Any cannabis law reform activist will tell you that it has been hard to get taken seriously by the media, politicians and the general public over the years. Despite tremendous success at the ballot box since 1996, marijuana law reform has not been given the respect it deserves. It seems that every news segment on the subject has to include a four-foot bong and a joke about junk food. Newspaper headlines, even from our allies in the alternative weeklies, love to include a joke as a headline. Even after the historic marijuana legalization votes in both Washington State and Colorado, our issue was the subject of jokes from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to media personalities across the spectrum. It was great to see Jon Stewart have our back and take the media to task.
As Show-Me Cannabis Regulation’s John Payne notes, marijuana legalization impacts the core principles of our nation. Cannabis prohibition severely impacts the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of millions of people, without any success to show for the billions of dollars wasted and the unnecessary lives ruined by lengthy prison sentences and even death from SWAT raids gone wrong. Cannabis itself hasn’t directly caused a death, yet cannabis prohibition has caused the deaths of innocent people in SWAT raids that targeted the wrong house. Despite the death, destruction and wasteful spending caused by cannabis prohibition in the United States, the harmful consequences of this failed policy is even worse across our border in Mexico as their drug cartels are today’s Al Capones. Clearly, ending prohibition is no laughing matter as Mr. Payne states in his latest piece. Below is a snippet of John Payne’s latest op-ed, click here to read the full text.
Many people who support marijuana legalization are afraid to sign a petition on the issue for fear of retaliation from their employers or the police. This extends to volunteers, as well. Many volunteers have ended their involvement in cannabis law activism because their employer threatened to retaliate against them for it; because it could be used against them in a custody dispute; or because they have been previously convicted of a cannabis offense, and their probation officer would view it as a violation. The very existence of these people proves that cannabis prohibition is eroding our most basic right of free speech, but their justified fears prevent them from correcting those who laugh off cannabis law reform as fundamentally unserious.
This country was founded on the ideal that every individual is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but cannabis prohibition strikes at the most basic fabric of our society by violating every one of those rights. Numerous recent polls show that a majority of Americans want to legalize and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, but not nearly enough people understand that it is not only a good idea, but also one of the utmost importance. This policy is killing thousands of people abroad, eroding our civil liberties by ransacking our homes and suffocating free speech, and creating a permanent underclass of people who have been convicted of nothing more than possessing a plant. I can think of no other domestic policy in the United States today that does so much damage and all in the name of a policy that has been entirely ineffective at preventing people from using marijuana.
When most politically-engaged Americans start to think of cannabis prohibition in these terms, the laughter will stop, and newscasters will stop showing B-roll of people taking bong rips every time they interview a cannabis law reformer. The consequences of cannabis prohibition are deadly serious, and it is time that this issue moves from the periphery of our political discourse to front and center.
Luckily for us, dedicated activists like John Payne are working to end cannabis prohibition and protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of all citizens, regardless of whether they use cannabis as prohibition hurts the civil liberties and pocket books of all citizens. Despite the giggling after this last election, the tide is clearly turning. Marijuana legalization garnered more votes at the ballot box in Colorado than President Barack Obama. Washington and Colorado are poised to lead the way in a new, billion dollar industry. As cannabis prohibition ends in more states, the only people laughing will be those that are enjoying newfound freedom and are laughing all the way to the bank. It behooves politicians and policy makers to start taking cannabis legalization serious sooner, rather than later.