The arguments for the legalization of marijuana are as varied and nuanced as the number of strains sold at the Bloom Room in San Francisco. The reasons to legalize range from medical applications to economic arguments to social justice reform. Furthermore, more than half of all American support the legalization of marijuana. There is no compelling reason to criminalize marijuana and literally billions of reasons to legalize it, the most persuasive being that that is how democracy is supposed to work- without a compelling reason otherwise, lawmakers are meant to represent the will of the majority. I will fight to legalize marijuana. That said, we do need to be smart about how we regulate marijuana in order to protect consumers.
Marijuana eases human suffering.
It is as simple as that. Its current known medical applications are expansive, and range from reducing the frequency and intensity of epileptic seizures, to treating the very real and documented symptoms of PTSD and anxiety disorders, to a common treatment for the side effects experienced by cancer patients of reduced appetite and frequent nausea, to its most common application- pain management (at a moment in which the opioid epidemic rages, this benefit alone justifies its legalization).
While drug companies have tried to recreate these benefits in the lab, patent it and then sell it back to consumers at 1,000% mark-up, the FDA-approved, proprietary Big Pharma versions do not come close to the real deal (and encapsulate why U.S. healthcare is more expensive and less effective, not to mention another example of how individual Americans get fleeced, especially when they are at their most vulnerable).
There’s Gold in that Green.
If lawmakers aren’t persuaded by easing human suffering (I’m looking at you John Cornyn), then they should pretend to be, because the legalization of marijuana is an incredible opportunity to replenish our empty local and state coffers. In just five years, tax revenue from the sale of marijuana in Colorado reach over a billion dollars. In one year, Colorado rakes in five times as much revenue from marijuana sales as it does alcohol. In 2019, Texas was projected to bring in $1.37 billion in alcoholic sales. If you applied that same formula to Texas and multiply that by five, the legalization of marijuana with a similar tax structure as Colorado would result in nearly $7 billion a year in additional tax revenue. In a state that underfunds nearly every social service and safety net and prides itself on business-friendly practices, this is yet another way we can ease the pain of Texans, assuming that you care (again, looking at you, John Cornyn).
Half of All Drug Arrests Are for Marijuana, and Blacks are Nearly 4 Times More Likely to be Arrested Than Whites.
These two statistics blow my mind. Despite the occasional story about a city prosecutor declining to prosecute marijuana possession (a signal to police to save their resources and go after other “criminals”), half of all drug arrests are still related to marijuana. Whether or not these cases are prosecuted is an open question, but regardless, being arrested itself is a traumatic and expensive experience.
Furthermore, the fact that Blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested than Whites is shocking, and can only be explained as another example of racial bias in our criminal justice system. And this says nothing of Latinos- literally. Because the FBI does not track ethnicity, wit is likely that Latinos are being categorized as White, further distorting the data and our understanding of racial bias.
I know too many soccer moms who are smoking weed for there to be any argument that Blacks actually interact with marijuana more than Whites. This is another encapsulation of what is going on on a much larger scale in our criminal justice system and how institutionalized racial bias has very real consequences. The juxtaposition of pot parties, on the one hand, while people are literally locked away from society, behind bars, for the very same activity (who more likely than not look very different from one another), on the other, is a gross miscarriage of justice and morally reprehensible.
When’s the Last Time Someone Was Charged for Possession of an Edible?
Any criminal defense attorney will tell you that the most common drug charge is possession. In a world where THC is now transported across state lines in every form from gummy bears to breakfast bars to chocolates, it is impossible to identify the drug, much less charge someone for possession. The cannabis edibles market quadrupled in 2019, to $4.1 billion, and the ceiling on its growth is practically limitless. The fact is that we have laws on our books that we can’t enforce, and to what effect?
It’s Important That We Protect Consumers When Legalizing Marijuana.
The legalization of marijuana will result in the creation of a market like any other, driven by the same forces of capitalism that too often leave consumers vulnerable to, if left unchecked, rampant greed and corruption. We need to ensure that marijuana is grown safely, that we have a way of testing and ensuring quality of the product, that it is priced fairly, that we have a means for measuring quantity and potency and that we have a valid, fact-based and scientifically-tested understanding of overconsumption and its effects.