The war to end cannabis prohibition rages on. Although we mark new progress daily, much work remains in the effort to liberate this particular plant. But the battle of ideas is over.
On behalf of cannabis, I am formally declaring victory.
It’s not just that 61 percent of Americans support legalizing cannabis for any purpose while 80 percent support legalizing medical cannabis. It runs deeper than that. As you survey the prohibitionist landscape, you quickly find that its intellectual underpinnings have collapsed.
When I was in law school, we learned about a straight-faced argument. This refers to any argument, whether true or not, that one could make to a judge with a straight face. There are no straight-faced arguments left in favor of cannabis prohibition. They have all been debunked.
Unfortunately, there remain a handful of crusty, old drug war dinosaurs with an outsized influence on cannabis policy and enforcement who continue to spout these discredited ideas. (United States Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions comes to mind). That being the case, it’s worth taking a look at the falsehoods and hypocrisy that currently pass for reasons to keep cannabis illegal.
We have heard for years that we can’t legalize marijuana because it’s dangerous. This is absolutely ridiculous. A Google search will yield hundreds of articles and reams of evidence on the safety of cannabis.
While it is true that we need much more research to know the true potential benefits and harms of cannabis, cannabis is clearly safer than such legal recreational drugs as tobacco and alcohol, or medicines like oxycontin and fentanyl. Cannabis is also far less addictive than any of the aforementioned. The scientific literature contains more than enough evidence for a reasonable person to determine that using cannabis is both safe and benign.
Sessions has also claimed that cannabis is somehow associated with violence. “We’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
What Sessions fails to acknowledge is that what violence exists around the cannabis trade is the result of cannabis prohibition rather than anything inherent in cannabis. When businesses are forced to operate underground and transact entirely in cash, the opportunity for violence increases. When businesses cannot seek protection from law enforcement or redress of grievances in the courts, this also creates conditions ripe for violence.
But these conditions are the result of prohibition. When we legalize cannabis, we actually reduce the violence associated with the commerce thereof. A business owner who can sue a supplier, insure her products or call the police when she is robbed is far less likely to take matters into her own hands in a violent manner.
We can see how this dynamic played out with alcohol. Can anyone, even Jeff Sessions, argue that violence around the alcohol trade increased when Prohibition ended? Of course not. When society labels someone a criminal, they often have no option but to act like one. But most people, when given the choice, would rather follow the law and participate in civil society.
Sessions has also cited the current opiate epidemic as a reason to keep cannabis illegal. “I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana—so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful,” Sessions said. “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”
The opposite is, in fact, the case. Mounting evidence shows that cannabis can help people use fewer opiates or kick them entirely
“I see a line in the Washington Post that I remember from the ’80s,” Sessions said in February. “‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”
Well the science exists, and it has in fact proven him wrong. A Google search for cannabis and opiates yields scores of articles with titles like Legalizing Marijuana Decreases Fatal Opiate Overdoses, Study Shows. In that article, opiate researchers Dr. Mark S. Brown and Marie J. Hayes write that “The striking implication is that medical marijuana laws, when implemented, may represent a promising approach for stemming runaway rates of nonintentional opioid-analgesic-related deaths.”
While it’s bad enough that folks like Sessions deny the value of using cannabis to help treat opiate addiction and overdoses, Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Chief Chuck Rosenberg goes a step farther, denying that cannabis can be used for medicine at all.
Forget for a minute that the federal government holds a patent for the use of the cannabinoid CBD as a neuro-protectant—a medical application of the cannabis plant. And put aside the fact that the largest impediment to more research to prove the medical usefulness of cannabis is the refusal of Rosenberg and his agency to reschedule cannabis.
With a simple Google search, one can find hundreds, if not thousands, of articles and scientific studies showing the medical benefits of cannabis, including Federal Drug Administration trials of drugs like Sativex and Epidiolex. There can be no doubt that cannabis has medical value. What remains is to determine how it works and how to use it most effectively.
The last, and perhaps most ridiculous argument I want to discuss comes from Kevin Sabet, one of America’s most dedicated and active anti-cannabis proselytizers. Sabet, who heads the organization Project Smart Alternatives to Marijuana (SAM), travels the country arguing against the legalization of cannabis.
Even Sabet has given up arguing that cannabis itself is dangerous. Instead he argues that legalization will lead to the creation of corporate cannabis behemoths and Big Marijuana, which would promote pro-cannabis policies and be dangerous to public health, much like Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol.
What Sabet doesn’t want you to know is that he and Project SAM are funded in part by Big Pharma, which is using Sabet and Project SAM to promote pro-pharma policies that are dangerous to public health. The hypocrisy would be stunning if we weren’t so jaded by now.
Besides, we already have Big Marijuana under prohibition. It’s called the Sinaloa Cartel and their policies and practices are far more dangerous than any multi-national cannabis corporation could ever be.
The war against prohibition isn’t over, but the intellectual struggle is. No valid and legitimate intellectual justifications for cannabis prohibition remain. With its intellectual foundation destroyed, the edifice of prohibition now rests precariously on a flimsy undergirding of ideology and fear. It is simply a matter of time before the entire structure collapses under the weight of its own hypocrisy.
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Source: Cannabis Business Executive