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America Isn't Going to Legalize Weed Anytime Soon

The USA still has four major hurdles to overcome.
June 29, 2014, 2:08pm

Photo courtesy of the author

Over the last two years, my career has seen a stark shift towards cannabis. I used to work as a music journalist, but when the opportunity arose to write about the developing legalization of my favorite plant, I changed my whole shit up. I betted that weed would become so big that I'd be able to tell stories for years—personal stories, news stories, you name it—and so far, my prediction has been right. There's a lot happening with pot, and I'm lucky to report on the topic. I recently started a new gig at Mic, where I'm covering the weed beat—it's amazing to start my day by searching “cannabis” on Google News. In between scouring through research reports and digging around for statistics, I regularly speak to lots of activists and weed industry members. It's fun as hell. I mostly find goods news, like the wave of CBD legalization in the South or the long-awaited decriminalization in Jamaica, but as I dig, I also come across stories about cannabis prohibition that make me sick. The ban of a harmless plant has produced racism and pointless persecutions. Thank god we're finally making a little progress, but things are still pretty fucked up. Here are a few things we still need to overcome.


A Lot of People Are Still in Jail

For a long time, a big part of legalization advocacy involved drawing attention to the untold injustices of weed prohibition. There are a lot of people in jail for non-violent weed-related crimes. Authorities incarcerate blacks for non-violent drug offenses at nearly six times the rate they arrest white people, according to the Sentencing Project. We still hear these facts as part of the basic argument for decriminalization and legalization, and it has probably helped push the movement along, but politicians are doing little to solve the problem. Colorado enjoyed the full advantages of the new legal cannabis market, including millions in tax revenue, for nearly three months before a state court gave previous offenders the chance to challenge their sentences. As for inmates serving federal sentences for weed possession, you might want to put another hundred in their commissary, because they aren't getting out of jail any time soon, considering America is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't offer its citizens retroactive ameliorative relief.

Politicians Are Extremely Confused About Weed

Watching politicians try to wrap their heads around medical marijuana is like watching a bunch of dads try to relate to their teenage kids. They want to appear open to the idea, but they are so obviously clueless about weed that you want to laugh in their faces. This isn't limited to Republican lawmakers bumbling about the idea that weed is different from heroin—or even that ass clown Jeff Sessions. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has been a true cock about pot. After myriad attempts to derail his state's medical marijuana law, he agreed to sign the bill only after they altered the law to keep smoking marijuana illegal. That's right: You can consume as much medical weed as you need in the state of New York, but you can't smoke it. Sorry if you've had cancer for years and have a treatment routine that involves smoking. Too bad that vaping is a relatively new innovation, and we don't know about its long-term effects. You don't want to make Cuomo feel weird by smoking weed, right?


Dosage Is Everything

Oh boy, the edibles argument. Cuomo's not the only one who sounds like a grumpy old man when he talks about weed. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote an embarrassing op-ed about her bad experience with edibles. She blamed Colorado, and she's right: Colorado’s edibles are way too strong for newcomers. Edibles may look exactly like regular candies, but they pack a lot of THC. It's not unusual to eat half a bag of gummy bears in one sitting, but if each gummy bear is packed with 10 milligrams of THC, the candy is going to ruin your evening. Considering no one cuts a cookie into six slices and eats one slice at a time, it's ridiculous to pack that much THC into one piece of candy. Medical cardholders in Colorado are used to digesting that much THC, but that volume is definitely not OK for out-of-towners. If there's one thing that can really fuck up the perception of weed in the public sphere, it's edibles freakouts.

People Still Believe in Prohibition

In the 1930s, William Randolph Hearst flooded the world with anti-weed propaganda because he hated Mexicans and feared hemp paper, but the American Medical Association strongly opposed illegalizing weed in the 30s because of weed's possible therapeutic benefits. Unfortunately, evil won that battle, and weed has been illegal ever since. Over 70 years later, the anti-weed campaign is still successfully convincing people that weed belongs in the same category as heroin. Things started to tip in favor of weed legalization a few years ago, but there are still people who believe the shit Hearst started before Pearl Harbor. Look at the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which consistently undoes its own name by hating on pot. (If you want to tell Smart Approaches to Marijuana founder Kevin Sabet the truth about weed, you can tweet at him here.) Despite everything we know about weed, people remain ignorant in America. Imagine discovering that you're under the influence of propaganda from the 30s. Wouldn't you want to punch yourself in the face?

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