Could you please stop trying to convince me that legalizing weed will fix all of our nation's problems?
It's obvious that societal attitudes about marijuana have changed a great deal in recent years, and a majority of Americans now favor its legalization. Twenty-three states and Washington, DC, have legal medical marijuana programs, and Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia allow recreational use. Clearly, there is momentum behind continued legalization efforts, and it seems probable that within a few years, marijuana will be legalized across the country. This is no longer the wishful thinking of a small percentage of vocal stoners or members of NORML; it looks like the nearly 100-year national prohibition on many people's favorite psychoactive plant will dissipate like smoke from a bong sooner rather than later.
More and more people seem to think that the laws making weed illegal are stupid, whether they like to indulge in using the drug or not. I count myself among them, as it seems ridiculous to me that a relatively harmless substance not only should be illegal but is categorized as a Schedule 1 drug — considered among the most serious and harmful, along with heroin, LSD and peyote. Looking at the DEA's Schedule groupings, one is left wondering if the people who came up with those lists were experimenting with some of the drugs they'd confiscated.
So if I support legalization efforts, why am I growing increasingly tired of the more overzealous marijuana advocates?
Because I have a low tolerance for bullshit, and too many of them oversell the benefits of legal weed, or rely on disingenuous arguments for why it should be legal.
Let's clear the air here. A large percentage of people who want pot legalized want that to happen because it's their intoxicant of choice, and they like to get high, but they try to bolster their arguments by relying on its potential medicinal value or other positive uses.
Most indications seem to prove that weed is a fairly harmless drug, and the risk threshold is a low one for most people, so it should be legal to smoke or ingest pot for purely recreational reasons. No drug is entirely harmless, but adults who want to indulge responsibly should be allowed to do that without the worry of being on the wrong side of the law. That's the only argument a reasonable advocate needs for recreational legalization.
For instance, a lot of people think legal weed would hurt violent drug cartels or even drive them out of business. While there is a lot of compelling evidence showing cartels are feeling the effects of the limited legalization already happening in America, experts have come to different conclusions as to how hard drug cartels would be hit if legalization continues to spread. Estimates vary from "not much" to "a lot" depending on who you choose to believe, as drug cartels do make a mountain of money from marijuana smuggling. However, there's also evidence that some cartels have diversified their criminal enterprises enough that they could handle the blow that widespread legalization might deal them. Even if marijuana were completely legal here, cocaine, methamphetamines and other criminal enterprises would still keep the cartels busy and in business. Simply put, marijuana smuggling helped build those violent crime organizations, but eliminating the demand for one drug probably isn't going to result in the total collapse of the cartels. Still, it wouldn't hurt, and it would be nice to know that American potheads wouldn't be contributing to violence caused by that type of marijuana smuggling anymore.
Another compelling argument is that we have a ridiculous number of people in this country being arrested for possession of or selling marijuana — some 8.2 million arrests between 2001 and 2010. That's an awful lot of Americans being jailed for a drug that probably doesn't warrant the loss of a person's freedom or productivity.
The harshness of our marijuana laws is stupid, and increasingly more and more people are questioning why we have so many people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and especially for possession or sale of marijuana, which seems to be on about the same level as beer, not something like heroin.
Would legalization affect the lives of a lot of Americans caught up in the criminal justice system who probably shouldn't be? Certainly. Would it eliminate the drug cartels? Probably not.
There's also a lot of unproven information about marijuana's medical benefits getting passed around by potheads. Plenty of evidence indicates that marijuana can help alleviate suffering from the symptoms of certain diseases, and so far, most of the legalization in this country has been passed to allow that kind of use. But since lots of folks still want to have access to legal weed for recreational purposes, a lot of them try to qualify for medical marijuana under false pretenses. Unmeasurable conditions like "chronic pain" have been used by dishonest recreational users to get legal access to weed, and that can undermine otherwise good arguments for medical pot. A lot of these same folks seem to have a distrust of "Big Pharma," and will argue that weed can be used to treat an ever-expanding list of maladies. It comes across as a new form of herbalism in which every illness can be treated with cannabis instead of conventional medicines. That is probably true in some cases, but the point is oversold fairly often, and the aversion to "Big Pharma" begins to sound crazy after a while.
After a person encounters a few medical marijuana "patients" whose only issue seems to be an aversion to going through their day without being baked out of their minds, one begins to wonder how widespread that kind of dishonesty is. After speaking to an acquaintance living in California who was feeling homesick for Texas, I asked her why she didn't just move back. The answer? "I need my medicine, and it's legal here."
Worried, I asked her what she was being treated for. After a long moment of silence, she replied unconvincingly that she felt anxious, and pot helped. She knew it was bullshit, and I knew it was bullshit, but there it was.
That person and plenty of others I've encountered have proselytized endlessly about all of the medical conditions marijuana will help, about how legalization will fix the entire economy, how it will eliminate crime and will revolutionize life in America...After a while, it just seems ridiculous. Legalization would change things in this country, but it won't fix every societal problem we face, and some of the stoner evangelists seem set on convincing people that it would.