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Marijuana Legalization Is No Laughing Matter

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purple kryptonite kush marijuana strainWhen Will Mainstream Media And Veteran Politicians Accept The Fact That Marijuana Reform Is Here To Stay?

By John Payne, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation Executive Director

On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized the adult use and distribution of cannabis (a.k.a. marijuana). These votes represent seismic shifts in the American public’s attitude towards the plant and likely portend the end of our 75 year failed prohibitionist policy. However, some members of the media still found it difficult to take the issue seriously, with anchors joking about the munchies, a new meaning for Denver’s nickname as the mile high city, and states “going to pot.” As Jon Stewart noted on The Daily Show later in the week, “just talking about a marijuana story gives news anchors the giggles.” And not just anchors: When I gathered signatures for Show-Me Cannabis Regulation’s legalization initiative this past winter and spring, many folks thought the issue was a light one – a humorous one.

But as someone working to end the war on cannabis because of the very serious harms that have been inflicted by this policy, I know that it is no laughing matter.

The least funny aspect of the war on marijuana is black market violence. Last year, nearly 20,000 people were killed in the fighting between the Mexican government and the drug cartels on America’s own southern doorstep – more than twice as many people than were killed in the war in Afghanistan. Just as bootlegger violence ended with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, this horror will end when cannabis prohibition is repealed. According to a study released by a respected Mexican think tank a few days before the election, marijuana legalization in just three states would deny the cartels of up to 30 percent of their profits. People likely would not scoff at marijuana legalization if they reflected upon the thousands of lives it could save.

That’s true domestically, too, as prohibition is transforming parts of our own country into war zones. Law enforcement agencies execute tens of thousands of SWAT raids every year, and most of them are for drug warrants. Furthermore, these raids frequently do not go as planned. All too often, police raid the wrong house or end up shooting family pets or even residents when they react, quite predictably, with panic at having their home invaded violently.

Readers may remember a 2010 incident in Columbia, Missouri where the police raided a young couple’s home and shot both of their dogs, killing one of them. The other dog was merely wounded by a ricocheting bullet, which could have just as easily struck and killed the couple’s seven-year-old son. Police only ended up finding a trace amount of marijuana and paraphernalia, but the prosecutor had the gall to charge the couple with child endangerment, when it was the government’s marijuana policies that truly endangered the child’s life. Scenes such as this play out across this state and this country every day; this particular one is only well-remembered because the police recorded the raid, and the video subsequently attracted a great deal of media attention.

Once they hear that this is how our cannabis laws are enforced, people rarely giggle.

They also do not laugh when they hear that more than 750,000 of their fellow Americans are shackled and caged every year for cannabis offenses – nearly 90 percent of them for simple possession. It’s true that most people convicted of possession won’t be sentenced to prison, but they often receive a criminal record that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Every time they apply for a job, financial aid for higher education, or sign a lease on an apartment, they will likely be asked if they are a convicted felon, and when they say “yes,” they will be passed over for similar applicants without the burden of a criminal conviction.

The most common response I received when I gathered signatures was fear. Many people who support marijuana legalization are afraid to sign a petition on the issue for fear of retaliation from their employers or the police. This extends to volunteers, as well. Many volunteers have ended their involvement in cannabis law activism because their employer threatened to retaliate against them for it; because it could be used against them in a custody dispute; or because they have been previously convicted of a cannabis offense, and their probation officer would view it as a violation. The very existence of these people proves that cannabis prohibition is eroding our most basic right of free speech, but their justified fears prevent them from correcting those who laugh off cannabis law reform as fundamentally unserious.

This country was founded on the ideal that every individual is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but cannabis prohibition strikes at the most basic fabric of our society by violating every one of those rights. Numerous recent polls show that a majority of Americans want to legalize and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, but not nearly enough people understand that it is not only a good idea, but also one of the utmost importance. This policy is killing thousands of people abroad, eroding our civil liberties by ransacking our homes and suffocating free speech, and creating a permanent underclass of people who have been convicted of nothing more than possessing a plant. I can think of no other domestic policy in the United States today that does so much damage and all in the name of a policy that has been entirely ineffective at preventing people from using marijuana.

When most politically-engaged Americans start to think of cannabis prohibition in these terms, the laughter will stop, and newscasters will stop showing B-roll of people taking bong rips every time they interview a cannabis law reformer. The consequences of cannabis prohibition are deadly serious, and it is time that this issue moves from the periphery of our political discourse to front and center.

This editorial was published on the Missouri News Horizon website last Friday, November 16 and then distributed to their media affiliates across the state. If you would like to help us continue spreading the truth about cannabis policy to communities across the state, please donate now!

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  • In the Shadows

    The victories in Colorado and Washington show that a majority in a state want this action to be taken. This makes it a more mainstream opinion when the majority is in favor.

    The point you make about employers or government restricting our rights is so true.

    I work in an industry of highly qualified engineering professionals with degrees whether BS or doctorates in their respective disciplines. There are many users of cannabis. However it is all in secret because random drug testing takes place and it puts a stigma on the consumers of the product. Additionally, more people would partake, not because they are stoners, but because they are responsible professionals looking for a healthier and more enjoyable alternative to what is known as a toxin to the human body – alcohol.

    Many people are forced to hide in the shadows about their stances on issues. This weakens the fight unfortunately.

    How does one contribute positively to the movement without being labeled or discriminated against?

    It is amazing how many engineers, lawyers, doctors, business owners partake. It seems like the majority…sort of like all the statistics show…

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  • Silverado

    Oh boy…..NOW (you) voters in CO and WA have done it. You’ve pissed off the United Nations. From A Lightning War For Liberty blog:

    Bring it On: Battle Looms with the United Nations Over Pot Legalization

    Posted on November 21, 2012

    A couple of weeks ago, following Colorado and Washington’s historic vote to become the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, I wrote a piece titled Colorado Legalizes Marijuana: Your Move Eric Holder, which subsequently went viral. At the time, I had only anticipated a battle with the Feds, but now the most useless and corrupt organization on the planet has weighed in – the United Nations.

    The head of the UN drug watchdog (the International Narcotics Control Board or INCB), Raymond Yans, has come out in a press release essentially instructing the Attorney General of the United States to enforce Federal Prohibition of pot against the rights of the states to implement a law that is not only Constitutional, but a perfect example of a free people deciding what they want for themselves.

    Perhaps that is why the United Nations is so panicky about the legislation in Colorado and Washington. The organization consists of a bunch of global government craving control freak bureaucrats, and as such I welcome this battle as an opportunity to marginalize it further and expose them for the undemocratic creeps they really are. Anyone remember the massive corruption within the UN’s Oil for Food Program? I wouldn’t let these clowns shine my shoes let alone decide what every citizen in every corner of the planet can put into their own bodies.

    From the UN press release:

    VIENNA, 15 November (UN Information Service) – The President of theInternational Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Raymond Yans, has voiced grave concern about the outcome of recent referenda in the United States of America that would allow the non-medical use of cannabis by adults in the states of Colorado and Washington, and in some cities in the states of Michigan and Vermont. Mr. Yans stated that “these developments are in violation of the international drug control treaties, and pose a great threat to public health and the well-being of society far beyond those states”.

    He went on to further state that for the international drug control system to function effectively, to achieve its aim of ensuring availability of drugs for medical purposes while preventing their abuse, the conventions must be universally adhered to and implemented by all States. In this regard, Mr. Yans stressed that national laws, policies and practices in drug abuse prevention and control should be fully aligned with the conventions.

    The INCB President requested the Government of the United States to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance with the international drug control treaties within the entire territory of the United States, in order to protect the health and well-being of its citizens.

    The full press release is here. It’s one page, I suggest you read it. Such an intense concentration of hyperbole, panic and propaganda could only be created by the United Nations.

    • jim dandy

      this hans guy is a real piece of work. i bet he stays up at night like that evil man on the Twilight Zone who lives to hurt his fellow man. i say give him bong hits

  • Monkey

    You have to keep a sense of humor, the world is a funny place. One funny thing I keep remembering is that during alcohol prohibition, possession of alcohol was not outlawed, but even after Washington and Colorado supposedly “legalized marijuana”, possession of over an ounce is still prohibited. Everything is funny, if we take life too seriously, we’ll all go crazy. The trick is to laugh at yourself as much as you laugh at others. Before we start claiming victories, maybe we should at least remove penalties for possession, not just possession of an ounce. Until then, we’re not even treated the same as people during alcohol prohibition.

    • Sean

      You act as if Washington and Colorado did a terrible thing. This is a time to rejoice, not to mourn for cripessakes!

  • Drift13

    There isn’t a damn thing funny about my pain. I don’t like what the opiods do to my body and mind. I just wish I lived in a state that had come to it’s senses. The war on drugs FAILED years ago.

  • Eddy

    Great article, thank you for posting.

  • Freedom Fighter

    Tough Sh*t U.N. , This is the “Unites States of America” “For The People” “By the People” and if you don`t like it- Go straight to Hell, We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights, We can Make or Change our own Laws and Regulations and we DO NOT have to ask for Your permission and we WILL NOT ASK, If U.N. Troops start invading this Country – Millions of AMERICAN “Patriots” WILL start Shooting! We need to just SEPARATE from the U.N – Immediately!

  • Colorado and Washington’s
    marijuana legalization initiatives are a huge step forward for a sensible drug
    policy that ends the horrible damage that the drug war has inflicted on the
    liberty. They will become models for the rest of the country if they build up
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