2016 Election Brings New Highs For Marijuana Lovers
November 11, 2016 (Fault Lines) – One prediction is safe on election day; half of America is going to be pissed. According to every Facebook feed and tweet, that definitely came true this week. People seem really pissed. Too bad. In all the shrill screaming about the election, a major political victory in eight states has been ignored. Kind of a buzz kill.
Those states had marijuana referendums on the ballot. So while you are screaming about whether this election is the end of the world or the beginning of a new prosperity, eight states actually are making America great again. And by “great,” of course, I mean “high”.
Cannabis has been around for thousands of years. In the beginning, it was a very useful plant. It was used in religious and spiritual ceremonies. Cannabis was also used as a painkiller during childbirth and for toothaches. Its place as the gateway to all things evil and criminal is a relatively new load of crap idea:
“The idea that this is an evil drug is a very recent construction,” and the fact that it is illegal is a “historical anomaly,” [University of Kansas geography professor Barney] Warf said. Marijuana has been legal in many regions of the world for most of its history.
In the early 1900s, immigrants fleeing the Mexican Revolution brought marijuana to the United States, which explains why there were no jam bands prior to that time. The government, always at its most efficient when it’s harshing your mellow, moved quickly to stamp out the weed. Between 1915 and 1931, 29 states outlawed marijuana. The feds piled on a few years later when the Marijuana Tax Act made it illegal throughout the United States.
Progress has been slow, in part because the feds simply don’t want to admit that marijuana is not all that dangerous.
“Today, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, along with heroin and LSD, indicating it has high potential for abuse and addiction, no accepted medical uses and no safe level of use,” Warf wrote.
Tuesday, voters in 8 states rejected this ancient thinking and opened up their hearts and minds to legalized marijuana. Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota voted for medical marijuana use, providing citizens with a way to deal with chronic pain that doesn’t end up in heroin addiction.
Perhaps more importantly, four states legalized marijuana for recreational use. California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada legalized marijuana. In each of those states, grownups can now possess, grow, and share marijuana.
Not only did these laws pass, but they were voted in with flying colors. People are changing. Attitudes are changing. And while the sky seems to be falling, at least you will be able to take a few hits when it hits. Even the Donald, our soon to be brand new president, seems committed to letting the people decide how they want to party.
Trump says marijuana policy “should be a state issue,” which also happens to be what the Constitution requires. “Trump has clearly and repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws,” says Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell, “and we fully expect him to follow through on those promises, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because these reforms are broadly supported by a growing majority of voters. Reversing course and going against the tide of history would present huge political problems that the new administration does not need.”
While this is good for the Phish-bootleg and grilled-cheese business, the votes mean more than just a return to prominence for psychedelic music festivals and Doritos. The acceptance by states could have a far deeper effect on the criminal justice system in general.
In an interview with NPR last year, President Obama noted that marijuana prohibition and the American criminal justice system have been in bed together for a long time.
During the wide-ranging interview, Obama noted that the American criminal justice system is “heavily skewed toward cracking down on nonviolent drug offenders” and has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, while at the same time taking a huge financial toll on states.
As states continue to decriminalize marijuana, even the feds have to listen to the people at some point. Obama noted that the growing acceptance of marijuana, both social and legal, could bring about some change in the federal drug laws.
“So we may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side,” Obama said. “At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”
Rescheduling marijuana would be a step in the right direction, but if Trump really lets this become a state issue, we won’t even need the fed’s opinion on whether or not marijuana is illegal.
With Tuesday’s elections, states in which marijuana is illegal are now in the minority. Over half the states in the country let you get high in some form or another, even if only for medical reasons. As the acceptance grows, it will become harder and harder for the feds to continue hammering people for marijuana offenses.
While the law and order types like to claim marijuana is not an enforcement priority, the statistics just don’t back up that argument. Arrests for marijuana have been increasing, despite the relaxing of attitudes towards it. From 2001 to 2010, almost 90% of the over 8 million pot arrests were for possession. And while whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly equal rates, blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for it.
All of those arrests create countless problems in our society, from drivers’ license suspensions to felonies to a black market that unnecessarily fosters illegal acts. And having those marijuana arrests on your record can mean that later charges, like the possession of a gun, put you away for decades.
For years, marijuana has led to an absolute waste of time. But it’s not the Deadheads that are the waste of time. It’s the criminalization of something that now most Americans have now accepted.
So while some people think the Supreme Court is doomed or whatever other parade of horribles will result from the election this week, take heart. Next time you hear “cannonball coming!” you may not have to look around for the cops first.