Is Marijuana Reform Just Around The Corner Or Is It Just A Pipe Dream?

Marijuana Reform - 2014 vs 1979

Today is not the first time the US flirted with Marijuana legalization. What is the difference between the 1970’s and today for the future of pot?

Back in the late 1970’s, hippies were celebrating. In the post – Vietnam, long-haired 70s it seemed that “making weed legal” was just around the corner. After all, the war had been ended and in the years following, many hippie and hippie sympathizing figures had emerged on the political stage.  Others had grown into the “voting class.” It only seemed logical that these “cool” politicians and voters would end the war on pot and happy days would ensue.

And while the pro marijuana movement enjoyed some minor success in the form of some states lowering penalties and a brief experimentation with legalization in Alaska, soon came the Reagan 80s and any hopes of legalization became a distant pipe dream.

Today, it’s not hard to hear some of those familiar declarations of weed being legal everywhere being shouted. But is today’s pro marijuana movement as doomed as the activists of the 1970s were or will “weed be legal (finally) in 5 years?”

Based on what I have observed, today’s movement is poised for success, and there are several reasons why:

Two states have already legalized marijuana.

Colorado and Washington leaping ahead of 18 other states with medical or decriminalization legislation passed.  And while one would have to be under a virtual rock not to know this, what is news to at least some is that in the time they have been legal a lot of good things have happened. 1st – There have been no major problems. No overdoses, no spikes in crime, no shortages of Doritos, etc., etc., The Colorado pot rollout was about as smooth as it gets when one changes major legislation. 2nd – Tax revenues have exceeded expectations. And we all know how politicians like free money. And outside of free money, this country loves giving itself a tax cut. Expect Washington to show similar results, and if / when they do, it will only inspire other states to hop on the marijuana gravy train / gold rush.  But regardless of their future plans, the good news for pro pot activists is that the model has been set. A winning formula is now out there eliminating guesswork and error.  Something that was not available 35 years ago.

30 states have pending marijuana reform legislation or ballot measures.

From medical marijuana reforms, hemp industrialization bills to full legalization, the majority of states now have either pending legislation or ballot measures coming up to move things forward. And like I mentioned beforehand, the people moving forward now have a history of election politics in which to draw from. Use what works, discard what hasn’t.

The majority of people support legalization.

Pick a poll. A multitude of them now clearly show the public favors legalization. Even more support medical marijuana and hemp being used to replace less efficient resources.  Now all they have to do is make it to the ballot box, something liberals struggle with in non-presidential elections usually. Of course, that needs to change and perhaps the very plausible idea of marijuana reform which will free American citizens from the threats of prison and fines, generate revenues that so far have exceeded all expectations, and give Americans a source to revolutionize the ways we get fuels, fibers, nutrients and medicine.

There are more and more studies showing marijuana’s value in treating and curing diseases and other ailments.

Here’s a short list of some of the diseases and ailments marijuana has either been proven to treat / cure or has shown promise in recent clinical studies … Various Cancers, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, Glaucoma, Epilepsy, ALS, Huntington’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Epilepsy, HIV, Migraines and Eating Disorders. You can add a couple of hundred others that I didn’t mention here. And of course, marijuana does it without causing physical addictions like opiates and without the same fears of overdoses that many other medications carry. As time goes on, this list gets longer as more and more studies come to light. Keep in mind that much of this work is in earlier stages as it was kept from being done by powerful entities in the public and private sector for decades.

Many anti marijuana myths have been thoroughly debunked.

Starting in 1937, when pot was made illegal by mostly powerful corporate forces like the early oil barons and guys like William Randolph Hearst, who feared hemp as he saw it a threat to his profits, there was some serious propaganda thrown out there. Business, government and Hollywood all teamed up to demonize the evil weed, and the truth be damned. Business did its part by rejecting hemp as a material for oil based plastics, trees that required forests to be eliminated and other less efficient materials. Government did its part by putting marijuana on “schedule I” of the narcotics list. Getting that designation (which says the substance in question has no therapeutic or medicinal worth) pretty much ensured no seriously funded or recognized study would happen. And Hollywood did its part by making propaganda pieces like “Reefer Madness” which showed people going insane off a few puffs … as if. But over the decades, activists and more liberal / libertarian publications have slowly but surely brought the facts to light. And in the last decade, Facebook and social media outlets have accelerated the voice of truth and have gotten the message through to people who previously turned a deaf ear to any talk of reform.

New and surprising groups continue to come out for legalization.

Hippies have always been for reform. Most liberals have been for reform. Even some moderates and libertarians have supported either partial or total elimination of marijuana prohibition laws. But today, we see republicans coming out and questioning the laws. We see medical groups, law enforcement groups and others who traditionally would be staunchly against any reforms and at times are for stricter laws and harsher penalties.  They say politics can make for some strange bedfellows, and the reform movement here is no exception. If longtime supporters embrace their new found support perhaps this can serve as a bridge to further dialogue and understanding in other areas.  But even if it doesn’t, those new supporters will be needed to get over that “45-49% hump” and win the contest, which is what it’s all about.

New technology keeps marijuana “socially acceptable.”

Over the last 20 years, as marijuana’s benefits have become more widely known, what has also become known is that smoking, regardless of the substance smoked, isn’t the healthiest thing in the world to do. Cigarette smoking has been banned in just about every indoor public place and some outdoor ones. But marijuana has adapted to these changing times and we see new modes of ingestion that don’t involve sucking in dozens of unknown and potentially dangerous carcinogens. Vaporizers have become popular as have edibles like candies and other sweets. Others prefer sprays and even topical creams containing marijuana’s beneficial properties to take care of whatever ails them. Marijuana itself has gotten more efficient so even when smoked, the amount of “hits” necessary are far less compared to the pot of the 60s and 70s which of course lowers the patient’s exposure to carcinogens similar to smoking a cigarette or cigar.

The “other” benefits of marijuana / hemp are becoming better known.

Besides the social and medical benefits, people are now finally being educated on the more “day to day” practical benefits that marijuana can bring to the table. Things like being a better source for paper than trees. It is a better source of plastics than oil. It is a better fuel than oil. It is a better fiber than cotton or synthetics like nylon. It is a better source of nutrients than many other plants. And so much more, the list goes on … and on … and on.  This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Why is marijuana / hemp better? Amongst other things, it is very cheap to grow, and can be grown almost anywhere. It is efficient, yielding 2-4 times or more than other sources to achieve the same ends. It’s grow time is short, for example compare the 4-6 months of growing hemp compared to 10-20 years of growing a tree. It’s not a fossil fuel and is about as renewable and green as anything on the planet.  Yes people like to smoke pot. But get too caught up in that fact and all the other potentially greater benefits might be and have been missed in the past. Not so much now.

So in 2014, marijuana is once again on the cusp of having its prohibition ended. Will it end? Will “weed be legal” in 5 years, or less? It certainly has the potential and the blueprints on how to do it have been drawn up. But to get over the hump pro marijuana supporters will have to do some things that they haven’t done so well in the past. Namely, they will need to show up at the ballot box when it isn’t a Presidential election. The right wing has been great at this over the last 20 or so years … learn from it. Realize that while ALL politics might not be local, much of the foundations of politics happen locally as well as most things that affect our day to day lives. State and local politics is really where the work of change gets done, not at the Presidential level. The national political crowd only reacts when issues boil up to them. And as the tea people have shown us, it’s very easy to prevent any of that to happen, or at least slow it down when you control the local levers of power. Progressives, liberals, moderates and other allies should use these things to their advantage and finally achieve the victories that are too long coming and might never come unless people get up and vote.