Will Somebody Please Think of the Children: Why The Prohibition On Marijuana Must End, Now
(This Fall, I have been doing a bi-weekly column at the Reporta. Recently its host, John Osborn, had a change of heart on Prop. 19 and offered me the chance to co-publish his opinion piece. He speaks very passionately on something we in the Emerald Triangle must think about carefully.)
Guest post by John Osborn (The Reporta)
Will Somebody Please Think of the Children
Why the prohibition on marijuana must end, now
By John C. Osborn
As a child of the new generation sweeping across the land, born within the knowledge-filled bounty of the Internet at my fingertips, and as a human who watches with abject horror the overcrowding of prisons and state bans on harmless and beneficial plants, I say this: we must end this archaic prohibition on marijuana. We must end it on Nov. 2.
Proposition 19, affectionately called the Tax and Regulate Cannabis Act, would, in a nutshell, allow for the recreational use, cultivation, and sales of marijuana, with restrictions. It could end, in California at least, a 75-year prohibition on a plant that contains a plethora of professionally documented medicinal effects, is not physically addictive, is not lethal, is enjoyed by an estimated 15 million Americans, and is packing our prisons with non-violent stoners.
Never before has an issue proposed on a ballot caused such a strong rift with me at least, requiring a constant examination, and then re-examination, of the facts and possible effects behind this law. At first, I viewed Prop. 19 with a suspicious eye and initially criticized the provisions that would criminalize use around minors and about allowing municipalities the ability to restrict recreational sales. It made me think of Prop. 215 and how, after 14 years, officials and governments are still baffled about how to reconcile the right of a patient to grow with the rights of a community.
Add into this the unique experience of living within the coveted Emerald Triangle, the region where most of the state’s, if not the country’s, marijuana is cultivated, feeding a rural economy here devastated by the decline in the timber industry with much needed economic sustenance. The quandary of what kind of impact bringing this black-gray market to light will have on this region has certainly been a cause of concern for any person with at least a minimal amount of perspective here. It is not an exaggeration to say that virtually every industry in Humboldt County – groceries, hardware, fuel, agricultural supplies, clothing and entertainment to highlight a few – is invigorated to some degree by marijuana money and could suffer from a collapse in prices.
This perspective is not widely acknowledged by Californians, and people captiously deride opponents in the North as voracious growers who want to keep a stranglehold on the lucrative black market at any cost. While this might be true for some, please understand there is more to legalization than that for us Northerners.
As if this issue wasn’t hippy enough, what ultimately convinced me that Prop. 19 needs to pass was a short, yet vivid, dream the other night that highlighted two main reasons. The first was simple enough – cannabis is medicine. It does not have “roots in Hell” as the propaganda of past days had tried to push on us; it is rooted in health, and if you ask any user how effective it is at relieving stress and anxiety, how they have been able to quell other addictions with its use, or how it helps alleviate the adverse effects of modern treatments, e.g. chemotherapy, they will tell you, without hesitation, that marijuana is a blessing, not a curse.
The second reason is more existential: our children should not grow up and live in a world where this medicine is outlawed, where state power is wasted incarcerating small-time users and damning them to share bunk space with violent criminals, where our law enforcement apparatus expends precious time targeting this harmless crop and it’s harvesters over the scourge of meth and other truly social ails, and where people still live in the zeitgeist of the “Reefer Madness” world, where stoned zombies murder and rape in drug-induced frenzies. Wake up.
What has always made marijuana “violent” has been it’s illegal status, plain and simple. If you meet the growers just trying to make a living or who are providing for their personal consumption, you do not see the mafias, the cartels, the individuals and institutions violently battling to control this plant for its profitability; you see mothers, fathers, teachers, musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs. And that last point will be the boom for our local and state economy; just imagine all the innovations that will come from marijuana finally being legal.
Prop. 19 isn’t perfect, but the time has come for this prohibition to end. We must remember the specter of the short-lived prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s, which was also perpetuated by zealous interests in the government who sought to impose their moral perspective on the rest of the county, and the ultimate consequence of that fueled the vicious and violent black market of that time.
The times are truly changing. Perhaps it’s time to change with them, if not for yourself, for your children.