How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Marijuana

  • Share
  • Read Later
Matthew Staver / The Washington Post / Getty Images

Cannabis plants in a "flower room" at a medical cannabis cultivation facility in Denver, on March 4, 2013.

For nearly a century, the United States has been one of the fiercest advocates and practitioners of marijuana prohibition in the world. At the height of the America’s anti-pot fervor in the 1950s and ’60s, one could even receive life imprisonment for simple possession of the drug.

But the puritanical fervor that once dominated the national discussion surrounding cannabis has been conspicuously absent of late. Earlier this month, the Colorado State legislature, by order of a November referendum, passed bills to implement the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana use. Washington State voters also approved legalization by referendum on election day. And these events have recently been followed by more good news for supporters of cannabis law reform. The Organization for American States recently suggested that marijuana legalization could be a way to cut down on drug-violence in the western hemisphere. Perhaps most important, the movement has finally found a voice on Capitol Hill, as representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis submitted legislation earlier this year that would end federal prohibition of the drug, and allow states to tax and regulate it as they see fit. As Bill Keller put it recently in the New York Times, “Today the most interesting and important question is no longer whether marijuana will be legalized — eventually, bit by bit, it will be — but how.”

(MORE: Will High Marijuana Taxes Encourage Black Markets?)

Indeed, the feeling that the further liberalization of marijuana laws is inevitable is backed up by the polling trends. According to Gallup, as recently as 2005, two-thirds of Americans opposed legalization of marijuana. Now 48% percent of the population supports it. And a similar poll from Pew puts the number even higher – at 52%. But what exactly explains this sudden change in American attitudes towards pot?

Undoubtedly, part of the reason for the increased acceptance is demographic. It might make you feel old to read this, but on Friday, both Bob Dylan and Tommy Chong celebrated birthdays, turning 72 and 75 respectively. The aging of these counterculture icons hasn’t directly changed American attitudes towards marijuana, of course, but it does underscore the fact that the vast majority of Americans living today came of age during a time when marijuana was widely in use. The data bear out the prevalence of marijuana use in today’s society, with 48% of Americans claiming they have tried the drug at least once.

(MORE: U.S. Marijuana Laws Ricochet Through Latin America)

But familiarity with marijuana isn’t by itself going to drive changes in the legal code. Political consensus is necessary too. And while national political leaders aren’t necessarily falling over themselves to endorse marijuana legalization, there isn’t a lot of room in the current political climate to defend prohibition, either. The political right has done an excellent job over the past thirty years convincing the American public of the limitations of government. They have argued that even when the government has the best of intentions it can be astoundingly ineffective at achieving its stated goals, and often creates unintended and pernicious consequences to boot. This is the same argument that has led to deregulation of industry, historically low tax rates, and legislative efforts like welfare reform. It’s only logical to extend it beyond social welfare programs to something like drug policy.

And supporters of ending marijuana prohibition do indeed point to the unintended consequences of the policy as reason to legalize. According to the FBI, in 2011, 1.5 million people were arrested on drug charges, and roughly half of those were for marijuana, costing billions per year in law enforcement and court costs. And that doesn’t count the human toll on those arrested, like potential loss of work, government benefits, the right to vote, and student aid. Meanwhile, the government simply hasn’t come anywhere close to achieving the stated goal of marijuana prohibition, which is to prevent drug addiction. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, since the beginning of the so-called war on drugs, the addiction rate in America has remained steady at 1.3%, despite the fact that each year state and local governments spend more and more money – over $1 trillion in total – fighting the drug war.

What’s more, the unintended consequences of marijuana prohibition do not stop at our borders. In fact, the brunt of the side effects may be being felt in places like Mexico. And as my colleague Tim Padgett wrote this week, it would appear that America’s allies in the Western hemisphere are looking seriously at ending marijuana prohibition as a strategy for reducing the drug violence that is ravaging much of Latin America. A study issued this month by the Organization of American States declared that it’s now time to seriously consider legalizing pot in order to cut down on this violence. It’s estimated, for instance, that legalizing marijuana in America could eliminate one-third of Mexican cartel’s $30 billion annual haul.

We are in a political moment where social conservatism has been somewhat sidelined as a political force by the growing influence of libertarianism in the Republican party. This dynamic emphasizes the tension between liberty and morality that has been with us since the founding of our country, and at this moment liberty appears to be ascendant. But make no mistake, the puritanical impulses that once made America the leading voice in marijuana prohibition haven’t gone anywhere — and advocates of reform should know that pendulums, once set it motion, swing back again.

MORE: How Latin America May Lead the World in Decriminalizing Drug Use

264 comments
eric.the.madman
eric.the.madman

When Bayer introduced aspirin in 1899, cannabis was America’s number one painkiller. Until marijuana prohibition began in 1937, the US Pharmacopoeia listed cannabis as the primary medicine for over 100 diseases. Cannabis was such an effective analgesic that the American Medical Association (AMA) argued against prohibition on behalf of medical progress. Since the herb is extremely potent and essentially non-toxic, the AMA considered it a potential wonder drug.

Instead, the invention of aspirin gave birth to the modern pharmaceutical industry and Americans switched away from cannabis in the name of “progress.” But was it really progress? There can be no doubt that aspirin has a long history as the drug of choice for the self-treatment of migraines, arthritis, and other chronic pain. It is cheap and effective. But is it as safe as cannabis?

History:

Marijuana has been used for over 5,000 years.
No one has ever overdosed on marijuana.
Aspirin has been used for 108 years.
Approximately 500 people die every year by taking aspirin 

END PROHIBITION NOW!!!

RichyBocaz
RichyBocaz

First. Your refer America as a country. There are many countries in America, since America is a continent not just one country.

Second. The word is Marihuana or Mariguana, not Marijuana.



eric.the.madman
eric.the.madman

Sorry, but America (United States of) is a country!  You may be referring to North America or South America?

Marijuana is a perfectly acceptable term for the plant Cannabis.  Please take a few minutes to check your facts before making up your own OPINION!

AdamRosenberg
AdamRosenberg

The industrialization of hemp would save our country.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13 like.author.displayName 1 Like

The article is mistitled, "How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Marijuana."

If America has really 'stopped worrying,' than why does the Department of Education still require all public schools to 1) host anti-drug programs (i.e. DARE), and 2) that all Health classes to teach of the adverse side effects of marijuana (etc.).  Furthermore, if marijuana is so harmless, why do schools still suspend/expel pupils for possession and usage of said drug?  Why isn't marijuana categorized as aspirin, or other practical medications?  The only ones who 'love' the drug are current or former potheads/stoners.

Clearly, a significant amount of 'worry' over marijuana still exists across the country.

eric.the.madman
eric.the.madman

@mrbomb131) You are 100% wrong with your assumptions!  2) Of course schools should suspend students caught using cannabis, just as they would one using alcohol!  3)  The reason why cannabis is NOT listed YET as a medicine is because the BIG Pharma companies stand to lose billions, since they cannot patent a plant.  4) If there is no medical use for cannabis, why does our government own the patent #6630507 (filed on 2/2/2001). The patent lists the use of certain cannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant as useful in certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and HIV dementia?

KevinHunt
KevinHunt like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's obvious that the feds want to stop medical marijuana because it interferes with their plan to make you dependent on 'certain' corporations for everyday commodities.  Big Pharma loses big when they can't sell as many of their addictive opiate pain pills.  God forbid that you produce something that the pharmaceutical cartel doesn't profit from.

With the recently signed "Monsanto Protection Act', you can be sued if GMO seeds or pollen blow onto your property and you don't remove the sprouts immediately.  GMO crops have to be removed by hand, as they are resistant to the weed killers sold by the GMO firms.

Won't it be great when backyard vegetable grows are banned and the govt turns over all food production to the 'experts' at Monsanto?  Keep it up, prohibitionists, we are almost there.  The FDA now has armed troops!

http://www.naturalnews.com/033280_FDA_raids_timeline.html

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

"Marijuana, in it's natural form, is one of the safest, most therapeutic substances known to man".

Francis Young - DEA Judge!!!

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I think the funniest claim all those stupid "loser" potheads make is that marijuana prohibition doesn't work. Hah! When Marijuana prohibition began, an estimated 50,000 people had tried marijuana in the US. Today that number is only about 50 million. Only a 100,000% increase in usage. You idiots! Talk to me when the number is more like 200,000%. Then you might have a leg to stand on.

Now excuse me while I go bang my head against a brick wall to try to get rid of this damn migrane.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Estimated deaths directly related to each substance in the US per year.Tobacco - 400,000Alcohol - 80,000Caffeine - 1000Cannabis - 0

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Question: How much cannabis consumption does it take to kill a person?

Answer: About 1500 pounds worth in 15 minutes. Can anyone spot me $6,000,000 so I can try to prove this?

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

On the contrary, they say its possible to overdose on 15 to 30 beers.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

MARIJUANA KILLS BRAIN CELLS!!!!'

Yup I used to think this too.

To do this study, they strapped gas masks on monkeys... pumping the monkeys full of 63 Columbian strength joints in 5 minutes without any additional oxygen.

When your brain is deprived of oxygen, what happens? Brain cells die.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName 1 Like

Since this study er piece of propaganda in the 70's there hasn't been one properly done study to prove this. Some studies have even demonstrated cannabis can be neuro-protective.

KevinHunt
KevinHunt like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@StoptheMadness New Study: An Israeli researcher has [found] that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, may arrest some forms of brain damage in mice.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-medical-marijuana-brain-damage-20130530,0,1781822.story


KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@StoptheMadness The only problem is getting the muskrat to sit still on your head.  Maybe you could get the muskrat to mellow out by hotboxing it with some kinnikinnick.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName 1 Like

Actually, I've heard those muskrat glands have been showing progress in reversing male pattern baldness when placed on the scalp.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness

Yeah buddy, it's crazy. Articles about stuff like that come out pretty much every day. But.... don't forget, they are not FDA approved. Marijuana is bad because it is illegal.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Peace on drugs!


Repeal Prohibition. Again. For all the same reasons!

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Yricher/rajbht and everyone else who supports cannabis prohibition - since we're having a somewhat rational debate here, will you do me a favour, and look up the documentary "The Union - The Business Behind Getting High" on YouTube. Will you just at least watch the first 20 mins of this video for me? You can post an anti-cannabis source, and I'll check it out.

Paulpot
Paulpot

@StoptheMadness Thanks for that. Watched it last night. Very good doc.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness

Cool, though I'm pretty sure I'm preaching to the converted in your case.

Paulpot
Paulpot like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

There is one over riding reason why prohibition must die.

It is a complete and total lie.

And you can't fool all the people, all the time.

Paulpot
Paulpot like.author.displayName 1 Like

“Today the most interesting and important question is no longer whether marijuana will be legalized — eventually, bit by bit, it will be — but how.”

Just tear those pages out of the book and let people get on with their lives.

yricher
yricher

I grew up and through the hippy era, and they use to call me miss good two shoes, because I just didn't like smoking or drinking. I just liked being aware all the time. It was just me. I still was around everyone, but eventually as we grew up, I grew away from those people I grew up with and was friends with. I came back home many years later when my husband died and I see the havoc that pot smoking has done to my peace loving friends. I've traveled and worked with young and old alike. Someone said to do the research. I've lived it. I see it. Because, for those younger people out there that just occasionally take a puff now and then, try to remember my warning. You will smoke more, and you will be losing your mind. All my pot smoking friends from the 60's agree with me. They use to argue up and down and backward, forwards, you name it. Now it's to late. You want to be mellow and have a cheap smoke, I agree, do the research. Smoke kinikinic. It's Native tobacco used in ceremonies. You can sit in a circle and bs all you want. If it makes you happy, the government use to have that illegal too. Not because it was bad for you, but because it was a Native tradition. It'll give you lots to talk about and you'll learn a thing or two. Peace.

babycheeks
babycheeks

@yricher Seen it too. Friends by the dozen who never got around to life. Why? They spent every evening getting "mello", eventually every day too. No ambition, no problem solving, no parenting, no marriage, no career, no responsible contribution to life, theirs or anyone else. Is this true for all? Of course not, but to speak of this drug as harmless is foolish and simply not true. We all know stoners who are now mentally toast. We all know students that will not learn because of their daily use of pot. I know of many crimes, dui's and accidental deaths that occurred because of pot. It is as harmful as alcohol and time may show it to have even a greater negative impact. Legalize it, but do not promote it as a virtue. It will become another difficult  problem for our society to try to manage, irrespective of the pleasure it brings to the user.

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@babycheeks What could possibly be more difficult than society 'trying to manage'  half the population by putting them in jail for trying marijuana?  No way is marijuana as bad as alcohol.  The statistics prove you wrong.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness

Baby Cheeks, was some crazy, deranged stoner was holding a gun to this DEA judge when he made this quote?

"Marijuana, in it's natural form, is one of the safest, most therapeutic substances known to man".

Francis Young - DEA Judge!!!

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness

Smoking marijuana does not make you a lazy loser. That is just total BS! If you are a lazy loser, and you smoke pot.... you are a lazy loser who smokes pot. If you are a lazy loser who drinks alcohol, you are a lazy loser who drinks alcohol. If you are a lazy loser who is a goodie two shoes who is straight as an arrow, and who likes to tell everyone else what they should and shouldn't do, then you are a lazy loser who..... well, you get the picture.

You people who think everyone who smokes pot is a stupid stoner who lies around and does nothing all day you need to get your head out of your arse.

I have 2 degrees, a career, a house, an awesome family, and I'm damn happy. You don't think there are doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, artists, actors.... who smoke cannabis

and are successful? Do I need to give you a list of famous people who used/use cannabis?

I could start with George Washington and Queen Victoria.

People who are going to be lazy losers are going to be that way anyway. Not because of marijuana.

vanlinez
vanlinez

@babycheeks @StoptheMadnessSorry I'm not buying your line. I know too many people who are very successful and smoke weed and I know plenty of losers who don't. As a prosecutor it's your job to be against marijuana. I think you need to check your objectivity.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness

Baby Cheeks, there is soooooo much information to refute what you are saying. No offense, but I'll listen to someone like Dr. Lester Grinspoon (Professor Emeritus - Harvard Medical School) who has done actual scientific research. Correlation does not prove causation.

mekev3
mekev3 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@babycheeks @StoptheMadness As a prosecutor, are you proud of yourself for persecuting nonviolent people who simply want their own choice of drug, which is not at all dangerous like the "legal" drug that is so promoted and ignored by people such as yourself?

babycheeks
babycheeks

@StoptheMadness I have traveled the road you may be on. Sorry but I do not agree. My opinions are based on what I have personally seen in my 65 years of life, including as a lawyer and 20+ years as a prosecutor. I said it is not true for all users,  but pot is a drug that has destroyed many lives. Again, what I find disturbing is the promotion that it is harmless. It is not. It does a lot of harm and has changed many lives for the worse. I know people who had a future, but pot slowly, increasingly became the medication to tune out life. It happens. Your denial of that does not change what so many know, based on their own experiences.

StoptheMadness
StoptheMadness

YRicher, I pretty much agree with everything you're saying about your pot smoking high school friends turning into zombies. My one question is.... Were there any other variables that could have participated in turning them into the zombies? Or did they spend that portion of their lives living in a plastic bubble, smoking pot all the time?

yricher
yricher

@StoptheMadness Not that I know of. They were all beautiful people. Strangely enough they are still beautiful people. Maybe the pot kept them preserved?  I found as the years went by, they smoked more and more, where most now smoke on a daily basis. Now they say it helps with pain and suffering. Prozac to numb the madness. With some people the effects are less obvious. Because my friends were beautiful people, they seemed to fair better than some as far as getting a well established spouse. Some marriages lasted up to 15 years. The younger a person was when they started smoking pot, the worse the effects. My opinion is, the brain is still developing at that stage, and somehow pot interferes with its development.

KevinHunt
KevinHunt like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@yricher Ha Ha ..."kinikinic".  I looked it up and it is: "red osier dogwoodarrowroot, red sumaclaurelironwoodwahoosquaw huckleberryIndian tobaccoJamestown weedblack birchcherry bark, cornmullein; along with muskratglands or oil, and other animal oil or rendered fat."

I'll be sure to stock up on muskrat glands!  I'm sure they would be absolutely delicious to smoke.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinnikinnick

yricher
yricher

@KevinHunt @yricher :) Do you know the story behind this ceremonial tobacco? According to history, the  red willow was once a majestic tree. ( I had never heard of the muskrat glands before,lol The red wood is ground, or chipped, then dried and mixed with sweetgrass) Anyway, the red wood, or red willow tree was a tall and majestic tree that grew big and tall. It was the tree that was made into a cross to crucify our Lord. (Indian legends tell of this tree, yet they had never heard of Jesus.) Anyway, because of this, God said it was to never grow big and majestic again. That is why it is used in ceremonies and also keeps you mellow,lol. I love these legends. In Jamestown, the tobacco leaves were boiled and tobacco was drank, not smoked. The tobacco plants that is smoked was later imported to Virginia, also bringing along the little earthworm, that never existed in North America before then,. That little worm changed the whole ecological system of this continent. Imagine. Imagine what a little pot will do. (Is doing) It'll be interesting to watch in the decades to come.

KevinHunt
KevinHunt like.author.displayName 1 Like

@yricher I fail to see how smoking muskrat glands, bark,  and random sticks is better than smoking marijuana.  

'Pot' (cannabis sativa) has been grown since the 1600's in this country.  I look forward to increased hemp cultivation improving the ecological system by sequestering carbon and preventing soil erosion.  Not sure what you are going on about with the earthworms.

A pound of cotton uses 3X more water to produce than a pound of hemp.  Hemp requires no pesticides or herbicides, and is non-GMO. Prohibitionists like you and Monsanto have been fighting against its cultivation, claiming that it is a schedule I drug.  Utter foolishness.