Associated Press has recently chronicled the increasing acceptance of marijuana use in America. Soon we might be able to say that dope is OK in the USA.
50 years ago, the film “Reefer Madness” assured us that marijuana brought about insanity. “Just Say No” was an advertising campaign in the 1980s and 1990s that was part of the U.S. “War on Drugs.” The campaign was meant to discourage children from engaging in recreational drug use. The slogan was created and championed by First Lady Nancy Reagan during her husband’s presidency. It was expanded to saying “no” to violence and premarital sex.
There is evidence of marijuana cultivation in China as far back as 2737 B.C. It was used to treat rheumatism, malaria, and absent-mindedness. Recreational use of weed can be traced to India in 1000 B.C. The Spanish brought pot to America in the mid-16th century, and the English started importing it in the early 17th century. It was a major cash crop in the South, until it was replaced by cotton.
During the “Jazz Age” of the 1920s, pot use increased among jazz musicians and people in show business. In his memoirs, comedian and TV star Phil Silvers talked about the first time he got high in New York. There were marijuana clubs, called “tea pads,” in major American cities. In 1920, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was urging American farmers to grow pot as a profitable crop. Finally, dope was included with heroin and opium as a threat to society. Enforcement of anti-marijuana laws was placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Treasury Department, and then the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, headed up by prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger. (See “A Brief History of Marijuana” by Scott Miller.)
Anslinger favored a taxation plan that would effectively prohibit the use of the cannabis plant in the United States. He wrote pulp fiction and pamphlets on the evils of marijuana, and oversaw the production of anti-drug films, not only “Reefer Madness” but also “Assassin of Youth” and “Marihuana, Weed with Roots in Hell.” (See Marcus Boon, The Road of Excess: A History of Writers on Drugs.)
Now champions of legalization are astonished by how quickly public attitudes are changing to acceptance, as shown by the action of state to change their laws to approve the drug for medical use—and, increasingly, for recreation.
State approval contravenes continued federal prohibition on its use and disregards certain scientific evidence of marijuana’s potential dangers, especially for the young people. But scientific evidence of its potential medical benefits is less available, because the federal government controls funding for research.
Policymakers in the Washington are reluctant to respond to state action.
A national commission was recommending decriminalizing marijuana in 1972, to no effect. Since then the public has seemingly adopted an attitude of benign neglect.
Dope is becoming acceptable in the United States.
California was the first to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia joined in approving it for medical use. Then Colorado and Washington State approved pot for recreational use in 2012. Alaska voters will likely consider legalization in 2014, and a few other states may add the issue of casual enjoyment of dope to the ballot in 2016.
The Pew Research Center found that nearly half of the adults surveyed said that they have tried marijuana. Twelve percent of them have done so in the past year. Fifty-two percent of adults are in favor legalization. Sixty percent are opposed to federal action to enforce the law of the land against states that have approved its use.
The goal of the Obama administration seems to be to add marijuana to tobacco and alcohol, whose legalization led to positions of dominance in the marketplace. But the difficulty at this time is legally regulating the production, distribution, sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes in the face of federal prohibition.
It must be remembered that the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, popularly known as “Prohibition” and enacted in 1920, banned the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol, not its possession or use. Prohibition ended with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933. Currently those in the business of growing, selling and distributing marijuana can be prosecuted for violations of the Controlled Substances Act, even in states where dope is legal.
Some political observers think that Washington will adopt a laissez-faire policy.
And yet opponents of legalization can state the obvious, that approbation of grass will increase its use by young people. Advocates reply that a regulated system will supplant its current transportation and sale by way of the black market.
However, concentrations of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot, have increased from 4 percent in the 1980s to 10 percent in the 2000s, according to a 2009 report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
A 2012 study found that regular use of marijuana over a ten-year period during teenage years caused a drop in IQ. Another study indicated that marijuana use can induce or exacerbate psychotic illness in certain susceptible populations. But these studies are derided by some as methodologically flawed, and their conclusions hyperbolic.
Legalization may not automatically lead to crime. Federal statistics reveal that showing only a small percentage of inmates in federal and state prisons solely for possession.
The pro and con camps may be regarded as equally massed at this point, though the pro group seems to gaining strength.
So, we may soon find that dope is OK in the USA.
By: Tom Ukinski