Police officers are sometimes the primary antagonists in the war on drugs, specifically the war on small-time cannabis possession. It’s their job to be. That doesn’t mean they’re all happy about it. Since the police ride the front lines on this supposed “war,” many of them have grown leery of the hypocrisy inherent in the struggle . I’m talking about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition or LEAP. High Times Magazine recently pointed out Ken Burns’ documentary Prohibition, and its similarities to the issues LEAP has noticed in the same prohibition on cannabis. The parallels are impossible to ignore.
LEAP’s Neill Franklin asks High Times
“Does anyone think making the dangerous drug alcohol illegal actually decreased the harm associated with its use, abuse and distribution?” LEAP executive director, Neill Franklin, asked. “Just as then, today’s prohibition on drugs doesn’t accomplish much to reduce harmful use and only serves to create gruesome violence in the market where none would exist under noncriminal regulation. Legalizing these drugs will make our streets safer by reducing the crime and violence associated with their trade, just as when we re-legalized alcohol.”
In January of 1919 the ratification of the 18th Amendment prohibited alcohol from being sold in the United States. This was a direct result of the temperance movement started in the 1820’s by a Prohibition Party made up largely of evangelical Christians (not to sling stones–but when has listening to religious zealots ever helped this country?–i.e. same-sex marriages, celibacy as the only birth control and bombings of abortion clinics to just name a few).
The Volstead Act, passed in October of 1919, attempted to combat the sale and distribution of alcohol within the United States. If you’ve been watching Boardwalk Empire, the whole process was generally assumed ridiculous and celebrated with much tomfoolery and merriment (read: boozing). Bootleggers (think Capone, Lucky Luciano and the aforementioned “Nucky” Thompson of Boardwalk Empire fame) sprung up everywhere to satiate the public’s need for alcohol. The battles with law enforcement led to increased violence in America. Sound familiar?
In 1933, due to the Great Depression (who doesn’t need some whiskey when they’re bummed out?) and a growing repudiation of the 18th Amendment’s legitimacy and the Volstead Act’s power to curb spirit producers, led to the 21st Amendment. This amendment placed the sale and–perhaps most importantly–the taxation of alcohol in the hands of the states.
With our most recent recession, the housing bubble burst after the risky grouping of impossible to pay mortgages, increased gap between the wealthy and poor and soaring national and state-wide deficits, now would be the time to pass a similar act disavowing the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Much like the 18th Amendment the ’37 Tax Act outlawed the cultivation, transport or selling of cannabis anywhere in the United States. This is a huge problem for states attempting to pass medical marijuana statutes within their own states.
A study in December of 2006* said that cannabis was America’s leading cash crop–outproducing wheat or corn. Anyone that’s been to Humboldt County can attest to it’s ubiquitous presence throughout rural America. How does it not make sense to legalize and then tax the shit out of marijuana? It will cut down on the violence associated with the drug trade, and increase sorely needed revenue within the state and federal governments.
That might make to much sense for our drastically out of touch politicians busy with petty social issues and gridlocked on any number of topics. Dear Washington, legalize weed, then move on to less obvious solutions for healthcare, growing debt, financial regulation, education, and unemployment. This is an easy yes. So do it.
*Gettman, Jon, “Marijuana Production in the United States”, The Bulletin of Cannabis Reform, No. 2, December 2006–via
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