James H. Williams IV
“Just say no,” The infamous slogan of the 1980’s anti-drug campaign started by Ronald Reagan. But really, just say no? An ambiguous blind acceptance for everything you’re told. In 1980 our government started a program known as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Now at a glance this may appear to be a thoughtful organization, except for two things: it’s a failure and costs Americans $1-1.3 billion yearly. According to the General Accounting Office of the US Government, National Academy of Sciences, US Surgeon General, and Department of Education, DARE is a waste of money with no significant change in drug use amongst students who received DARE to those who have not. DARE considers their efforts a success if in a class of 100, at least one person doesn’t try drugs. In the real world a 1% success rate is considered a failure.
Lets rewind a bit. It’s 1920 and America has another one of it’s great ideas: prohibition of alcohol. Now, when I say great idea I mean a failed one in which we recant our initial attempts and learn from our mistakes. Anyway, prohibition failed miserably, crime skyrocketed, and alcohol consumption increased. Oh and did I mention, this continued even as we went into the Great Depression? What did our government do? They made another amendment to legalize alcohol and as a result regulations and taxes were installed.
Okay back to 2010. Thousands of tax paying American citizens are being persecuted yearly for possession of marijuana. Millions of tax payers dollars are funding federal raids, building and guarding prisons, and building failed propaganda campaigns. For what? To create a mass herbicide on harmless plant. Take for instance the poppy plant, the bulb, when harvested, is opium. Opium is then processed for morphine, or the better-known drug, heroin. Possessing a poppy plant in America is not illegal; possession with intent to process is though. Heroin killed 897 people in England in 2008. Another 160,000 attended a hospital for overdose symptoms. Now marijuana, on the other hand, in the history of it’s existence has no reported deaths. None. At all. Ever! Granted, I’m not against the possession of a poppy plant, but the fact that one can possess the power to kill where the possession of a potential cure is illegal. Furthermore, due to the taboo on marijuana, many political figures will opt out of voting to legalize for both medical and recreational. Amongst Illinois senators, 90% support the medicinal marijuana bill, yet less than half are willing to vote for the passing of the bill. The stigma caused by prohibition, although slowly changing, is still detrimental today.
Even here at The Latin School of Chicago we see both sides of the spectrum. Question: How many Latin students had their stomach pumped due to alcohol poising within the last four years? How many Latin students have overdosed on marijuana within the last four years? Now here’s the $64,000 question: possession of which is supposed to get you expelled? I want to be clear with everyone that I do not condone illegal activity, but I do condone questioning why things are illegal. We know why cigarettes are illegal to those under the age of 18, and we know why meth is illegal. But what I don’t know is why meth is a Schedule II drug while cannabis is a Schedule I. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the United States Controlled Substance Act, it’s basically our government’s way of defining how dangerous, the addictive potential, medical value etc, of a drug. Drugs are categorized into a five-part “Schedule.” Schedule V being the least addictive, high potential medical use, and low risk for abuse. Drugs listed in Schedule V are cough suppressants with codeine, ie: cepacol. Schedule I on the other hand is classified as having absolutely no medical value, high potential of addiction, and high risk of abuse, drugs listed are: cannabis, heroin, quaaludes, LSD, MDMA etc. Rewinding a bit, the Controlled Substance Act was a product of the Nixon administration as an attempt to “to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to.”- Richard Nixon. In 1972, in an attempt to control the “problem,” Nixon commissioned a report known as the Shafer Commission. Anyone who smokes pot and has read the report (mind you a federally funded medical diagnosis of marijuana) can relate to, and attest to, the validity. Unfortunately, Nixon wanted a report that bashed marijuana and as a result threw out the Shafer Commission and a series of others until he found one he liked.
As teenagers growing up in 2010 we can visibly see the attempts to change the law in states where they accept the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational usage. One state in particular has done an excellent job recognizing the potential: California. In 1996 California passed Proposition 215, a law allowing for the medicinal legalization of marijuana. This bill allowed patients throughout the state to receive a more appropriate medicine. As a result of this bill many states have followed by either allowing the legalization for medicinal purposes or decriminalization of marijuana.
Unlike alcohol, the stigmas and hype have been present only within the past 70 years. The more open we, as a country, are about pot, the closer we can get to removing stigmas and changing laws. Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York, was asked if he had ever smoked pot and he replied, “You bet I smoked pot; and I enjoyed it.” Unlike Bill Clinton, who due to political pressure, only admitted to having taking a hit, but not inhaling. Lets face it, we all know someone who’s done it. The majority of us do it, or have tried it, despite what some goofy survey says.]]>