An irony of the War on Some Drugs is that legal drugs – most notoriously, the pain medication oxycodone – are more of an objective threat to people’s health than illegal ones like marijuana, which can be used to treat the same conditions, but without the life-threatening (and ending) downsides.
Opioids – which are derived from opium – are often prescribed as painkillers. They’re effective, but the downside is they are enormously addictive. And – unlike marijuana – they can literally kill you.
Marijuana is also a very effective pain killer – but without the lethal downsides.
It is impossible to “OD” on pot.
Or even to become addicted.
The worst thing that might happen is a bad case of the munchies – which is why marijuana is frequently used (and prescribed, in states where it’s legal) as an appetite stimulant for people undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer. It’s also very effective as a treatment for glaucoma; it reduces intra-ocular eye pressure – but without the problems of physical addiction or the potential to end up dead from an overdose.
These are among the reasons for the decriminalization of medical marijuana by several states, most notably Colorado and California.
It’s hard to understand why any reasonable person could object.
If the argument is that marijuana can be abused, that argument applies even more to legal opioids, such as Oxycontin (the brand name for the opioid oxycodone). As an article in U.S. News by Adrianne Wilson Poe noted, “Opioid addiction . . . kills 115 people a day, more than gun violence or traffic accidents.”
As opposed to no people killed – ever – by medical marijuana.
Poe also cites the estimated $500 billion annually that opioid abuse costs the U.S. economy.
Whereas medical marijuana costs the U.S. economy . . . nothing.
Well, excluding the money wasted on Inspector Javert-like persecution of medical marijuana users. In states that have ceased such prosecutions and passed laws permitting medical (and even recreational) marijuana, not only has money be saved that would otherwise been wasted on arresting, prosecuting and caging people for using marijuana to alleviate their chronic, often debilitating pain and to treat serious medical problems without resorting to the use of dangerous opioids – money has been generated for local and state governments via the taxes collected on now-legal medical/recreational marijuana.
The state of Colorado – which legalized medical marijuana back in 2000 and recreational marijuana in 2014 – collects about $200 million annually in taxes/licenses and other fees.
California anticipates a $1billion annual windfall from the sale of legal medical/recreational marijuana.
And if the Feds got out of the Inspector Javert business, and marijuana use were legal in all 50 states, more than $132 billion in tax revenue would be available, according to a recent Washington Post article by Katie Zezima, which cited a study by New Frontier Data analytics.
All without having to raise taxes on people who don’t use marijuana.
So what’s the hang up?
There are two.
One is the personal animosity toward marijuana of the current attorney general, Jeff Sessions. It cuts no mustard with him, apparently, that marijuana has numerous legitimate medical uses and could even be used to combat some of the deadly problems associated with the abuse of legal opioids such as Oxycontin.
Nor that marijuana doesn’t kill anyone – unlike opioids.
Sessions is in his early 70s and like many of his generation, grew up in the “Reefer Madness” era, believing that marijuana is much more dangerous than it actually is. He seems immune to reason on the subject – and is even threatening to resume federal-level marijuana prosecutions, specifically targeting states that have legalized medical (and recreational) marijuana – if he can get around a funding limitation imposed by California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher which has so far stymied him.
The “Rohrabacher Amendment,” passed back in 2014, forbids the use of any money budgeted by Congress for the Department of Justice’s operations to be used for purposes of going after medical marijuana dispensaries or users, in states that have legalized this. But Sessions has been demanding the power – and the money – to resume his personal War on Some Drugs.
Hopefully, he won’t get it.
President Trump isn’t enthusiastic – and has even publicly stated on numerous occasions that he supports medical marijuana.
He is, on the other hand, very much opposed to opioid abuse. Hopefully, he will see the merit of using marijuana to address this much more serious problem.
But there’s another problem – and it could be the real reason behind this War on Some Drugs:
Medical marijuana threatens to undermine the profits of the Big Pharma cartels. Leaving aside the deadly serious issues of addiction and overdosing, billions are on the line.
It may well be that the Warring on Some Drugs comes down to dollars and cents.
Regardless, it no longer makes sense.
It isn’t necessary for one to approve of marijuana to acknowledge it has valid medical properties – and it’s cruel to target people whose suffering can be alleviated by those properties for criminal prosecution.
It’s also an affront to the constantly tub-thumped “democratic principles” the country is allegedly based upon.
The states which have legalized medical (and recreational) marijuana have done so in accordance with the expressed will of the people living in those states. What gives the federal government – one man, Jeff Sessions – the moral right to countermand the will of those millions of people?
Libertarians, of course, go a step farther. They hold that no one has the moral right to interfere with the personal choices made by individuals regarding their own health – or their recreations – provided they’re not harming anyone else in the process.
But even if you’re not a Libertarian, it’s hard not to have a problem with the War on Some Drugs.