Why Aren’t We Talking About This?

Cannabis, whether it’s prohibited, regulated, or subsidized, should be of no matter to our federal government.

 

“Now what I contend is that my body is my own, at least I have always so regarded it. If I do harm through my experimenting with it, it is I who suffers, not the state.” – Mark Twain

 

My usual title, “Why aren’t we talking about this?” is probably a bit of a misnomer for an article regarding marijuana policy. While it’s true that the mainstream media frequently discusses marijuana decriminalization, and I’m sure we’ve all discussed it at some point in our personal lives, much of the discussion has been rhetorical or superficial, and full of biased, predictable talking points.

The federal prohibition on marijuana is one of preconceived notions, biased opinion, bigotry, and power, plain and simple. Though cannabis sativa has been cultivated and utilized for manufacturing, medicinal, and recreational uses for thousands of years, our federal government did not find reason to prohibit the drug until 1937 (after alcohol had been prohibited by constitutional amendment, which was later repealed). As history has proven, the prohibition on marijuana apparently wasn’t even worth a constitutional amendment (why the difference?), and the debate on the 1937 bill to prohibit the possession or transfer of marijuana lasted for less than two minutes on the House floor. The bill’s most ardent supporters? Federal Bureau of Narcotics officials Henry Anslinger and James Munich, who made claims about “taking two puffs and turning into a bat,” “killing dogs,” and “outlawing marijuana” because of its effect on “degenerate races” (marijuana was primarily prevalent in Mexican culture  and the jazz scene at that time, not to mention with the “Hindoos” as stated by a 1913 California report).

By 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the 1937 marijuana “tax act” unconstitutional, prompting Congress and President Nixon to enact the Controlled Substances Act, thus initiating the “War on Drugs.” The Controlled Substances Act places a priority  or “rating” on various substances, with Schedule I being the most prohibited (you can’t even get a prescription from your doctor), and Schedule V being the least prohibited (over-the-counter substances, primarily). Hopefully you’re as perplexed as I am to find marijuana rated as a Schedule I substance (like heroin), while cocaine, meth, and oxycodone are Schedule II substances, and are permitted for distribution via prescription in some instances, and available to drug companies for research. You read that right: a major pharmaceutical company cannot even touch a marijuana plant, but they’re free to play with cocaine and meth.

Since the start of this “War on Drugs,” hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars have been spent attempting to eliminate marijuana. It goes without saying that they’ve clearly failed their mission (making it yet another ineffective War on Something), and the end result is nothing less than your money wasted, overcrowded federal, state, and local jails and prisons, death, unnecessary criminal records, loss of personal assets, the apparent justification for a growing police state, and the associated black market that comes with any prohibition.

None of this needs to exist. There shouldn’t be a black market for weed and hemp, just like there shouldn’t be a militarization of our local and federal law enforcement departments to combat this “problem.” Not only has our government failed (miserably) at their aim to eradicate the possession and transfer of marijuana, but their efforts have been counterproductive at best, perpetuating their “problem.” The War on Drugs is, and always has been, a lose-lose for everyone involved. The only people “winning” in this “war” are the profiteers created by the black market, and the entities profiting from the militarization of police departments spanning from Mayberry to the Drug Enforcement Agency. As USMC General Smedley Butler infamously stated 80 years ago, “war is a racket.”

But the states are standing up. Numerous states have enacted legislation or are debating legislation to decriminalize marijuana, permit it’s medicinal use, and permit the industrial use of hemp. The effort to put these decisions back into the hands of the individual states is gaining traction, and this is just the start. Ultimately, all federal drug laws should be repealed and the DEA needs to be abolished. Sound radical? Probably to some. I’m sure many envision some sky high naked teenager charging down their street on horseback, shouting obscenities, burning flags, and shaving their cat the day the Controlled Substances Act is repealed, but this ignores the fact that repealing such laws merely places the responsibility of addressing any issues in the hands of each individual state. Certainly, Indiana may want to try a different approach at prohibiting or decriminalizing various substances than say, California would.

Intrinsically, that was the entire philosophy behind the creation of this Great Experiment nearly 230 years ago. We were never meant to be endowed with a government that has assumed the illegitimate authority to issue broad, sweeping, cookie-cutter laws and regulations for everyone to follow, but rather with a federation of states that can operate independently, and if you simply can’t stand what your state did, there’s (now) 49 other options out there for you to try.

Eliminating federal drug laws and related agencies and ultimately allowing free, independent people, communities, counties, and states to decide what works best for them is the only approach to resolving the abysmal failure that is our War on Drugs. It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue, and it’s not a Libertarian issue. Consequentially and philosophically, the War on Drugs is the antithesis of a limited, conservative government, and contradicts the concept of both federalism and individual liberty. It’s appalling regardless of what side of the aisle you stand on, and it has to end before the problems it created eternize.

-Chris Mayo (L), candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (IN-7)

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