I had a great conversation with the legendary Keith Stroup yesterday about how some well-meaning marijuana activists are too extreme at times. We sat in on an activism panel at the High Times Medical Cup in Denver that was very heated. It reminded me of being back in Oregon where conversations get tense from time to time. The panel moderator was quick to point out that disagreements about marijuana reform are not a sign of weakness in the movement, it’s a sign of strength. I agree. If we didn’t talk about things, kinks would never get worked out. Through communication comes understanding, even if the communication is sometimes a bit confrontational.
At the heart of the passionate debate was Colorado’s Amendment 64. Some activists were very vocal in their opposition to the initiative because they felt that it didn’t go far enough. There were other reasons provided as well, but the phrase ‘this isn’t really reform’ was tossed around a lot and it bothered me enough that I felt the need to write this article. The same statements are made in every state that is pursuing an end to marijuana prohibition, except Oregon. Oregon’s I-24 campaign ends marijuana prohibition without all of the details that have drawn criticism to other campaigns.
It makes me sad when marijuana activists are willing to take no steps forward instead of one step forward, simply because they demand ten steps forward. As I’ve always stated on this blog, politics is an incremental thing. I will admit that ‘alcohol prohibition wasn’t ended one ounce at a time’ but times are a lot different than they were when alcohol prohibition ended. The political stalemate is worse than it has ever been in this country, and anyone who thinks that an ‘all or nothing’ approach is going to be successful in this day and age needs to go back to Poly Sci 101.
I am not saying that we need to ‘get legalization at all costs.’ I am not saying that patients should have to give up some of their rights so that recreational users can get added protection. Although as a patient myself, I would be willing to do so, but I don’t expect other patients to agree with me. What I am saying is that the current state of marijuana prohibition is awful. It is far worse than ‘one step forward.’ To highlight my point, go and ask ten marijuana activists what legalization should look like, and you will get all kinds of conflicting answers and confrontations.
Now go ask those same activists if they think marijuana prohibition should end. They will all agree without all of the arguing. So rather than sit around and argue all day about details, how about we approach it from a different perspective and agree that we need to end prohibition. If the first initiative we pass isn’t good enough, just as we got that initiative passed, we can also pass a ‘fine tune’ initiative the next election cycle. I hear activists state, ‘If this is a constitutional amendment, we have to do it right the first time, because changing it later is very difficult. Therefore don’t support this initiative at all.’
I agree that it’s difficult to amend after passage, but no more difficult than it is to pass the first initiative. If we get something passed, but don’t like how parts of it are being implemented, then we do another campaign the next election cycle and fix it. Some activists act like we only get one shot at it, and so we need to sit and argue for another 40 years to get the ‘perfect initiative.’ How about we pass something this year, improve on it in 2014, and by 2016 it should be good to go. That’s much faster than if we just sat around and postured for our views, rather than compromise with others.