Marijuana laws set stage for constitutional showdown

The stigma around marijuana is getting old.

In this day and age, it’s impossible to argue that the drug — or even the plant — is detrimental. No, it does not kill your brain cells or lower your I.Q. Depending on how you define addiction, it isn’t any more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes, coffee or Facebook. It won’t increase your risk of cancer, and it doesn’t cause mental illness. Marijuana, the drug, does reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients, stimulate appetites of AIDS patients and reduce intraocular pressure for sufferers of glaucoma. It’s also used recreationally — and safely — by millions of Americans each year. The side effects? Hunger, laughter, sleepiness and sexual arousal.

Marijuana, the plant, is literally a weed. It can be cultivated practically anywhere and demands little of its environment. It can be used to make paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, body products, health food and bio-fuel. It sounds like there’s a lot of money to be made in marijuana. Business-minded America is being sold on this product’s pitch.

Since Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 passed in Colorado and Washington, respectively, I’ve watched many of the talking heads on television struggle to explain to the public why these policies are harmful. They’re struggling because the research that has emerged over the years has obliterated each and every argument conservatives have consistently banked on to convince the American public that marijuana worthy of the Schedule One substance category. While Schedule One drugs are characterized by substances with a “high potential for abuse (possessing) no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” To put this in perspective, heroin is also a Schedule One substance.

The only thing marijuana opens a gateway to is the realization that the FDA and the DEA are wrong, that they’ve known it for years and aren’t doing anything to change it. They spend $51 billion in tax dollars each year to arrest 850,000 Americans on marijuana-related charges, like they did in 2010. It’s no wonder the feds work so hard to keep us misinformed.

Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 are groundbreaking on a global scale. America now claims the most progressive, innovative drug policies on the planet, surpassing even Amsterdam’s infamous approach.

For the first time in a long time, the world looks to us to set an example, to demonstrate how granting citizens personal freedoms — by allowing people to live in a way they choose — is often the best course of action, both socially and economically. Regardless of what one thinks about these new policies, their passage into law indicates America’s heart is still beating — that we still have it in us to do what we do best: revolutionize, and by popular vote at that.

If the feds react in the way we all think they will, it’ll be an embarrassment and a shame. We are the United States — the Constitution is founded on the principle that each state in the Union has the right to establish its own unique rights. If the feds crack down and demand control based on antiquated, deluded ideas about marijuana, it proves that this country has lost two of its greatest, most celebrated assets: justice and liberty for all.

 

Reach the columnist at jwadler@asu.edu or follow him at @MrJakeWadler.

 

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