The price of cannabis prohibition

by Jacob Condo, Staff Writer

I could go on forever about the benefits of marijuana and its legalization both medically and economically. What we as a nation must awaken ourselves to is the fact that this prohibition we find ourselves in is nothing less than an affront to our civil rights.

Freedom to choose for oneself is paramount among our rights as human beings. No matter whether it’s “good” for us or not, we have the freedom to make our lives what we want them to be.

Want to be a president or make a difference in the world? You’re free to make the effort to try.

You’re just as free to do nothing with your life. Want to drown your pain away with those prescription drugs the doctors prescribe you, or lose yourself in a whisky bottle? As long as you don’t take your troubles out on anyone but yourself, you’re welcome to it.

So why is it that we’re prohibited from making decisions about drugs that the government proclaims illegal?

In the 1970’s, Richard Nixon declared that drug abuse was the biggest domestic threat to the American people. In that decade, there was perpetual recovery from assassinations, war, and shattered dreams. A lot of people were naturally coping however they saw fit.

It was a symptom of the times, and the struggles of those times for the American people was shown in how they acted out in violence or through the use of drugs. They sought an escape from their lives, lives which were becoming terrible around them through no fault of their own.

So instead of sitting and asking “why are people using drugs?” and making attempts to cure the corruption at the root of these symptoms, they waged a war against drugs.

In political terms, this was a smart (but short-sighted) move. It gave the public something to be against. Non-regulated drugs were not only breaking the law by not being under government control, but they were pushing Americans to all sorts of evil-doings. We had our boogeyman.

While drug therapy had been long-proven to be a real solution, incarceration was the politically useful solution. Instead of helping people, we waged war against a concept.

Overnight, there was a flood of studies and propaganda against drugs like marijuana, which is small potatoes compared to other drugs.

What better drug to attack than the one politically active college students and hippies flocked to? So they doubled-down on it to delegitimize a portion of our population as criminals.

It just so happened that these criminals were the strongest critics of Nixon and the Vietnam War, and were the type who’d have recognized and cared that the government was infringing upon our civil liberties. Whoever wasn’t sentenced for possession  learned not to stand up too tall against these laws.

So the government launched their war which still plagues us today. If it wasn’t approved by the Drug Enforcement Agency, it was too dangerous to allow the public to use. We must protect our ignorant peasants, after all.

Without really saying it, they initiated a second prohibition. We used a boot when we should have used our heads.

Predictably, crime rates soared. If somebody wants something bad enough, they can find a way to get it no matter what the law says. People were still in need of escape, after all. So gangs rose once more to supply America’s demand.

Of course, the DEA had to combat this inevitable crime-wave. Waging war costs money, so we all willingly allowed the powers-that-be to divert our tax money to the war on drugs.

Now, I don’t know if you know what the prohibition on alcohol was like, but in both cases, it only made it more profitable to be a gangster. Marijuana was just another cog in the wheel, and had been made illegal long before, but it too was hilariously profitable.

The more money drug cartels made, the more they were able to elude the authorities, either with bribes or with weapons and ultimately violence. The DEA of course got bucket loads of money to escalate this further.

We happily gave them this money because a big show was made of how well we were doing. It’s easy to justify a mind-boggling expense when you’re led to believe it’s doing some good. So whenever a raid was made, piles of guns and drugs were proudly displayed on the evening news.

We sacrificed our freedoms in regards to drugs because we were made to believe that the government was protecting us from bad people.

Who cares why these drugs are illegal, if the government assures us it’s dangerous?

If the goal is to protect us from danger, then why weren’t we educated like we were with the dangers of tobacco? That was a public danger for decades and now because of education, the rates at which people are dying from them have plummeted.

It makes no sense to punish people when you’re trying to help them. It also makes no sense to empower your enemy.

Almost without protest, we allowed our police to be militarized in the wake of 9/11.

Why not, after all? We were in danger, and freedoms were happily given for security in an increasingly uncertain world. Fear was their tool to keep money flowing through the DEA for their war.

The problem was (and is) that there’s no possible way to win this war. Drugs and gangs aren’t going anywhere. You take out one gang, another three will spring up and kill each other to take its place.

Not only that, but if you’re trying to make yourself look like you’re winning a war, you go for small fries, not people who can actually shoot back when the police come to their door. So instead of the moustache-twirling villains, they go for smaller game.

All of the sudden, it became okay for the police to invade our homes and shoot our pets and our family members during raids. The cops were rolling by in tanks wearing body armor, toting automatic weapons and creating a culture of fear.

I don’t know a single person who isn’t afraid of cops. As we began connecting to one another in ways we never have before the internet, we began to realize that instead of protectors the police were an oppressive force that could do what it wants.

Now where does marijuana come into all of this?

It’s the one that can change the game. The reasons why marijuana is illegal has stopped making sense a long time ago, due to the fact that the government believed we wouldn’t look into it.

Patents made by the government for medical uses for marijuana conflict with its category one legal status, which means that we aren’t even allowed to study the plant unless we’re trying to prove its dangerous.

The prohibitionists in charge of defining these laws have time and time again lost credibility with their inability to explain to the public why marijuana is a category one drug, and therefore more dangerous than meth.

Lawmakers, who have their constituents and their rights to look after, got fed up with a policy that was no longer making sense.

It’s not just hippies and delinquents fighting for legalization of weed nowadays; it’s scientists, lawyers, and legitimate politicians who are looking at this abuse for what it is.

The DEA doesn’t want to protect us by throwing us in jail for joints. They do it because their annual budget is upwards of five billion dollars, and prohibition makes that possible.

If you make marijuana legal, suddenly they have much less use to our society and they lose all that money.

At the end of the day, marijuana prohibition feeds a system of abuse at the national level. We not only allow the government to punish us for something less of a danger to ourselves and society than alcohol, but we allow them to take our freedom of choice away.

If you look at the death rates, all of these illicit drugs that are actually dangerous have minuscule death rates when compared with the death rates of legal prescription drugs.

So how is the DEA protecting us, when these drugs are happily allowed to poison us?

As the benefits economically and medically of legalization pile up, prohibition looks all the more hypocritical and destructive to our society.

So why should we allow it to go on?

In Massachusetts, voters have a say on this issue. In November, ballot question 4 asks if recreational marijuana should be legalized for adults over the age of 21.

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