Marijuana Legalization: Give Peace a Chance

English: Medical Marijuana surrounding a vapor...
English: Medical Marijuana surrounding a vaporizer for healthy intake of the medicine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On November 8, voters in eight states will decide whether or not to legalize, to one degree or another, the possession, use and sale of marijuana.

If all of the measures pass, more than 86 million Americans will enjoy increased legal access to the plant: For medical use in Arkansas, Florida and Missouri, for recreational use in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.

Earlier this month, the US Drug Enforcement Administration announced it wouldn’t reconsider marijuana’s ridiculous Schedule 1 status (“no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”) — but the states seem to be leaving the federal government behind.  Medical marijuana is already legal in 25 states (and the District of Columbia), recreational use in four.

Soon, DEA may be running as fast as it can to get to the head of the parade, making a big show of ratifying what the country is doing without its permission and looking for new missions to replace its anti-cannabis campaigns.

It’s about time.

For at least 5,000 years, probably much longer, humans used marijuana without a great deal of fanfare. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were marijuana farmers. Queen Victoria, the living symbol of moral rectitude in an era obsessed with same, drank marijuana tea for her menstrual cramps.

That 5,000 years of uncontroversial and beneficial use have given way to nearly a century of war — characterized as a war on drugs in general, and often as a war on marijuana in particular, but in truth a war on people.

Initially, it was a war on people of color and people who spoke Spanish, and on industries without as many friends in government as William Randolph Hearst (whose paper mills were threatened by the advent of cheap paper made from hemp), but like so many wars it spun out of control, expanding far beyond the wildest expectations of those who declared it.

Tens of billions of dollars are spent, hundreds of thousands of Americans arrested, every year in prosecuting this war. Careers — and fortunes — depend on its continuation, and if the lives of people of all colors, classes and languages must be sacrificed in that cause, so be it.

But the end may be in sight, thanks to thousands of activists who have struggled for decades to bring the option of peace and freedom to your polling place. If you live in one of the states voting on marijuana this November, cast your ballot wisely.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Also published on Medium.

  • starchild

    Sadly, not every “legalization” measure on the ballot in November is worth supporting. Now that cannabis is a huge and increasingly legitimate industry, monied interests and of course government greed are getting into the game. Proposition 64 in California is loaded down with new taxes, regulations, and even increased criminal penalties for some categories of offenses (e.g. smoking in public), opening the door for big, government-licensed canna-businesses to operate while limiting growing opportunities for ordinary people. The Libertarian Party of California’s state executive committee has unanimously recommended a “no” vote.

    • Starchild,

      Sorry to hear that the terms of the proposed armistice in California suck.

      Sorrier to hear that the LP’s executive committee unanimously voted to support continuing the war on Californians.

      • starchild

        “Sorry to hear that the terms of the proposed armistice in California suck.”

        Yeah, me too. What kind of “armistice” leaves all the prisoners of war in jail?

        As a California cannabis user and longtime proponent of ending Prohibition, I wish there were a legalization measure on the ballot I could vote for, but Prop. 64 is not it.

        Rejecting a bad crony capitalist measure in Ohio last year (opposed by the Ohio LP) didn’t stop the legalization movement, and I don’t think rejecting this flawed proposal will stop it either.

        • I certainly couldn’t blame an individual for deciding not to support it.

          Nor could I blame an LP committee for deciding not to support it.

          I wouldn’t want to be the LP committee member trying to explain to a Californian why the party opposed it, though.

          The LP is not required to take a position on every measure.

  • JdL

    Of course I prefer living in a state where a recreational marijuana initiative passed (Colorado), but it’s a shame that most people don’t see it as illegitimate even to consider putting a basic personal choice up for majority vote.

    • JdL,

      A majority vote is how things that are currently illegal get made legal.

      So what you are saying is that it would be illegitimate to legalize marijuana. I disagree.

      • JdL

        Uhhh, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying it’s illegitimate to criminalize marijuana in the first place.

        • Marijuana was criminalized by Congress and the state legislatures. The measures on the ballot are for a popular vote to DEcriminalize marijuana. You just said that putting that subject up for a popular vote is illegitimate. Did you mean something different than what you said?

          • JdL

            … it’s a shame that most people don’t see it as illegitimate even to consider putting a basic personal choice up for majority vote.

            Marijuana would never have been criminalized had people seen it as illegitimate even to consider putting a basic personal choice up for majority vote.

            Of course I prefer living in a state where a recreational marijuana initiative passed (Colorado)

            Apparently you missed this sentence.

            Did you mean something different than what you said?

            I mean exactly what I said, but apparently not what you’re determined to read into what I said.

          • Charles Coryn

            To clarify, perhaps….. Cannabis is a natural plant, I grow it, I use it. End of discussion. It’s the arrogance of those with power to think anyone other than me should decide my relationship with a natural plant. Revolution is the only subject worthy of discussion at this time…… Is it not clear that the entire government of the US is beyond reform, beyond anything but revolution? How many laws can you support? How many taxes can you pay? The weed is the straw that should break some backs to my mind….. Throughout history the cannabis plant has been respected…… what in the world is going on in people’s minds that they think they can legislate every plant on the face of the earth….. The spirit of revolution must be revisited…… people’s rights must be given priority.