It’s true that no one is an island.
The concept of a community is one of the basic building blocks of the human experience, and we have been building communities since we first walked the earth.
Traditionally, human beings formed families, and families became tribes. These were large collectives base on common factors like geography, DNA, and eventually languages and core values.
Over time, tribes grew into kingdoms and empires, and the common factors which tied people together became increasingly blurred. Today, kingdoms and empires have become nation-states…and the common factors which bind us together are rather limited.
Sure, we might look alike, talk alike, dress alike, and hail from the same postal code or some other invisible lines on a map, but shared core values are a thing of the past.
Are any of these systems truly fail-safe?
Decimalization removes the consumer — the marijuana smoker — from the criminal justice system, while maintaining criminal penalties against those who sell or traffic large quantities of the drug.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended that Congress adopt this policy nationally in the United States.
Since then, more than a dozen government-appointed commissions in both the U.S. and abroad have recommended similar actions.
None of these commissions have endorsed continuing to arrest and jail minor marijuana offenders.
Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers an estimated $10 billion annually and results in the arrest of more than 829,000 individuals per year — far more than the total number of arrestees for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
This policy is a tremendous waste of national and state criminal justice resources that should be focused on combating serious and violent crime.
In addition, it invites government unnecessarily into areas of our private lives, and needlessly damages the lives and careers of hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Former President Jimmy Carter told Congress in 1977, that:
“Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”
Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans.
According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Our public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.
Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.
Around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. Similarly, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose.
According to the prestigious European medical journal, The Lancet:
“The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. … It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat … than alcohol or tobacco.”
As with alcohol consumption, marijuana smoking can never be an excuse for misconduct or other improper behavior. For example, driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.
Most importantly, marijuana smoking is for adults only, and is inappropriate for children.
There are many activities in our society that are permissible for adults, but forbidden for children, such as motorcycle riding, skydiving, signing contracts, getting married, drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco.
Eventually there WILL be the development of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers could buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source.
This policy, generally known as legalization, exists on various levels in a handful of European countries like The Netherlands and Switzerland, both of which enjoy lower rates of adolescent marijuana use than the U.S.
Such a system would reduce many of the problems presently associated with the prohibition of marijuana, including the crime, corruption and violence associated with a “black market.”
From the beginning, lawmakers and politicians debated fiercely whether law enforcement – no matter how well funded and well trained – could ever defeat the drug problem that they perceive.
A decade ago, no politician who wanted to keep their job would breathe a word about legalization, but a consensus is growing across the country that at least marijuana will someday be regulated and sold like tobacco and alcohol.
“We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.”
– President John Adams, United States of America
P.S. – When you look at how much the world has changed over the last several years, and you consider how fast things are changing now, we only have a few years remaining before much of what we know today changes dramatically.