War on Weed Clouds Common Sense

Linn Washington Jr.
By Linn Washington Jr.

Linn Washington Jr. is a journalist and journalism professor who works in Philadelphia, Pa USA. Washington specializes in analytical/investigative coverage of issues involving law, social justice, race-based inequities and the news media. Washington teaches courses in investigative and multi-media urban reporting. He is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.

Posted on Thursday, 17 October 2013 09:25

While touring the United States, Christine Chin from Malaysia, visited Philadelphia specifically to see the iconic Liberty Bell.

Chin was blocked from seeing what she called the “soul of America” because the federal government shutdown closed facilities nationwide, including fabled buildings in Independence National Historic Park where the Bell is located.

But Chin did see a spectacle that she thought uncharacteristic of the professed Land of the Free: federal park rangers massed near the Liberty Bell to arrest peaceful demonstrators protesting the federal government’s prohibition on pot.

That protest was close to a large stone marker commemorating the First Amendment – that U.S. Constitutional right enshrining a protection for people to protest against their Government “for redress of grievances.”

Seven early American presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, farmed hemp

Despite public opinion polls consistently showing that over 50 percent of American adults support the legalization of marijuana, federal and state police push pot arrests – 749,825 in 2012 with 87 percent of those arrests for mere possession of the substance that 19 states now allow for medical purposes and two states have approved for purely recreational use.

Nations worldwide adhere to anti-pot treaties engineered by America ignoring the significant public support for legalization within those countries.

Curiously, cannabis legalization holds value for the partisan wranglers in Washington, DC. Legalization can seemingly address what conservative Republicans behind that federal closure claim are their essential concerns like ending wasteful government expenditures and finding new revenue sources.

Putting an end to the U.S. government’s failed pot prohibition policies, now nearing the 80-year mark, would provide a source of new revenue from eliminating the $10-billion-plus now spent annually for just law enforcement.

Ending the War on Weed would also end long documented discriminatory enforcement practices. During 2012 in Philadelphia for example, only 629 white adults were arrested for pot possession compared to 3,052 blacks according to police statistics. Police that target black neighborhoods for enforcement excuse the reality that more than 600 whites smoke pot daily on just college campuses in Philadelphia.

With ending pot prohibition, federal and state governments could raise additional billions in revenue from taxing what experts estimate is the now untaxed $113-billion per year illegal marijuana industry across America.

Far right-wing Tea Party Republican radicals on Capitol Hill triggered the government shutdown with demands to end and/or delay health care reforms President Obama initiated primarily to reduce medical costs that now consume nearly 20 percent of all of America’s economic output (GDP).

America’s health care system is the most expensive in the world yet is a system with poor health outcomes compared to other developed nations.

The medical benefits of marijuana, recognized since ancient Chinese and Egyptian societies, would help reduce certain health care costs through improved outcomes for certain conditions.

In 1988, the federal drug enforcement agency’s chief administrative law judge ruled that marijuana was one of the “safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” But that agency’s then top official indignantly rejected his judge’s ruling removing marijuana from the dangerous drug category.

Plus ending pot prohibition would save millions now spent on anti-pot propaganda from federal agencies that tout discredited rationales initially fashioned by federal anti-drug warriors in the late 1930s.

If marijuana is as mentally destructive as ONDCP declares Obama could have never advanced into the White House.

President Barack Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy still proclaims that use of pot causes “cognitive impairment” – propaganda belied by the professional accomplishments of Obama himself. The president admits that he smoked marijuana as a teen. Obama’s cannabis consumption didn’t impede him from graduating from two Ivy League institutions including Harvard’s Law School.

If marijuana is as mentally destructive as ONDCP declares Obama could have never advanced into the White House.

Additionally, legalizing marijuana would end economic and legal absurdities associated with pot prohibition.

Due to prohibition the non-intoxicating cousin of cannabis – industrial hemp – is illegal. Thus that plant with multiple uses from food to fuel to textiles is impaired from full economic development in America unlike thirty countries worldwide that permit farmers to grow hemp. Seven early American presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, farmed hemp. The 1937 federal pot prohibition banned hemp cultivation.

Under America’s draconian drug laws, a conviction for marijuana possession can bar a person permanently from receiving federal education loans and other governmental benefits – a penalty absurdly not applicable to convictions for serious crimes like armed robbery and rape.

Current pot prohibition in America comes from a 1970 federal law that also required creation of a special commission to examine maintaining marijuana as a dangerous drug.

That commission, chaired by a Republican governor from Pennsylvania, recommended decriminalizing marijuana possession calling criminal law “too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession.” That commission’s conclusions enraged then President Richard Nixon who profanely trashed his handpicked commission and escalated the War on Weed that continues.

Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not erase America’s federal budget deficit. And, marijuana use is not for everyone.

However, government officials in America and around the world would do well to note a salient conclusion of that early 70’s pot probe commission: the use of drugs for pleasure or other non-medical purposes is not inherently irresponsible.

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