A Need to Free Weed
By Stella Honey Yoon '14
California’s Proposition 19 brings another popular debate to the table: the need to free weed. The proposition, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, focuses on legalizing purchases of small amounts of marijuana and the growing of marijuana in private residences. It also enables local governments to regulate and control individuals and businesses in the amount of consumption, the hours it is usable, the licenses required to purchase or smoke marijuana and more. While California has tried to entice its voters with the idea of increased revenue from taxing marijuana, America knows that the issue is much bigger than getting a financial boost. The proposition, for Californians and the rest of the nation, is a symbolic action of facing the big issue of marijuana in America.

Marijuana has been a significant thread of the national fabric. It is the most widely used drug in the nation, many times illegally and, in particular states, for legal medical purposes. It plays a huge part in drug crimes locally, nationally, and internationally, benefiting, influencing and keeping international drug cartels and drug trafficking across borders afloat. It has been stigmatized as a “vice,” yet is also accepted as such a widespread and “common” aspect of the American culture that police forces in many states, either by law or in their own discretion, overlook relatively minor misdemeanors such as drug possession. In the scope of this cultural context, Proposition 19 serves two puposes: one, it recognizes that marijuana is, indeed, a significant and steadfast part of the American culture; and two, acting upon such acknowledgement, it attempts to control and regulate the force it cannot eradicate completely.

Historical evidence shows what our society has regarded as “vices” resist our efforts to get rid of them completely. Not only is eradication impossible, (with peaking demand for the vices overhauling limited resources and methods) it also backfires because complex crimes arise in process of bypassing limiting legislation. Prohibition in 1920’s America, which led to an expansion of bootleggers, and banning prostitution in 19th century France, which led to a series of illegally operated and poorly managed brothels, are two prime examples of absolute control failing. Blindly and unsuccessfully banning a substance we know is prevalent ultimately forces the whole of weed culture outside the law, giving authorities no effective control on what is happening.

This issue should not involve another hefty argument of whether weed is harmful for society. Ambiguity ensues, as it can never be seen as an “absolute evil.” The substance itself has played a role throughout history (and was considered “legal” for most of it) and is also is used as medicine for certain disorders and illnesses. However, the issues surrounding drug cartels, the misuse or overuse of the substance causing physical and mental harm to the individual, and the stigma attached to those who choose to be involved in drug culture make it impossible to vouch for its “innocence” in entirety. With this ambiguity standing, the issue should rather be how to best address the problems that arise from this culture. In the case with marijuana, regulating and controlling the usage, retail and flow will bring the issue to be dealt with in an upfront and practical way. Government regulated commercialization of marijuana will give less power to foreign drug cartels and lower drug trafficking crimes, as well as allow the goverment to control illegal action on local levels. Making marijuana available for all of-age users in limited amounts will shift the focus to regulating the responsible usage of substances and a harsher crackdown on underage crime.

Marijuana is a major qualm in American politics and society. However, “illegalizing” the whole issue only leaves it in the dark, making it harder to control and regulate the substance and its related criminal activities because of its status outside the law. Whether the nation maintains the negative attitude of marijuana per se or views weed in a more accepting light than it did a century ago, the best solution for both cases will be to legalize and regulate. For those who are against weed, legalizing will give them power to place stronger limits on the amount or method of weed that is actually being circulated, deflate the power of illegal drug trafficking businesses and make revenue from taxing weed. Proponents of marijuana usage will be able to engage in a safer, more regulated and accepted culture considered “in the light” for the first time in decades.

Issue 06, Submitted 2010-10-20 01:37:02