Marijuana has been a Schedule I drug since 1970, while the ‘War on Drugs’ officially began in 1971 after Richard Nixon declared drug abuse as ‘public enemy number one’ in a special address to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control. While Tricky Dicky was waging his own personal war, there was an actual war going on in Vietnam that claimed thousands of lives. It is inconceivable to think that marijuana belongs in the same category as heroin. The latter is truly deadly, although it once enjoyed a degree of legality for medicinal use that weed hopes to attain one day!
That the war on drugs has been an utter failure is undeniable – while the government fights against illicit narcotics, it has allowed deadly opioids to slip through the net and kill tens of thousands of people. Meanwhile, over 574,000 people were arrested in 2015 for possession of small amounts of weed intended only for personal use. It is normal for people to end up in prison for weeks because they can’t pay the fine.
In 2016, over 650,000 people were arrested for weed possession in the United States. With cannabis now legal for medicinal use in 29 states plus D.C. and recreational use in nine states, we expect the number of arrests to fall dramatically, especially since possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized in most states.
Why is Marijuana Illegal Anyway?
Officially, weed is illegal because it offers ‘no medicinal value’ and ‘is extremely addictive.’ In reality, there are thousands of studies showing that marijuana has medical benefits, and decades worth of data to back up the assertion that pot isn’t addictive, nor ‘a gateway drug.’ In contrast, ‘legal’ opioids are incredibly addictive, with almost 100 people dying because of them every single day.
The other reason weed is illegal is to protect society from the threats of “mayhem, murder, and looting” that would unquestionably occur if marijuana was made legal on a federal level. If you believe Reefer Madness (and sadly, a lot of people do), smoking pot will cause you to go insane and go on a murderous rampage. Oddly enough, none of the nine states where weed is legal for recreational use has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Anyone who has been to Colorado since marijuana became legal, for example, will tell you that it’s ‘rather nice’ and doesn’t resemble the Mad Max movies at all.
Historically, marijuana has also been linked with narcotics such as heroin and morphine. Sadly, though, too many individuals have failed to educate themselves and frankly, media coverage only aids this level of ignorance. Even today, millions of Americans place drugs into ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ categories, with the normal drugs including alcohol, opioids, nicotine, and caffeine. The abnormal drugs include cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and weed, the latter usually said to be a ‘gateway’ to the other, more dangerous drugs.
Unfortunately, there is a racist element to the ban on marijuana as well. The anti-weed movement escalated as early as the 1930s, and it was at this time that America also indulged in a strong anti-Chicano sentiment. There was a large influx of Mexican-Americans and marijuana was their drug of choice. As Americans didn’t want Mexican-American subculture to develop, it made sense to view weed in a negative light.
Also, we can’t underestimate the power of inertia when it comes to public policy – if something is banned for a very long time, the general public takes it for granted that it is the right thing to do. Did you know that same-sex intercourse was banned in most American states for over 200 years? It was only in 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled such bans unconstitutional, that this crazy law was taken off the books.
Likewise, cannabis has been banned for over a century, so most people are okay with it and don’t wish to rock the boat. In contrast, there was widespread anger over alcohol prohibition when it was introduced in 1919, but once it became clear that it was a failed experiment, prohibition was repealed just 14 years later.
Who Really Benefits from the Prohibition of Marijuana?
The notion that society as a whole benefits from the cannabis ban is complete BS. The average person is not helped by the prohibition of weed, and millions of people are actually hindered by it. From people who need it to help ease symptoms of pain, to cultivators trying to earn an honest living, the weed ban has no positive effects – unless of course you fall into one of the following categories.
No prizes for guessing the biggest beneficiary of the federal ban on weed. The ban makes it impossible to conduct the double-blind clinical trials that are necessary to gain FDA approval for any drug. As a result, Big Pharma can continue to produce its death pills backed by little more than a handful of tiny and dubious studies, while marijuana has tens of thousands of studies on its side, and still remains illegal.
When the question of legalizing weed was asked in Arizona, a company called Insys Therapeutics made sure the answer was ‘no’ by donating over $500,000 to the anti-cannabis movement. Insys had recently developed a crappy synthetic cannabinoid compound called Dronabinol, and needed to protect its investment. Unfortunately, as fate would have it Insys got what they wanted.
Harold Woodbridge is a retired police officer, and he is staunchly in the pro-weed camp. He believes America would be better off relaxing prohibition laws, and according to him, Big Pharma is the second biggest opponent of cannabis legalization, behind only state Police Unions. He recognizes without question that the natural herb can replace everything from Vicodin to Advil, so in other words, makes it pretty obvious that legal weed would put a lot of pharmaceutical companies out of business.
Police Unions & Private Prisons
This has less to do with any supposed impact on crime, and more to do with the enormous federal drug war grants that police unions receive. Back in 2010, for example, a police union lobbyist named John Lovell led the effort to defeat Proposition 19, which was a measure to make weed legal in the state of California. In the process, he helped police departments claim millions of dollars in federal weed eradication grants.
Also, in 2009 and 2010, police associations in California looked for over $7.5 million worth of Federal money to conduct a Campaign Against Marijuana program. But heere’s the thing: A significant amount of the cash went straight into the paychecks of police officers.
In addition to police unions, private prison corporations really don’t want pot legalized. Think of the hundreds of thousands of poor souls that get arrested for marijuana possession every year — prisons would be virtually empty if it wasn’t for weed!
In 2015, for example, before the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, over 2,100 people were jailed for weed offenses in California, while almost 4,400 of them received prison terms for ‘marijuana plus’ offenses (this is the name given to the phenomenon where minor weed crimes are included in the sentence).
The legalization of weed in California means that private prison companies will miss out on a fortune. And if legalization happens all over the country, they would likely just end up concocting some other ridiculous reason to put people in jail for profit. Sound crazy? Well, it is.
Clearly, as long as weed remains illegal in 21 states and on a federal level, criminal gangs will be interested in it. Admittedly, if marijuana became legalized, organized crime syndicates would try and muscle in on the territory of others in a bid to establish ‘legitimacy.’ However, they would almost certainly place their focus on other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In 2016, for instance, illegal weed sales topped $46 billion in the United States. Although the market has shrunk recently, it is still a more than worthwhile enterprise for criminals.
If you cast your mind back to the prohibition era for a minute, you will note that organized crime rose drastically between 1919 and 1933. These gangs only cared about money which meant trifling issues such as worker safety and product quality were irrelevant. At the end of the day, the fact of the matter is that as long as weed remains illegal, criminals will continue producing low-grade pot, and continue “earning” billions of dollars for it.
The Alcohol Industry
Companies that sell the most popular legal drug in the world would suffer a major setback if weed were allowed to become a rival. In fact, it’s no secret that the Beer and Beverage Distributors of California contributed a significant amount of money to the anti-marijuana legalization movement.
Additionally, in Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson donated $2 million to the Nevada anti-weed legalization campaign, but ultimately failed in his mission, as cannabis became legal for recreational use in the state on January 1, 1997.
Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-cannabis group, made an interesting observation on Adelson’s behavior. According to him, Adelson wants you to be a guest in his casino, as long as you’re getting drunk and playing Blackjack. However, if you like smoking weed at home, Adelson wants you in jail.
And finally, research suggests that the alcohol industry is actually wasting their money on their anti-pot efforts. According to 2015 tax records in Colorado, for example, the alcohol industry has actually grown in the state – in spite of the fact that marijuana became legal for recreational use in 2014.
Final Thoughts on Who Really Profits from Marijuana Prohibition
If someone tries to tell you that weed is illegal for the ‘greater good,’ you have our permission to punch them in the mouth! In all seriousness, though, marijuana provides millions of people around the world with pain relief — not to mention some great times that don’t involve dangerous, drunken punch-ups.
As it typically goes, the commonfolk end up being the big losers when weed is illegal, while Big Pharma gets to peddle its drugs, which are actually more harmful than all but the worst illegal narcotics. Moreover, when weed is illegal police unions get to line their pockets and ruin the lives of people caught with miniscule amounts of possession, criminals continue to get an extra source of income, and the alcohol industry continues to view cannabis as a wrongly-identified enemy.