Y’know, I’ve been thinking to myself lately: “There has just been too many marijuana deaths from bong injections and dab joints in the last few years. I really wish an old school republican with stone age morality would swoop in and rescue us from this travesty!”
And thus, my prayers were answered. A screech was heard above head, less like that of the glorious bald eagle and more like the wheeze of a senile elderly man who had again forgotten to take his blood pressure medication. Jeff Sessions swooped in to the rescue, here to save us from the dangers of a plant.
So, for those who have not heard, recently Sessions reversed the decisions of the Cole memo. The Cole memo was an Obama administration decision preventing the federal government from interfering with the states who have voted to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. Admittedly the memo is a bit sloppy, because it basically allows the standing president to simply not prosecute the laws that he personally doesn’t agree with.
So, since this memo has been nullified, does that mean that states like Colorado, Oregon, Hawaii and now California will be stripped of their ability to allow recreational marijuana? No probably not, but it does set a precedent which you’d been hard pressed to ignore. Sessions does not like marijuana, a fact he has stated plainly on multiple instances. He has claimed that it is a gateway drug which offers nothing of medicinal value to anyone, despite the estimated 40 million who DO use it for medicinal purposes. He has made it clear thus far, that he intends to bring back the archaic legislation of decades past.
The old school republican mentality (which by this point deserves nothing more than a short drop and a sudden stop) has always been to be hard on users, and harder on dealers. While I agree with the latter to an extent, the former has proven time and time again not to work. In 1970, Richard Nixon passed the now infamous law known as the Controlled Substances Act, the shot heard round the world which officially began the war on drugs.
Back then an estimated 4.3% of the Unites States population was addicted to some form of drug. So fast forward to today, almost 50 years later, and what do addiction rates look like? 7.273%. That’s right addiction rates have nearly doubled, with more than 23.5 million Americans battling substance abuse. That’s not the only thing that has increased however, prison populations have skyrocketed as well with 46.3% of all those convicted being for drug charges, and 52% of those being from marijuana.
The drug war, and specifically the war on marijuana has cost the American taxpayer in exorbitant amount of money, with most figures ranging between 400 and 700 billion dollars a year. So, if it’s monumentally expensive and has failed to produce any positive palpable results, then why the hell are still funding it? Because of the prison industrial complex of course, but that’s a topic for another day, and honestly, we don’t even need these arguments to realize what Sessions is doing is a bad idea.
Sessions did not directly claim that marijuana prosecution will be immediately revamped, but he didn’t need to. The federal government is a rose bush, it can complement the land and even be nice to look at, but you take away the fences and quit trimming and it’s thorns will eventually consume the entire garden. By nullifying a law that would’ve otherwise protected state rights, you enable the federal arm to creep its way back in, and it will. We have over 323 million people in this country, and to rely solely on the federal government in all aspects only short-staffs the ability for them to accomplish anything beneficial. States rights must be protected, because managing 300 plus million people and 3.8 million square miles for any one entity is simply not feasible for a single central entity. This is simply something in which the federal government has no business dabbling in, let the states choose for themselves.
The debate on marijuana has been settled, or at least it seemed like it had. Prosecuting small time offenders and sentencing them to extended periods of prison time is quite obviously not the solution. Creating flawed laws and supporting perceptively beneficial tactics does not make people safer, it only creates more criminals. The system we have in place is beyond broken, and with daft people like Sessions acting as Attorney General, there is little hope of moving forward. We must recognize that to move forward, new plans of attack must be drawn.
I view partisanship as one of the biggest issues facing stagnation of conversation and reform of policy. It’s something I continuously rail against, because thinking as a group removes you as an individual. By this point, the issue of marijuana should be a multi-partisan issue. If you’re a liberal or progressive, you realize that drug policies disproportionately affect minority communities. Families are torn apart, and children taken away every day because someone was caught with a small amount of pot. If you’re a conservative, you must realize the illogical nature of funneling billions into a program which only further increases the issue it was meant to solve. Think of welfare programs subsidizing and incentivizing people to leave their jobs. The libertarians may have the strongest case of all, being this issue is one of personal liberty. You should have the right to choose what you ingest into your own body, even if the results are ultimately detrimental to your own well-being.
Now I don’t smoke pot, or use it in any capacity. I haven’t for years because of its unavoidable side effect of couch-lock, but there are many who do. Millions use it for treatment of illness, which I’m sure most are well aware of by now. I could go on and on about the lack of any overdose fatalities or it’s plethora of health benefits and lack of addiction rates, but many have already done so in a much more articulate manner than I ever could. Instead I think it’s important we prioritize other issues and steer the conversation to grounds which may actually be beneficial to the country, and may actually make America great. Or not… I mean we could always just do the same exact thing over and over and expect different results. It’s not like that’s the literal definition of insanity or anything.