By. Keegan Webb
I have been told my entire life that the consumption of any cannabis product to include smoking marijuana causes brain damage, induces schizophrenia, and is a gateway to harder drugs. In my experience, from research of history, as well as understanding government and private statistics I have learned as many others have of late to follow the money. We can ask many questions: Who profits from large prison populations? States? Private owners? Who are those private owners? What are their ties to the government? How much money has been made in the courts? How much have lawyers made? How much has been made from seized property and drug money—not to mention the grants and state/federal funding to house more prisoners, etc.?
I will spare you noisy graphs and charts that can distract from literature, but encourage any reader to research even the mere statistics. The simple answer— a staggering amount. Let’s begin with a hypothesis:
If you eliminate all marijuana possession and distribution convictions from our inmate population then the population of our incarceration system would drop by a 1/4. Here is a major surprise, we in the United States have a relatively low rate of violent crime compared to the rest of the world, but we have the highest number of our own citizens behind bars than any other legitimate nation. How did this happen?
In the mid and late 1970s, a melancholy sociologist named Robert Martinson proposed that “nothing works” when exploring the inconsistent results of the then latest rehabilitative practices in prisons. Conservative and yes, even liberal politicians began the “get tough on crime” campaign that has lasted well into the 21st century. The result was that more nonviolent criminals were being entered in the corrections system than ever before. By the early millennium we achieved the highest number incarcerated in the world, beating out the former Soviet Union and China in actual number. The political parties do not generally provide actual solutions, they instead pander to sensationalized media hype and public hysteria based on that hype; not facts.
The government has been petitioned repeatedly for the testing that claims to support the current status of cannabis (a schedule 1 drug). They have repeatedly been ignored. The simple reason is that no such testing exists. Without this supporting data that was promised in the late 1960s until now, the law should be void. Instead, we continuously prosecute, imprison, and convict people as felons for a crime that can only be a crime if the government can, in fact, support the original assumptions in making it so.
On the other side of the question is why the government doesn’t fulfill these promises. It’s simple—pharmaceutical companies make money creating drugs that cause side effects that they have to treat with drugs that cause side effects… do you see where I am going? All of these are used to treat psychological issues that are not diseases, merely opinion, and a biased one at that. When you get your funding from pharmaceutical companies, you can’t exactly claim to be unbiased. Cannabis would be inexpensive, and it might actually treat many modern ailments effectively. There’s no profit in effective treatment. Pharmaceutical companies profit more than big oil and retail combined. They say they charge $30-120 a pill for some medications because it funds research. If that were the case, shouldn’t there be a cure for, well, nearly everything?
Not only are cannabis products effective and inexpensive potential medicine/recreational substance, they are also a valuable material. Rope, paint, lotions, fabric, paper, and many other common necessities can be made from hemp inexpensively. Our forefathers’ clothing, our first flag, the paper on which our constitution was written was nearly all made from hemp. Keeping it illegal is not only unethical, but also unpatriotic. The legalization of it would do nothing but help our industries. Honestly, the average person’s behavior influenced by alcohol is far more damaging than when influenced by a certain other substance. That docile behavior on such a substance as marijuana is not uncommon amongst those that do partake.
The 1970s lab experiment that supposedly proved that the substance caused brain damage was doomed to failure at the start. Lab mice and eventually Rhesus monkeys were given small mask apparatuses that filled with smoke for extended periods of time, much longer than the average drag or even an entire toke. As a result, the animals suffocated, causing the death of many brain cells via oxygen deprivation eventually leading to severe brain damage. The researchers articulated that the mice were neurologically injured from the plant’s active ingredients of cannabinoid and THC. That is an unethical presentation of a botched experiment’s results if there ever was one.
Opinion and legality, shouldn’t ever be one in the same. Constitutional law teaches you that if you’re any good at it. The fact is that there is no legal reason for it to be illegal. Fortunately, Colorado has opened the eyes of the other state’s, and nearly everyone of them (even the Bible-belt) are now in serious discussions of, at minimum, decriminalizing the substance. Recently, Hamilton county voted whether or not to legalize small amounts of medicinal marijuana. 79% voted in favor of the legalization. That at least is some good news as of late. The leader in cannabis research—Israel—prescribes cannabis regularly to the residents of the state nursing home. Why then, do we in the United States continue to count it among the most dangerous controlled substances in the world? We are supposed to be land of the free, not home of the incarcerated.
Only we the people have the power to decriminalize a plant that, before 1937, the federal government subsidized farmers to grow as an affordable material as well as an herbal medicine. We must learn from the last 40 years that our political leaders usually have had no actual scientific understanding, and generally have campaigned on issues of media-induced hype, not their own actual understanding of all the variables of a given issue. It is time that we vote based on scientific understanding rather than the litigating of cookie-cutter style justice with knee-jerk legislation that is based almost entirely on hype and bad data from the 1970s. I challenge each of you to consider the implications of the amount of revenue that we can save in our courts, jails, and prisons if the substance is decriminalized. More so, however, I challenge you all to consider the combined benefits of correctional savings and the creation of a massive source of new tax revenue. In my opinion, the future indeed looks brighter.
Keegan Webb’s opinions do not represent the opinions of the The Communicator.
For more information: www.bjs.gov
Deena Hoblit contributed to this story.