Picture this: It’s your 50th birthday party. While the kids play outside, you and the other adults talk about politics and family moments on the front porch. Seems boring, but then Uncle Lester reaches into his pocket and rolls a joint, and nobody gives him a second glance.
Hey, it could happen, and if current trends in marijuana support continue, it will.
Thirty-nine-year-old Angel Reich of California got the ball rolling a few weeks ago. Reich, mother of two, suffers from many terminal conditions, such as a brain tumor and a seizure disorder. Reich says that she doesn’t experience “euphoria” when she smokes, and that she only smokes to ease her pain. She also claims that if she were to stop smoking, she would die. Reich, along with Diane Monson, has filed a lawsuit for their right to grow marijuana.
This is the first time the fight for marijuana has been taken to the national stage. Previously, medical marijuana laws were under the jurisdiction of individual states. If Reich and Monson win their case, however, it will mean the federal government officially recognizes that marijuana has potential to treat diseases. The case could also have heavy implications on the pharmaceutical industry if the federal government prevents a patient from receiving medicine, which has been proven to aid treatment. However, I think the big picture here is that America’s attitude on drug prohibition is changing and heading in the right direction. By looking at some of the evidence from Nov. 2, many Americans agree with me.
Last month, over 20 measures were on local ballots that would loosen some of the restrictions on marijuana, and a whopping 17 of them passed. Many were related to Reich’s case and medical marijuana, but a few were related to the criminal aspect of the war on drugs. For example, one town in Missouri lightened possession penalties from a year’s jail time to a $250 dollar fine. Oakland, California legislators regulated marijuana to be of the “lowest priority” for local law enforcement and called for Oakland to urge the state to stop the prosecution of adults for the private use of marijuana. In effect, the ruling marks a stepping stone to legalization. Alaska even tried to legalize the drug entirely, but with only 44 percent supporting the measure, it failed. The very fact that a conservative state like Alaska attempted to legalize marijuana shows that some citizens are tired of our ineffective drug policies.
Americans are growing weary of the money and jail space wasted on the war on drugs; a war many believe has its roots in racism and infringement upon civil liberties, with “zero-tolerance” policies that can have marijuana users serving more jail time than those convicted of manslaughter.
By legalizing marijuana, the government could tax the drug and turn something that costs them so much into a revenue generator. With marijuana being illegal, there is also a mass black market in place to supply the drug, and of course the profit potential is enormous. Thus, wars are waged on our streets over control of territory and supply, leaving the common citizen at an economic disadvantage. If the government were in charge of regulation, not only would this black market disappear, but the drug itself wouldn’t be laced with any dangerous chemicals and would have to go through government testing procedures. These policies would put money in the pockets of America through taxes, and it would keep our streets safer. I doubt the pillars of society will crumble if cannabis is ultimately legalized.
Aside from Election Day, a change was documented years ago by a CNN poll that supports the idea that Americans are slowly softening up on the legalization of marijuana. In 1983, 73 percent of Americans believed marijuana should remain illegal, but by 2002 that number fell to 59 percent. The fact that 80 percent of those surveyed thought marijuana should be used for medicinal purposes shows that citizens believe there is some upside to at least partially legalizing the drug.
In 30 years, a few things could happen: The Eagles may have a Super Bowl championship or two, George Bush VIII could be president, and you could have one hell of a 50th birthday party.
Sean Blanda can be reached at Sean.email@example.com.