“I used to smoke marijuana. But I’ll tell you something: I would only smoke it in the late evening. Oh, occasionally the early evening, but usually the late evening – or the mid-evening. Just the early evening, midevening and late evening. Occasionally, early afternoon, early midafternoon, or perhaps the late-midafternoon. Oh, sometimes the early-mid-late-early morning… but never at dusk.” -Steve Martin
I am surprised by the amount of people that do not seem to know that cannabis was once widely-accepted and wasn’t even criminalized in America until the 1930s, only a few years after the federal lift on the ban of alcohol (coincidence?). It was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that made the possession of cannabis illegal under federal law – and it wasn’t until the 1950s, with embarrassing propaganda such Reefer Madness swaying the public’s mind, that possession carried mandatory sentencing, which was two to ten years for first-time offenders. Madness, indeed.
George Washington grew medical marijuana. Thomas Jefferson cultivated cannabis. Hell, in the 1600s, hemp produced from Cannabis sativa was not only legal tender, but it was required to be grown by every farmer in the Virginia territory for paper and textile use. Do those crazy conservatives still want to talk about preserving the legacy of our forefathers?
The decriminalization of marijuana is well on its way and more and more states are legalizing its medicinal use (thirteen states at present with another dozen considering) – and while it is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal, along with heroin and LSD, President Obama vowed not to waste precious government resources by arresting medicinal marijuana users or raiding pharmacies that distribute it, if they are following the laws of their state. It is a step in the right direction, but there is still a way to go.
Today, it was announced by the American Medical Association, a group of 250,000 doctors making it the largest of its kind, that they support “clinical research and development of cannabis-based medicines and alternative delivery methods,” a huge switch on their previous policy that coincided with federal laws. This is a huge deal in the fight for marijuana reform, although the AMA does their best to please those against reform by slipping in a line in the policy that this “should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.”
I am not going to whip up the statistics for marijuana use, nor am I going to describe the side effects when compared to alcohol. You are all big boys and girls and can do that research on your own, but I will point out a few things. In 2008 alone, 847,864 people were arrested for marijuana violations in America. As if the courts are not crowded enough, think about all of the government resources – both time and money – spent to process these people, to jail them, to go towards their appeals. Billions and billions of tax-payer dollars are being needlessly spent, whereas there is an opportunity for the government to make billions off of the regulation of marijuana, much like they do with alcohol and tobacco cigarettes.
Let’s replace this prohibition of marijuana with regulation, with taxation, and with education. Would it be easy, especially to regulate? Certainly not. Is this also the most important issue at the moment? Absolutely not. Healthcare reform is far more important, as are the two wars we are waging, and also what the hell is going to happen in Season 4 of Mad Men after that crazy season finale, but this is still an issue that should not be pushed under the carpet.