Earlier this month, California brothers Mark and Dennis Rogers started on their quest to combat federal prohibition of medical and recreational marijuana use by creating the country’s first pro-marijuana super PAC. They’ve submitted their application to the Federal Election Committee and have also stated their opposition to Oregon’s local law enforcement effort to eradicate the use of Marinol, an FDA-approved synthetic alternative to cannabis. Their political action committee, which would raise and donate money to specific candidates, campaigns, or ballot initiatives that share the same beliefs, could conceivably influence the national debate over legalization by subsidizing the voice of its supporters.
A 2011 study shows that the debate over whether marijuana use should be legal or not has the American public almost equally divided. But recent trends suggest “the federal government should stop implementing draconian pot laws and let states decide.”
Ever since widespread marijuana use surged during the hippie counterculture movement of the late sixties and early seventies, states have become increasingly resistant to federal prohibition. For more than half of U.S. history, cannabis has been used industrially for fiber, and medicinally for therapies that’ve helped cancer treatment. Revelations of its psychoactive effects led the federal government to regulate its use beginning in the 19th century, until increasing restrictions eventually outlawed its cultivation and sale in the early 1900s.
Scaremongering in the 1930s caused people to consider pot's pleasurable qualities with new fear and suspicion. The relaxing aphrodisiac was the devil’s harvest at work they claimed, inspiring Satanic music and inducing white women to have promiscuous sex with colored men. Cannabis isn't the poisonous temptress she was once thought to be, but has remained classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, punishable by up to one year in prison with a minimum fine of $1,000. During Mayor Bloomberg's tenure in New York City, misdemeanor marijuana arrests contributed to an astronomical waste of police resources and criminal records.
Between 2002 and 2012, the Drug Policy Alliance found that the NYPD made more than 400,000 low-level, marijuana possession arrests at an expense of one million hours and over $75 million per year. Based on the report, nearly 70% of those arrested were younger than 30 years old, 50% were under 21, and over 85% were black and Latino (a percentage telling of who’s more likely to get caught, rather than who’s smoking dope at higher rates).
Decriminalizing marijuana could generate new tax revenue and cut back on unnecessary spending. The bulk of police resources shouldn't go toward incarcerating tens of thousands of non-violent young criminals in a socio-economic climate that has so many people in support of marijuana legalization as either a personal choice or a financial opportunity. Even a fine could be a more lucrative way of deterring recreational use without ignoring the blatant truth that marijuana is here to stay.
George Carlin, American stand-up comedian, once said, “I think there comes a time when the judicious use of pot says to you, ‘We’ve just about got through the changes we need, now it’s a burden.’ Now it’s a bit less of an assist and more of a problem.” Today, marijuana is stigmatized as a gateway drug, meaning that stoners are more inclined to pursue other mind-altering options, which could lead to illegal drug abuse. In the vast land of the free, perhaps it’s not the job of a powerful minority to be agitators for the status-quo. But legalization doesn't necessarily mean avocation, and as Carlin put it, pot may be a value-changing drug, but it’s also a self-limiting drug that eventually suggests its own disuse. Many people fail to see why smoking pot is an exception to the endless amount of potentially addictive and dangerous activities one is taught to exercise their own control over, understanding it in the same leisurely context as drinking alcohol.
California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 under Prop 215, and 18 states and Washington, D.C. later followed later suit. Possession of non-medical marijuana in small amounts has been decriminalized in multiple places, and in 2012 Colorado and Washington led a historic initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana under their laws. A pro-marijuana super PAC could play a more practical role in the political arena, tipping the scale toward nationwide legalization. On the other hand, a political machine in the name of free pot could fail to effectively liberate the plant out from under the legal framework by which it’s currently condemned, depending on how much cash it takes to make ¢hange. Regardless, states have started to take matters into their own hands.