You can’t tell me these two never inhaled.
If you haven’t read part one, click here.
At this point, the neo-conservatives normally jump up and ask about the impact on children, and the millions of impressionable young folks that legalisation of cannabis would impress upon.
Unfortunately, this is an argument that has largely been lost, thanks in part to the campaign started under Nancy Reagan in 1982 to ‘just say no‘, which had the rather otherworldly feeling of being told off by a combination of kindly school matron and Commissioner Anabell Brumford from The Naked Gun franchise. The message didn’t resonate back then, and Nancy was widely parodied by those on the liberal left and amongst younger people in particular. It still doesn’t resonate now. A recent Buzzfeed article entitled ‘34 Questions Twentysomethings Have For Teens‘ asked the question of whether the ‘the general consensus that smoking is cool or gross‘? A lot of the answers were quick to condemn tobacco, but then were between mildly ambivalent to wildly enthusiastic about weed, with only a few lonesome dissenters. Many said smoking weed was “cool” or “something everyone did”, or others commented that they did not smoke weed themselves but knew friends who did.
This is deeply worrying for people on both sides of the wider legalisation of cannabis issue: although alcohol is legal with age-restrictions, there are very few who would be keen to see 13 year-olds thinking getting drunk was ‘cool’. Doing a quick search on Buzzfeed under the tags ‘weed‘ and ‘marijuana‘ throws up a host of news stories and articles that glorify and celebrate smoking cannabis, with little else.
There is some good news though.
Studies have shown that alcohol consumption and tobacco usage amongst teenagers in the UK are both declining trends, largely thanks to the tight regulation of usage, sale and possession, and the vast amounts of public & private money spent on health and awareness campaigns. The same efforts could be made on public health campaigns and awareness of cannabis as is expended over tobacco and alcohol.
Like in the prohibition of alcohol from 1920 to 1933 in America, cannabis usage is never going to disappear, and criminalisation will only continue to funnel money from the taxpayer to the underworld whilst tying up public money, police and judicial time and filling the prisons with (mostly) black Americans in an endless war on drugs.
In 2010, 52 per cent of all drug arrests in the States were for marijuana, with seven million people arrested for possession that decade. Nationally, blacks are about four times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis possession – although this rate varies wildly at a state-level.
Wars on nouns very rarely achieve anything: is the world any safer after George Bush’s Coalition of the Willing launched its ‘war on terror’? [note: that is not a comment on the wider, and vital, fight against extremism and those who seek to attack us at home or abroad]. Is it not a more progressive solution – for libertarians on the liberal and conservative side who don’t want the government regulating their bodies – to legalise, tax, set restrictions, and educate?
The expectation is that several more states will more towards legalisation in the next two years. Massachusetts has an initiative to end cannabis prohibition and regulate weed in the same fashion as alcohol; California is moving towards full legalisation in 2016; there are similar trends in Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Arizona and, surprisingly, Missouri. California represents one of the world’s largest economies all on its own, and if cannabis is legalised, it will have a dramatic effect across the country. It is also expected that yet more states will further extend their permissive cannabis laws between the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections. If, as expected, Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and the White House in 2016 and, if the Democrats can win back either the Senate or the House or both in-between, then the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2020 (Hillary!) would be in a strong position to run on a platform of ending the war on drugs (on cannabis).
Heck, she might even win back a majority of the youth GOP vote… and that would be a fundamental shift in US politics the likes of which have not been seen since Nixon’s Southern Strategy.