affordable Care Act” that they have become dependent on until the GOP began taking it apart? Well, the same thing happened in 1937 when pot first became illegal. See, white people had been using it for years in remedial products of their own.
But because they knew as “cannabis”, not “marijuana”, it wasn’t until the law passed that they realized the grievous mistake they had done. Oopsie.
Pot (along with other drugs) would once again gain popularity in the 60s and 70s thanks to the hippie movement. But ol’ Tricky Dick Nixon would reinforce the demonization of pot and pass laws that would help the government keep the anti-war and black movements under their thumb.
Ironically, Nixon had actually commissioned a study that went on to show that marijuana did not belong on the list of Schedule I drugs (Schedule I being the most restricted). Whether Nixon knowingly or ignorantly denied the facts in an effort to control the counter-culture is unclear.
Nixon’s own advisor, however, is on the record as having said, “by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities… Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The pros of legalization
Let me be perfectly clear before I continue: I myself am not a marijuana user. I have taken it a couple times in college (how cliche), but have not taken the stuff ever since (contact highs aside).
Given the previous information, it should already be clear that there is really no legal standing for the restriction of marijuana; it was made illegal under false pretenses, under conditions that are quite possibly unconstitutional (the subversion of a group of people or ethnicity).
But let’s still go over the positive outcomes that would result from the legalization of pot.
Money, money, money… MOOOONEY
There’s the more obvious outcome of pot legalization: money. States and local municipalities can collect taxes on the sale of marijuana. In 2016, marijuana taxes accounted for approximately 4% of Colorado’s total sales tax revenue. The speed at which pot tax revenue has been climbing has slowed down, but it’s still a good chunk of the state’s revenue. Not to mention that the first $40million collected goes towards education funding.
The thing is, however, if you’re going to legalize the retail sale of pot, you have to be smart about it. Legal marijuana sales in southern California was a disaster, with agencies dragging their feet on application setups, coming up with rules and processes, etc. Ultimately, it was the excessive tax (34%) that made the venture a bomb, as the price of legal marijuana is too high for most people.
Which brings me to my second pro:
Downsizing the black market
The second direct way marijuana can improve the lives of citizens is by bringing marijuana out of the dark and hidden recesses of the black market, into an open, transparent and regulated market. One of the side effects of a legal marijuana industry is that production is no longer relegated to grow houses where mass production rules over safety. Every now and then, we’ve all heard about some strain of weed going around that is toxic or poisoned, etc.
With a public and regulated market, any such mishaps can be incidental and mitigated. Product will become safer for the consumer, and at a reasonable cost.
More importantly, you’re taking a massive market out of the hands of criminals and putting it into the hands of entrepreneurs who contribute to the community.
This ties in to pro #3:
Downsizing the Narcos
The black market in the U.S. is by and large tied directly to the narcos in Mexico and elsewhere. Mexican cartels are the number one producer and seller of marijuana. Although production has dropped recently as a result of legalization across the U.S., it is still their best-selling product.
By legalizing weed and having the U.S. produce the product domestically as opposed to importing from crime-funded sources, the cartels have taken a hit to their pocketbooks, despite starting to roll production over to other drugs like meth and cocaine.
Had the legalization of weed occurred at a national level and in one blow, instead of over the span of decades and state by state, it’s possible the cartels would have suffered a sufficient-enough blow that their presence and activity would have been significantly reduced. But alas, progress is nothing if not a bad word in this country.
For now, we’ll have to settle with giving the cartels a major annoyance that’ll take a few years to overcome.
Upsizing the medical benefits
Ever since California allowed the prescription of medical marijuana, it’s been a non-stop stream of stories about the medical benefits of weed. Unfortunately, because marijuana is still federally an illegal substance, the federal government refuses to conduct proper studies into these benefits.
It seems to be generally accepted within the medical community that marijuana makes many horrible diseases tolerable. AIDS and HIV patients use it to deal with the pain of living with their disease, as well as to generate hunger, which leads them to eating better and increasing their energy.
People with depression, particularly military veterans with PTSD, continually extol the use of marijuana to help them deal with their disorder and live their lives somewhat normally.
The irony is that marijuana had been used for thousands of years as a medicinal herb. So all the benefits that are being “discovered” these days are in fact things that had been well-known before, but lost due to the bigotry of misinformed xenophobes.
By legalizing marijuana, we take away the stigma that the government had previously placed on the plant. This in turn opens up the possibility of proper research to fully explore what cannabis is actually capable of.
That’s not to say there aren’t bad side effects
As with anything else, there can be a dark side to the virtues of marijuana. There have been reports of a higher rate of people being arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana (which in turn leads to a higher incident of deaths from accidents under such conditions).
I don’t want to dismiss these reports outright but I do want to posit a question: are there really more accidents by people driving while high, or are we looking for them more now that marijuana is legal? Because testing for marijuana hasn’t become standardized nor widely used until recently, we have no such data to confirm nor deny.
This is the same as what may be behind the “increase” in the number of children being born with autism; are there really more children born with autism, or is it just that psychologists have changed the definition of autism over and over and made it broad enough that more children fall under such a categorization?
Hopefully as states legalize pot one by one, data has begun to be collected and we’ll soon have some semblance of an apples-to-apples comparison.