Cannabis users have unwittingly embraced and advanced the prohibitionist paradigm of cannabis as an intoxicant. And this point of view could ultimately derail the movement and its goal of legalizing marijuana nationwide, fears Steve DeAngelo the owner operator of the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, Oakland’s Harborside Health Center.
“For the past 15 years, the movement has achieved unprecedented success by defending the rights of Americans to use cannabis as medicine. Now many segments of the movement argue it is time to shift strategy, and promote the idea of legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes. I disagree,” writes DeAngelo in a recent article.
Some strategists think that emphasizing the medical aspect of marijuana leaves a majority of pot smokers without any legal protection. They argue that the movement should advocate for legalization based on personal freedom—including the right to smoke pot recreationally.
There’s nothing wrong with advocating for the recreational use of marijuana, of course. It’s just that in the 70s activists successfully leveraged this strategy to decriminalize marijuana in a few states. You might remember pics of Allen Ginsburg holding signs like “Pot is Fun” and “We Smoke Pot and We Like it a Lot?” Well the outcome wasn’t sustained.
As DeAngelo points out, “the personal choice to get high was transformed by our opponents into a threat against all society. The cannabis reform movement was overwhelmed by the likes of DARE, Just Say No, and the Partnership for a Drug Free America. The spectre of a stoned nation, losing its competitive edge to a culture of self indulgent hedonism was successfully deployed by our opponents to justify re-criminalization, urine testing, denial of housing and student loans as well as cruel draconian sentences.
Think it won’t happen again? This fall, Oregon voters will be weighing in on whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use and anti-legalization opponents like Clastop County District Attorney Josh Maquis are already beginning to use the “pot is fun” argument to shut down legalization. “It makes no sense to increase access to intoxicants,” he said. “We’ve not done a good job in our state or our society keeping alcohol—a very, very toxic drug—out of the hands of people who need it the least, which are kids.”
DeAngelo argues that prohibitionists and stoners alike cling to the untruth that most cannabis use is motivated by a desire to get high when it’s really used simply to feel better. Whether it’s to enjoy a little rest and recreation or to alleviate the symptoms associated with things like dying of cancer—it’s HIGH TIME the US legalize marijuana so we can all feel better.
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