It’s the week after 4/20 and stoners nationwide are still basking in the afterglow of the festivities. I visited Colorado during the holidays and it felt as it should: legal. On the plane back to my current home here in the good state of Texas, I couldn’t help but ask myself, why is weed still illegal?
Well, I can think of a few reasons.
1. The Medical Marijuana Movement
Medical marijuana has come a long way. Since the 70s, the movement has enabled 18 states the right to treat (pretty much any number of) medical conditions with the soothing powers of cannabis. Each day, responsible patients and caregivers partake in a cause that helps legitimize marijuana’s medicinal values in the views of the American public.
And that’s exactly the problem.
See, before medical marijuana, the debate was whether or not it was illegal to smoke weed at all. The medicinal aspects were still there but the argument was centered on the inherent right to smoke, not the medical right.
However, the medical argument was much easier to justify at the time. Thus, “I need it because it hurts right here” became the replacement for “I need it because I—wait a minute, who the hell are you, and why are you telling me not to consume something less harmful than alcohol?”
Now, medical marijuana has become a crutch to the legalization movement. It helped advance the cause, sure, but its departure from the original debate is now setting its legalization a few steps back with the public. After all, says any cynical conservative, if the goal was to legalize recreational use, why even bother with a (consistently abused) medical system?
2. The Dumb Crowd
Last week during Denver’s 4/20 festivities, shots were fired and two people were injured. A peaceful event with thousands of easygoing tokers was ruined by one jackass.
This marred event suitably symbolizes the struggle that responsible marijuana users face every day: stoners are stereotyped as either useless or violent. Some people (including lawmakers) see “marijuana” and “gunshots fired” and that’s all they need to conclude that weed can only be bad for society.
Of course, that’s also due to the fact that…
3. The Media Is Addicted to (Trivializing) Marijuana
Read pretty much any given article on marijuana and chances are it will have some senseless, vapid play on words for a headline. Seriously, Google “marijuana bill goes up in smoke,” and for every article with that same, stupid pun, take a hit of your joint. By the time you get to the second results page, hopefully you’ll be high enough to forget about how irresponsible the media is for making light of a set of laws which unfairly process thousands of harmless drug users every year.
In fact, better yet, let’s say you support gay rights, and you read a headline that coyly quips, “Gay Marriage Act Gets Snuck Into Senate From The Rear.” Get it?! Because, you know, they surprised them with the gay marriage act! So… it came from the rear… but also… gay people like… yeah. Exactly. It’s not funny, it’s not deserving of a major news outlet and it’s not productive to the national debate.
Worse yet, politicians do it as well. As soon as Colorado voted for marijuana legalization, Gov. John Hickenlooper made his now-famous “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish” statement, proving that neither the media nor politicians are prepared to have a fully serious conversation on the matter.
4. Law Enforcement is Too Institutionalized
In America, most of marijuana’s biggest enemies are actually dead. The DEA is just a manifestation of Richard Nixon’s drug war legacy. It’s no surprise these institutions are now operating in a robotic fashion, mindlessly following the orders of a ghost.
Assuming Obama cared about marijuana reform (he has made it clear that he feels pretty “meh” about it), he has to go against an automated, T-800-esque law enforcement branch designed with the sole purpose of winning the war on drugs, assuming you can even do that. Let’s be realistic, even the former Choom-Gang member, who went from “roof hits” to president, couldn’t change politics from within.
5. Marijuana is Not Yet Normalized
It all comes down to this: What do you view in your head when you hear “smoking pot”? Do you picture kids in plaid and long hair complaining about society? Do you picture a college graduate looking for his first career job? Do you picture a mother? A teacher? The guy who calls to collect on your electric bill? Dare I say it; do you picture … a United States president?
Before marijuana becomes fully legalized, it needs to become fully normalized. That takes an active effort not just from marijuana users, but from those who know that the war against marijuana (and all drugs) has been a colossal failure. It requires stepping forward and questioning the reasons behind drug laws in our country, and understanding how often drugs (including alcohol because, you know, it’s a drug) intertwine with society in potentially positive ways.