Marijuana: The State of the Union
Where we are now, and how we got here.
Politics are more polarizing and divisive than ever; however it seems there is one issue that most Americans seem to agree on: marijuana. Over the last few years, attitudes towards marijuana have been shifting towards ending prohibition on marijuana or cannabis.
Why is that and is it something to worry about?
No. In fact, it might be something to actually be excited about for a plethora of reasons.
Marijuana is a naturally occurring plant that humans have been cultivating for thousands of years across multiple regions of the world. According to Martin Booth's Cannabis: A History, the earliest recorded use of marijuana dates back to the 3rd millennium BCE: That's 3,000 BCE, or over 5,000 years ago.
In ancient times leading up to the modern day, most uses for the plant tended to be either spiritually based as a part of some ritual of indigenous peoples, or as a healing herb or medicine. It was usually smoked, like tobacco, but there are other documented cases of cannabis being eaten and baked into breads or pastries well into antiquity.
Prior to the 20th century, marijuana was a non-starter. In the US, it fell under one's personal freedom of what you can and cannot grow on your land or put in your body, so no one really cared.
So Why Is It Illegal?
It turns out that in the early 20th century, Hispanic immigrants and African Americans were perceived to be using marijuana in larger numbers than white Americans. There were ideas floating around that claimed that it made people lazy, violent, psychotic, the list goes on and on.
Harry J. Anslinger ran a very large and very loud smear campaign against marijuana, citing false studies, rejecting peer review, and blatantly ignored other findings like that of the La Guardia Committee which disproved and debunked most if not all of Anslinger's claims about cannabis.
The argument that most politicians quote today when opposing marijuana legalization tends to come from a moral standpoint. Many have been quoted saying something along the lines of "money shouldn't be more important than morals." However, what's incredibly important to realize is that many of these politicians get massive campaign donations from industries whose profits might see a loss with a legalized marijuana.
Should It Remain Illegal?
From a strict constitutional standpoint, it should be legalized, taxed, and regulated at the federal level immediately. Why? Because the constitution does not give the federal government the right to abridge the inalienable rights and personal freedoms of American citizens.
In the United States, the Volstead Act prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol throughout the entire nation. It is a very widely known fact that this strategy resulted in not just failure, but exacerbated the Great Depression via a huge loss of government revenue from not taxing alcohol; in fact, this is the exact reason why it was repealed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, to raise more tax revenue.
Here's the real economic kicker: Marijuana is still illegal to trade internationally. Which means that any legal and regulated cannabis industry in the US would be completely domestic by necessity. This instantly creates a multi-billion dollar industry whose production remains solely within the nation. Job creation anyone?
Good people don't smoke marijuana.
So Where Are We Now?
As it stands, marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance according to the United States. This means that the government sees and treats marijuana the same way it does heroin, LSD, Mescaline and ecstasy. Even cocaine is not a schedule 1 substance. Seriously, go look it up.
Eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use and 40 have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. This means that federal law is at odds with literally 4/5 of all US states. Other nations like Canada, Germany, and Israel, are also experimenting with legal marijuana, with our northern neighbor set to unveil and implement its recreational plan later this year.
The appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, gives legalization activists pause. Ever since rumors about a possible crackdown came out, the Trump administration has seen a massive backlash from both the American people as well as US states seeking to defend their rights.
Legislative action may be just on the horizon as H.R.975, the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act," was introduced to the House in early February. Furthermore, on February 18, 2017 the very first Congressional Cannabis Caucus was created with bipartisan support on Capitol Hill with the explicit goal of marijuana reform. Cannabis is already projected to create over a quarter million jobs and overtake current US manufacturing rates by 2020.