One of the easiest ways to make the United States a better place to live would be to decriminalize cannabis, legalize it, regulate it and tax it – but in a way that favors small business owners to gain maximum economic benefit from producing cannabis – and keeping it out of the realm of tobacco-like corporation behemoths.
In the Oct. 23 Free and Equal Freedom debates, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein said a primary initiative of a Stein Administration would be to legalize cannabis.
“As a medical doctor in clinical practice for 25 years I can say that marijuana is a substance that is dangerous because it is illegal,” Stein said, “But it is not illegal on account of it being dangerous … (marijuana) is not dangerous at all … the ill effects associated with marijuana and the public health and safety impacts are because of the prohibition of it.”
“On Day One, a President, if she wanted to, could instruct the DEA to do a really radical, radical thing, and that would be to use science in determining what substance will and will not be scheduled … because the minute science is used marijuana is off the schedule (of dangerous and prohibited drugs) and the same goes for hemp.”
Legalizing cannabis solves many problems in one stroke – it makes it possible for thousands of prisoners to go free from incarceration, saving taxpayers millions. It takes the power of control away from criminal cartels and gangs, cutting off the massive cash flow they enjoy from black-market cannabis trade, money which they use to commit other heinous, violent crimes.
The tax money added to the U.S. treasury through taxing this product as a substance of legal trade would send billions of dollars flowing into the nation’s cash-starved budget. It would also free up untold millions of dollars currently being expended by law enforcement officers on the federal, state and local level to police what is essentially a mild drug that is far less harmful than alcohol – and perhaps even caffeine, which are legal. Also, tobacco kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, and it is legal and taxed.
The story of cannabis as an illegal drug in America is a long and complicated one, but gets at the heart of what Green Party policies seeks to correct about some of the most long-term fundamental dysfunctions in our society.
In brief review of history is apt:
Up until the 1930s cannabis was not highly popular, but definitely not feared or demonized in American culture. Some social observers trace the hysteria over marijuana to Harry J. Anslinger, who was the U.S. Commissioner of Narcotics from 1930 until 1962.
There is good evidence that Anslinger was heavily influenced by lobbyists for chemical and petrochemical corporations to wanted to eliminate competition from hemp – not because hemp was dangerous to public health– but it was a danger to the bottom line of companies, such as DuPont and others
These are not fringy conspiracy theories but facts easily verifiable in the public record by anyone.
Anslinger implemented a powerful psychological propaganda campaign against cannabis – and with the help of billionaire media magnate William Randolph Hearst – appealed to the darkest, most basic instincts of racial fear and xenophobia inherent within American (or any) culture, as demonstrated in this public quote by Anslinger:
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
And another example:
“An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an axe he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze… He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crime. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed … The boy said that he had been in the habit of smoking … marijuana.”
What’s interesting about the case of cannabis is that it can be viewed as an archetype or template that represents an overall dysfunction that has hijacked the American Dream or the promise of what America is supposed to be about.
In the case of cannabis we have the all-too typical combination of wealthy corporate money interests working in concert with a powerful government bureaucracy beholden to those corporate money interests. (Anslinger was embedded in his influential, unelected position for 32 years).
Corporate interests and money-controlled politicians get together to deprive the greater public from something that essentially belongs to everyone by natural circumstance – in the case, a beneficial, or at least harmless, natural plant that grows everywhere, and which everyone should be able to access to, produce and use in peace and freedom.
Instead, massive public resources are appropriated to control the natural universal availability of this substance because wide, low-cost access threatens the wealth and power of a very few. And so, government and corporate interests worked hand in hand – flouting fact-based science – to maintain a damaging, expensive and often violent system of control.
The same pattern can be observed across an array of other issues – climate change, industrialized corporate domination of agriculture, the military industrial complex – all display a combination of wealthy corporate interests using money to buy public policy makers who in turn enact an unnatural system of control that benefits the few at the expense of the majority.
In the case of cannabis, neither of the two political parties that dominate the American system are willing to eliminate an illogical, expensive, dangerous and purely ridiculous prohibition of a substance that tens of millions of people want – and are already gaining access to and using every day anyway. (Cannabis is easily America’s No. 1 cash crop today).
Part of the problem is that the subject of marijuana is easy to demagogue and sensationalize –- thanks to the decades of hard propaganda work by public figures such as Harry Anslinger and media tycoons like William Randolph Hearst—which laid a deeply set, and what has become an almost a priori and irrational fear within the consciousness of the general public.
The Green Party position on marijuana is not just the right policy – but it’s the will of the American people. Today a majority of Americans responding to a variety of polls by mainstream pollsters, including recent surveys by Gallup and Rasmussen, show that more than 50% of American believe that marijuana should be legal in the same way that alcohol and tobacco are legal, and just 36% think it should remain illegal.
Legalizing marijuana is not a fringe issue. It’s important. Prohibition of this substance is doing daily damage to our society in terms of costs and crime, similar to the way the folly of the Prohibition of alcohol unleashed crime and violence onto American streets from 1920 to 1933. A vote for the Green Party is a vote to change this policy.
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