WASHINGTON, January 8, 2018: It is time for a national discussion on marijuana. The Trump Administration, particularly A.G. Jeff Session, says they will more strictly enforce federal marijuana laws. This is in conflict with laws in a majority of states.
Americans, because of the complexity of the conversation or because they do not care about legal marijuana, continue to avoid the discussion.
Marijuana: A brief legal History
Marijuana became illegal in the U.S. in 1937, for a number of interesting reasons mostly involving attempts to demonize immigrants from Mexico. Although there is some evidence that marijuana was used for both medicinal and relaxation purposes as long as 5000 years ago, popular use in the US escalated during the 1960’s. The use of pot was against the law.
Despite the laws, the 1960’s “if it feels good, do it” and “make love, not war” generation decided to experiment. They started smoking marijuana, often regularly, so that pot was used for both relaxations, like a martini at the end of the day, and for the “high” feeling.
Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s law enforcement was generally lenient, especially for people in possession of lesser amounts. In the 1980’s things changed, when the Reagan Administration with its “just say no to drugs” hard line on drug enforcement.
Gradually attitudes changed. Recognizing research that showed the medicinal value of marijuana, California passed legislation in 1996, approving its use for medical purposes. In 2012, both Colorado and Washington state took steps to legalize recreational marijuana. California has fully legalized both medical and recreational use.
The trend toward states approving recreational marijuana is increasing. Today twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
It’s time to confront the issue.
The administration has a view that is supported by many conservatives. They believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and that it is addictive. They feel permitting use for young adults will have a negative impact on the quality of life of the user.
Some fear a loss of motivation, a general lackluster attitude and a costly negative impact on society.
Proponents cite a number of polls indicating a majority of Americans favor legalization recreational use. They say they can refute the objections of the opponents. In addition, they cite the very large amount of tax revenue that can be collected.
This is a rare time when taxes can be increased, and, for whatever reason, people simply won’t care.
Also, there are people who have criminal records or worse because of marijuana use.
There are valuable law enforcement resources that are being used to currently enforce pot laws. Legalization eliminates all of that.
What about the arguments of the opponents?
The opponents say that marijuana use will lead to harder drugs, it will eventually take more and more to satisfy, and it is addictive. The hippies in the 1960’s did start with pot and often tried most of what was readily available at the time. So, it did appear that marijuana was a gateway drug. But is that a true test.
The drug culture of the 60’s was a lifestyle choice that includes an anything goes attitude. But that attitude is not applicable to today’s end of the day user. Anecdotally, there are people who have been smoking pot on a fairly regular basis since the 1960’s and don’t use any other non-prescribed drugs. Many don’t drink alcohol.
While there are some that fit the “Boy, I wonder what they look like now?” stereotype, the vast majority are very normal, very productive members of society. For many, there was likely a time in their life when they had to restrict or eliminate consumption of pot.
Users make a choice to use, not abuse, marijuana.
Like someone who enjoys a cocktail or glass of wine at the end of the day, but not at lunch, many marijuana users are able to make affirmative lifestyle choices.
These long-time users can still get the desired feeling from the same amount as they have always used. In addition, the product now comes in other, easier to use forms, like oils, creams, and edibles.
The use of oils, creams, and edibles are paving new modalities in treating chronic pain and seizures as well as an effective way to combat the effects of cancer and cancer treatments.
There appears to be no need to increase consumption to achieve desired results.
Today, millennials view pot about the same as alcohol. For them, it doesn’t appear that use of marijuana will lead to anything else.
Let’s start Marijuana discussion.
Let’s listen to everyone’s concerns and see if we can up with a policy that makes sense. The most likely policy may be that the federal government sets some minimum guidelines to ensure lawful conduct, but leaves it up to the states to decide the legality of use.
Some states may favor recreational use, while some may favor just medicinal use. Or perhaps no use at all.
Americans have been ducking confrontation on the marijuana issue for too long. With many groups declaring the war on marijuana is actually a war on minorities.
Since Trump’s style is to confront issues head-on, now is the time to start talking.