One area of policy which appears to have transmuted the pronounced polarization in this country has been marijuana.
It was a year ago that the people of Colorado and Washington united to vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use, answering the question of ‘if’ in historic fashion. During the course of this year the explosion of media attention started focusing more on the ‘how’ of implementation, all the while drawing attention to the larger issue which is the failure and harms associated with the war on drugs.
The unified spirit surrounding marijuana legalization continues to mount. The release of the November issues of right-leaning Reason Magazine and left leaning The Nation magazine, will feature marijuana legalization and the ending of prohibition. In a country that is so divided on almost everything else, this unified spirit gracing marijuana legalization appears to be shaping up to be a harmonious sanctuary in an ocean of polarization.
Because of all the areas and issues that prohibition negatively impacts there is an issue for everyone to grab onto.
In Reason’s “Pot Goes Legit,” Jacob Sullum quotes former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo: “I am endorsing Amendment 64 not despite my conservative beliefs, but because of them."
I was surprised myself recently when my cousin, who doesn’t share my worldview on much of anything, told me he was right there with me with ending the war on drugs. I realized just how much there is for conservatives to latch onto with legalization. It lends a blow to big government, thereby affirming state sovereignty, and it also adds to the free market.
The Nations’ “Marijuana Wars” include stories that touch on issues across marijuana culture. High Times has a great profile in there. Racial justice is talked about by Dr. Carl Hart, and the solution to racist marijuana possession arrests is evaluated by sociologist Harry Levine. In “The Drug War Touched My Life: Why I’m Fighting Back,” one will hear personal stories from a variety of people such as retired Baltimore police officer, Neil Franklin, and activist’s such as Amir Varick who spent almost twenty years in jail for a drug crime he didn’t commit. These are powerful experiences from people who are coming at this issue from the other side of the spectrum, where it’s more a question of freedom and liberty, racial equality, and human rights. For a list of all the stories, see Marijuana Wars.
This week, Colorado residents voted to impose heavy taxes on the sale of marijuana so the system will have the necessary funds to pay for inspections and public health efforts.
For the people who are coming at this issue from the other side of the spectrum, it’s more a question of freedom and liberty, racial equality, and human rights.
Whether marijuana intersects with someone getting stopped and frisked because of their color, or being harmed from adulterated drugs, or suffering a traumatic childhood because of a parent incarcerated, or if one simply believes in the freedom of choice of what one puts in his own body, this issue touches the lives of many.
In the largest sense, we’re all united on this issue because we all do drugs, whether legal or not, and even if you completely abstain from everything, we all know individuals that do and we care about those people.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization, according to the most recent Gallup poll. The government edifice that marijuana has no redeeming qualities is well underway in its descent into the pit of misguided and bad policy. Still, this is only the beginning and the widespread cooperation we are seeing with people from all walks of life and affiliations makes one wonder what we can accomplish.
Christopher Soda is an intern with the Drug Policy Alliance.