Article written by Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and co-founder of CBDCoupons.com.
I won’t try to be subtle about this. When I say that we know too much about marijuana for it to be illegal, I am trying to make two points.
First and foremost, I am astonished that people in democratic countries that proclaim their commitment to individual rights at every possible occasion, have — for decades — accepted the legal argument that citizens should be arrested for using a plant because it might not be “harmless.”
Prohibitionist propaganda is often introduced with the statement that “marijuana isn’t harmless… like we all thought back in the Sixties.¨ Of course, if we all thought it was harmless then, why was it illegal?
Well, very simply, nothing is harmless for everyone, under all circumstances and at all doses, and, for many reasons, harmlessness is not a criterion for legalizing anything. Obviously, many things that everyone recognizes as potentially deadly… alcohol, tobacco, motorcycles, rock climbing, etc., are legal. Some people even say that guns are not harmless.
Ironically, cannabis is one of the few substances which does not have a possible lethal dose. Too much aspirin can cause fatal internal bleeding and even too much water can be deadly by upsetting the body’s electrolyte balance.
And of course, think of the children! But think of all the things that are legal for adults, but not for children. Are we to treat adults like children? And shall we start with guns?
On the other hand, would anyone argue that being arrested was harmless? But we have arrested over twenty million Americans in the last fifty years for marijuana possession. I also hope that we have discovered that “no-knock warrants” are not harmless.
In addition, the suppression of research on the medical uses of cannabis has certainly not been harmless, and that continues to be US policy. When we consider how much we have learned despite the government blocking research, I think that marijuana prohibition has killed a huge number of people, under medical supervision, of course.
My second point is that despite the government’s blocking research — while claiming we need more research — we actually know far too much for marijuana to be illegal .
What do we know?
- We know there is no lethal dose, while many legal drugs have killed millions of people. Why would there need to be more controls on cannabis than on alcohol, tobacco or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals?
- We know that most of the cannabis consumed even today continues to be contraband with unknown potency and purity.
- We know that even black market marijuana used by people with seriously damaged immune systems does not seem to have caused significant problems, but it would be ethically impossible to do research to test that.
- We know that despite decades of prohibition, marijuana is easily available for “children”, but it would be ethically impossible to do research on any deleterious effects of cannabis on children. Do they have problems because they used cannabis, or did they use cannabis because they have problems?
- We know that in The Netherlands that the legal age to buy cannabis is eighteen, and that the Dutch argue that one of the advantages of allowing retail marijuana sales is called “separation of the markets” for hard and soft drugs. When someone goes into a Dutch “Coffeeshop” they will never be offered hard drugs. Consequently, the Dutch also have a much lower hard drug use and overdose rate than the US. Again, so much for the so-called “Gateway Theory”. Marijuana prohibition is the “Gateway” to hard drugs.
- We know that although cannabis has been available over the counter in The Netherlands for over forty years, it ranks fourth in cannabis use in Europe, after France, Spain and Italy. It has always been behind the US and Canada.
- We know that Dutch Coffeeshops and American marijuana dispensaries do not cause the problems that are associated with alcohol venues.
- We know that legalizing marijuana does not cause the social or medical problems cited by prohibitionists, nor does prohibition prevent the problems it is supposed to suppress. In fact, there is remarkably little correlation between marijuana use and the laws against it.
The Dutch model’s imperfections can also offer lessons for us, because it is a relic of the 1970s. The supply is still in the black market, so it has no quality controls. Weed and hash are sold out of open bins under less than perfect sanitary conditions, although there have not been any reported health problems.
For reasons of public safety and economic recovery we need to end marijuana prohibition now.
- No “Special Commissions” or regulatory schemes are needed. Just get out of the way.
- And stop pretending that we need the government to help us be free.
- There is no justification for special taxes, because marijuana does not increase social or medical costs compared to alcohol or tobacco.
- Disadvantaged neighborhoods don’t need “social justice” permits to allow a few lucky winners to charge higher prices and taxes on marijuana users because everyone was victimized by the Drug War. They need small eateries and other places to offer legal employment.
- Social clubs for younger marijuana users should be organized by activists so the patrons are not preyed upon by “gangstas” who might draw them into the hard drugs scene or other criminal activity.
- We need cannabis venues in “neutral” territories where different ethnic groups can meet peacefully.
The Drug War has become a war of all against all, and it has corrupted the police, politicians, the media and even (especially?) the medical profession.
So, let us be free. Let us live in peace. Is that asking too much? (Well, apparently.)