Why isn’t marijuana legal yet?
–Chut the Moose
To answer that question, let’s take a look at the history of marijuana prohibition, shall we?
Like heroin and cocaine before it, marijuana was perfectly legal throughout history. The popularity of marijuana skyrocketed during alcohol prohibition, becoming the drug of choice for “undesirables” like Black jazz musicians, Mexican immigrants and young whippersnappers looking for kicks.
In the late 1930s, a man named Harry Anslinger embarked on a campaign to demonize marijuana by scaring the nation into a panic. The drug was used as an excuse to lock up or deport minorities and harass young people who smoked it.
Another factor that cannot be overlooked is the financial impact legal marijuana would have on a number of industries. The versatility of hemp is almost unparalleled, with the plant being used in the production of:
*Pulp and paper
*Fabric and clothing
*Paint, varnishes and textiles
Considering that an acre of hemp produces as much paper as FOUR acres of trees, legal hemp would be the downfall of the pulp and paper industry…the very industry to which Harry Anslinger had close financial ties. Coincidence?
But timber is small potatoes compared to the impact hemp would have on the alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical and oil industries—some of the most profitable and politically influential industries in the world today. Because it’s impossible to patent a naturally occurring plant that can be grown by anyone, there is little incentive to legalize it. Add to that the fact that marijuana can be used to alleviate symptoms of multiple health conditions and it’s easy to see why certain prominent factions of society (read: drug companies and booze manufacturers) want to keep it illegal.
The last thing the federal government wants is another case of “Vietnam Syndrome” in the form of protests, dissent and free thinking, which is exactly what marijuana is known for. Smoking marijuana was a political act in the 1960s, fueling war protests, civil rights marches, sit-ins, be-ins, concerts like Woodstock and a host of other counter-cultural events where capitalism, war, organized religion and other prevailing ideals were publicly shat upon.
In addition, America’s drug laws give law enforcement the power to lock up “troublemakers” (poor people and minorities) while simultaneously feeding the prison-industrial complex—a system of privatized prisons, military involvement and war for which our country is famous. Private prison companies like Wackenhut spend millions each year building inmate housing facilities and are not about to lose money with vacant cells. Inmates are a source of cheap labor, building products that go beyond license plates to include goods with brand names like Microsoft, Starbucks, TWA and Victoria’s Secret. And guess who accounts for a majority of the U.S.’s inmate population? You guessed it: non-violent drug offenders.
These are but a few reasons for marijuana’s current Schedule I status, though ignorance, fear and apathy also play a role. The good news is that it’s not a hopeless battle. You CAN make a difference by writing your state senator, organizing local protests and meet-ups and signing petitions to legalize or decriminalize marijuana.
Peace Out, Stay Green