“You don’t have to smoke marijuana to be part of the marijuana movement.”

When I start a discussion with people about marijuana law reform, my conversation normally begins with the same blanket statement – “You don’t have to smoke marijuana to be part of the marijuana movement.”  Starting a discussion in this way immediately eliminates the bias of an argument for whether it is ok to “get high” and helps people realize that the issues about legalization go much farther than whether you do or do not agree with someone’s decision about cannabis consumption.

Americans need only ask themselves a few simple questions to figure out which side of the fence they belong on.  First, do you honestly believe there are NO medical benefits derived from the plant?  Second, do you believe that marijuana is more harmful than cocaine and should be considered as dangerously addictive as heroin?  And finally, do you feel that all people who use cannabis, including hemp farmers, are criminals?

If you answered “NO” to either (or all) of these three questions – and you should have – than you are a part of the movement.  Even the Attorney General, the person in charge of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and chief law enforcement officer of the United States government is part of the movement.

In an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo global new, US Attorney General, Eric Holder, stated that while the current drug policies may have been set with “good intentions”, they are clearly a violation of civil rights.  Furthermore, he points out the disproportionate amount of people of color and Hispanic decent who have their futures tarnished with drug charges when statistics show that cannabis consumption knows no boundaries on race or ethnicity.

Holder’s statements are not new.  He has been a supporter of rescheduling marijuana under the basis that a Schedule 1 narcotic classification is reserved for dangerous and highly addictive drugs that have no medicinal use.  Although Holder proposes a very solid argument against the current drug policy, he said that the “jury is still out” in regards to his position for decriminalization on a federal level.  With that said, in April earlier this year, Holder declared his stance on legalization to be “cautiously optimistic”. Reschedualization is a debatable topic in the movement with many arguing for complete un-schedulization (aka legalization), however, the discussion of rescheduling marijuana by the US Attorney General is considered a victory and represents tremendous progress along the path to end cannabis prohibition.

Support for the argument to reschedule cannabis can be found in an increasing number of reports scientifically proving the medical benefits of cannabis.  There is also evidence that it is safe enough to aid in the treatment of children suffering from seizures and cancers.  Additionally, the US Government – the same people who claim that the plant has no medicinal purposes – is trying to patent the medicinal purposes!

Furthermore, if marijuana was as addictive as heroin, why would the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) , one of the world’s leading research centers in the field of addiction and the largest mental health and teaching hospital for addiction in Canada, make a public declaration that it supports full legalization of marijuana with the condition of high regulation by the Canadian government?

In the press release for the CAMH report Dr. Jurgen Rehm points out that by not heavily regulating cannabis, it forces people to turn to the black market where they must associate with criminals and could be more easily introduced to other drugs. Dr. Rehm argues that exposure to the criminal drug culture may lead to more serious substance abuse and/or a criminal record that may hinder a person’s ability to find gainful employment.  And he is right.  If marijuana was in fact legal, it is not likely that the budtender in a legal dispensary would offer to throw in a crack rock or offer to do a line of cocaine with you just for stopping by.

Even US President, Barack Obama, has admitted to using marijuana when he was a child and said he believes it is not any more dangerous than alcohol.  Imagine where the country would be today if President Obama had been arrested and sent to jail for possession of marijuana when he was younger.

Although the new Attorney General is yet to be named, there is a positive buzz in the DOJ as President Obama named Ms. Vanita Gupta as the head the DOJ Civil Rights Division.  Ms. Gupta is a known cannabis supporter making her opinions very public with the CNN column she wrote in September 2014.  She said, “it’s time for states to end the costly criminalization of marijuana and recalibrate sentencing laws so that the punishment actually fits the crime”, and I couldn’t agree with her more.  I know exactly where I stand on the issue of marijuana prohibition; the real question is do you? What side of the fence are you on?  From where I am standing, the grass is definitely greener!



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