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Why America Needs to Rethink Pot

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Addiction is undoubtedly a dark reality of drug abuse … however, if we truly wish to remedy these ills, we should give up the failed policies of stigmatization and criminalization and aim for policies of therapy … and responsibility.”

Buried under the heaps of mainstream media coverage on President Donald Trump’s feuds with actresses and early morning Tweets, there lies a painfully under-reported agenda from within the administration: a return to outdated policy on legal marijuana.

President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently scrapped three Obama-era rules, which have prevented federal authorities from interfering in states with pro-marijuana laws. In a country where nine states (as well as Washington D.C.) have legalized marijuana for recreational use; 13 states have decriminalized the drug; and 29 states have legalized it for medical use, Sessions’ decision raises alarms for the progress of legalization. Since federal law has weight over state law, the government could, at any time, shut down legal marijuana trade, medical or recreational, within the states, regardless of its statewide legality.

Should the government act as a de facto parent, dealing out punishment for actions it deems immoral, even when those actions do relatively little harm to others around them?”

These recent decisions fly in the face of our freedom as Americans and adds fuel to the fire of the already massive failure that is the “War on Drugs” which has led only to wasted taxpayer money and destabilization both at home and abroad.  For a country that bills itself the Land of the Free, we must ask ourselves if it is true to our values for our country to have the world’s highest prison population with, as of 2016, about 47% of prisoners in for drug offences and 15% of prisoners with drug offences being their most severe convictions.

The argument for legalization goes far beyond mere crime statistics and strikes at the heart of the philosophy of government itself:  should the government act as a de facto parent, dealing out punishment for actions it deems immoral, even when those actions do relatively little harm to others around them? In an ideal world, I would think not. After all, if the main person being affected by safe, responsible use of marijuana is the person who is using it, why should anyone else have a say in what is ultimately his or her choice of what to do to his or her body?

Finally, there comes an idea that no one, regardless of political stance can deny:  that we have tried prohibition before and it failed…miserably. Think back to the 1920s, when the country was under the influence of the 18th Amendment and alcohol was the taboo drug of choice. People didn’t stop drinking because the government told them to. They looked to bootleggers and thus, organized crime skyrocketed and the quality of liquor, devoid of any reasonable government regulations, plummeted. We are seeing the same today, with drugs like pot having been stigmatized as the new untouchables, leading to a booming black market.

Despite the increasing pro-pot fervor that has manifested in recent years, the looming threat of addiction remains to many a deterrent from support. While the threat, which has become quite pronounced in the wake of America’s opioid epidemic, its relation to legalization is often misinterpreted. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines addiction as “a chronic disorder with biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors influencing its development and maintenance,” a concise definition founded on the word disorder. In our current political climate, where, in some locations, a possession charge can mean anywhere from fines to jail time, we have treated such disorders as crimes. Addiction is undoubtedly a dark reality of drug abuse, as is the lure of other substances. However, if we truly wish to remedy these ills, we should give up the failed policies of stigmatization and criminalization and aim for policies of therapy and the encouragement of responsibility.

It is time that we face the fact, regardless of political affiliation, that when it comes to pot, our previous methods have failed and our prisons are filled with non-violent marijuana users. The choice to indulge safely or not to indulge at all should be left up to the consumer. If we have done it with alcohol and tobacco, why shouldn’t we do it with pot?

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Why America Needs to Rethink Pot