Tag: marijuana

5 Political Priorities America Should Have in 2019

Kevin D’Amato | United States

Going into 2019, the political scene has undergone massive change. Following the 2018 midterms, in which the Democrat Party regained a majority in the House of Representatives, tensions have been rising. The president allowed the government to shut down over the lack of funding for his border wall. He also is already threatening to potentially do it again on February 15th. Needless to say, relations in the government are poor. This leads me to ask: What are some policy goals that the country can still pass in this political environment?

1. Criminal Justice Reform

Of course, the First Step Act did just pass. However, this is just the beginning; to assume that one bill can fix a system as bloated and broken as ours is absurd. The First Step Act, as the name implies, is a “first step” to solve our problems.

We still need to take dramatic moves in the prison system. Some things to keep in mind should be:

  • Abolishing mandatory minimums
  • Focusing less on punishments such as solitary and more on rehabilitation programs
  • Cracking down on officer malfeasance towards prisoners

2. Pull Troops Out of Military Conflict

The President stunned many, including me, when he abruptly announced he was pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Syria. The non-hawkish American population was ecstatic. Now, the only thing we need to do is hold him to it.

Mixed statements from several other Trump Administration officials have openly contradicted the President’s own words. It is Congress’s and our duty to hold the President to his words and bring our troops home.

3. End Government Spying

It often seems like the United States government outright ignores the 4th Amendment. Agencies like the NSA and FBI have made the illegal spying of American citizens commonplace. All accountability is lost when you are not aware of your own government’s actions.

The Patriot Act and FISA courts require, at the least, massive reforms. Ideally, we should move to abolish them, but this is not necessarily likely. Regardless, you have an inherent right to reasonable amounts of privacy.

As a bonus, a pardon for Edward Snowden would be nice, too!

4. Term Limits

Term limits are the most reasonable policy to enact in the United States right now. Virtually everyone that you talk to, regardless of political persuasions, believe that some sort of limitation is necessary.

Besides just getting old, crazy politicians out of office, term limits get new ideas in Washington, stop the constant fight for reelection, and partially get money-tied politicians out of the spotlight.

The Supreme Court’s 1995 decision essentially deeming term limits unconstitutional does make things complicated, but not impossible. The way forward for this plan is a rare but necessary constitutional amendment.

5. Federal Legalization of Marijuana

Let’s be honest, it’s bound to happen sometime soon.

I don’t need to go on a diatribe to inform you of the benefits of marijuana legalization. The economic, social, and political changes that would form are life-changing.

It’s about time that we let adults make their own decisions; whether it be to drink, gamble or smoke weed. As long as you’re not hurting your neighbor, freedom is absolute.


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Baltimore to Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Possession Cases

Indri Schaelicke | @ISchaelicke

Marilyn Mosby, State of Maryland Attorney for Baltimore, announced on Tuesday that she would stop prosecuting cases of marijuana possession. She told NBC News, “For far too long, we have sat back and watched idly as communities and families are literally destroyed by the failed policies of the war on drugs”. She also argued that marijuana laws disproportionally affect blacks, saying that they receive “the majority of citations”. This is an argument that proponents of marijuana legalization push consistently. Without a doubt, it looks like the Democratic prosecutor believes it.

Mosby said prosecuting marijuana possession is “costly and counterproductive to the limited resources we have in the city of Baltimore”. The attorney who oversaw the infamous Freddie Gray investigation stated, “If you ask a mother who lost her son where she would like you to use those resources, she will tell you, ‘l want you to use those resources to find my son’s killer,’ as opposed to jailing and incarcerating people for possession of marijuana.”

New Marijuana Laws in Baltimore

Within the limits of Baltimore, the government will not prosecute those possessing marijuana, no matter the weight or criminal history. Mosby also announced several other changes to Baltimore city marijuana policy. For example, the city will only prosecute cases of distribution of marijuana if police can present evidence of intent to distribute beyond possession. Even in these cases, however, there will be some legal change. All people receiving charges for the first time with felony possession with intent to distribute or with felony distribution will be referred to diversion programs. As part of these major reforms, Mosby is looking to vacate nearly 5,000 cases of possession of marijuana, dating back to 2011.

Mosby’s announcement comes as 10 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana. Moreover, a growing number of prosecutors nationwide have announced they will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases. Overall, the nation is beginning to reconsider its stance on marijuana use. Several other states could also legalize marijuana soon, including traditionally red states Kentucky and West Virginia.


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2019 Is the Year to Legalize Marijuana

Nick Hamilton | United States

As 2017 drew to a close, I wrote a piece on why 2018 was the year that marijuana legalization should become popular. Though there is still a long way to go, many locations took this to heart. Canada decided to fully legalize the plant, and several more states in the United States followed. But as of right now, it’s still federally illegal.

Three states legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2018: Michigan, Vermont, and Maine. This past midterm election, North Dakota voted on a referendum that would have legalized it, but the vote failed. Oklahoma also legalized it for medical use. Moreover, in December of 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law, which passed in both chambers of Congress easily. The Farm Bill allows American farmers to grow and harvest hemp.

Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in ten states and legal for medical use in 33 states. Presumed Democrat Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that she believes it’s time to legalize and regulate marijuana federally. In her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” Harris asserts multiple times that America needs to fully legalize marijuana for all uses and erase marijuana-related convictions from people’s criminal records.

Americans Want to Legalize Marijuana

With the 2020 election cycle starting to heat up, I expect that marijuana legalization will soon be a critical issue on both sides of the aisle. According to Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans favor legalization, up 31% from 2000. Additionally, 54% of Boomers (1946-1954) support it, showing a drastic increase from around 15% in the 1990s. Even some Republicans are starting to make legalization concessions. 45% of Republicans support legalization, as do 59% of Republican-leaning independents.

It’s absolutely clear the Americans want legalization. It’s clear that if marijuana is not federally legal in the coming years, our government is doing something very wrong. President Trump has been surprisingly open to the idea, making a commitment to push for reform of marijuana laws, with a goal of having medical marijuana federally legal. If he accomplishes this, he will have done more to legalize the plant than any previous administration.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see New York state legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2019, considering that New York City has thrown around the idea. A lot of the more liberal states could absolutely follow suit soon. However, in order to do so in every state, marijuana activists need to continue persuading more Republicans to get behind the movement.

Seeing as marijuana legalization could be a hot topic of the 2020 Presidential Campaign, it wouldn’t be crazy to say that more states will lift bans. I’m predicting that four states legalize recreational marijuana this year: New York and three others.


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Republican States are Caving on Marijuana Legalization

By Dane Larsen | @therealdanelars

During the 2018 election season, the ballot initiative was taken by the people of Missouri, Michigan, and Utah that will lead to some degree of marijuana legalization. The previously thought absurdity of a normalized marijuana community and/or industry seems to be fading away as the years go by.

The issue caused uproar across the United States even for strictly medical authorization in select states. Progressive states on the west coast have gone so far to codify cannabis for recreational use, however the stigma has been set up for long enough to the point where it was unsure whether or not particularly socially conservative states of the south and fly-over country would ever cross the threshold to permit use of marijuana in any practice.

Recently, dubbed the “green wave”, a major shift in the policy of red states, that uphold traditional culture on a pedestal has taken place, resulting in the progression of culture regarding minor issues on the national scale, marijuana legalization being one. For example, this past Wednesday, June the 9th, congressmen from both West Virginia and Kentucky introduced similar proposals, both calling on fellow lawmakers to allow the people of their respective states to retain the freedom of body autonomy. With the legalization of marijuana to any degree, the citizens gain the choice of what to do what they want to do to their own body.

West Virginia

State Senator Richard Ojeda (D) representing the 7th district of West Virginia, submitted a bill to permit adults aged 21 and over to grow, consume, or possess any amount of marijuana for medical or recreational users alike. SB143 outlines a seemingly radical idea to the conservative majority of West Virginia population, calling on Governor Jim Justice to (R), saying in the annual State of the State Address this past week that he is “adamantly, etched in stone, adamantly against recreational marijuana”.

With this no-nonsense policy of the state executive branch, the bill is not expected to pass through Congress in 2019, but the outcry of people from the general public has made major shifts in the way other states and their very own government look at the population of West Virginia. Although they were the only state to declare independence from the Confederate States of America in the Civil War, it is recognized as a Southern state in its culture and political appearance. With the introduction of this bill, discourse on the topic of marijuana is pushed to the forefront of congressional discussion in just about the most hard-right, red-run state in the USA, with 68.8% of who voted for Trump in 2016.

Kentucky

More or less in the same situation as West Virginia when it comes to Southern perception, Kentucky has taken a different approach to the cannabis issue, taking small steps to legalize it, instead of going full-out in one bill as West Virginia is attempting. Senator Dan Seum (D) is teaming up with Jason Nemes (R) and Diane St Onge (R) on HB136 that would allow doctors, at their own discretion, to prescribe medical marijuana to patients they see the best fit for the products. Governor Matt Bevin has been on record saying that he will sign off on a medical marijuana bill if it is regulated properly, especially for an industry with such a negative stigma.

The sponsors of the bill state that with the passing, the state could provide alternative can to combat side effects for conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill does not list any conditions but leaves that up to doctors to decide when to recommend it. “We’re trying to address the 40,000 to 60,000 Kentuckians who are not having symptoms addressed by conventional medicines,” St. Onge stated on Thursday, revealing a less radical approach to the issue, one that can speak to the conservative state easier.

The Green Wave

Other states have formulated plans on taking progressive steps towards varying levels of marijuana legalization, however, no solid legislation has been written in said states.

Missouri has already gained approval from the legislative committees needed, as they legalized medical marijuana in the past 2018 midterms as a ballot initiative. Representative Brandon Ellington (D) plans to go farther with this issue, with bills in the works to work towards decriminalization and eventually legalization. Texas legislators plan to propose a constitutional amendment to legalize all forms of cannabis; while New Jersey plans to do the same, gaining most of its support not from the House Representatives and Senators, but rather Governor Phil Murphy (D). Virginia could see the forward movement as well, with Governor Ralph Northam (D) on record backing in favor of progressive marijuana policies, stating that decriminalization could “ease overcrowding in our jails and prisons, and free up our law enforcement and court resources for offenses that are a true threat to public safety.”


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The Tyranny and Failure of Coercive Paternalism

By John Keller | United States

Coercive Paternalism can be defined as intervention in cases where people’s choices of the means to achieving their ultimate ends are confused. An argument of this nature, notably by Sarah Conly, rests on four main points: (1) Such a view promotes individuals actual goals. (2) Coercive Paternalism is effective. (3) The benefits are worth the cost. (4) Coercive Paternalism is efficient. Coercive Paternalism offers an ambiguous and unclear argument that ignores many of the complexities of the issues.

The Argument For Paternalism

A Coercive Paternalist would make an argument such as this: (1) People want to live long and healthy lives. (2) Eating processed foods and consuming drugs hinders people from living long and healthy lives. (3) Thus, the government must ban certain foods and drugs to promote the goal of the individual. Assuming the premise to be true, a rather noncontroversial claim, logically the next step is to examine the second step of the argument. Does consuming drugs hinder people from wanting to live long and healthy lives?

Examine, for instance, veteran suicide and veterans who deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Marijuana has been instrumental, if not vital, to veterans dealing with the mental complications involved with going into combat. By denying veterans drugs to promote the ‘individuals’ goals, they are actually exacerbating the mental complications of veterans and creating an environment in which veterans are forced to live shorter, mentally unhealthy lives as they tragically fall victim to the grip of suicide. Is this outcome the promotion of ‘long and healthy lives’? No, and thus Coercive Paternalism is unable to provide the needs of individual citizens.

The Failure of Coercive Paternalism

As it is unable to provide the needs of the individual citizens, it can not be effective. Paternalism itself is the idea in which the government must assume a role similar to that of your parent because the individual is inadequate to take of themselves and make good choices. Are any two individuals the same? Are any two children raised the same? Even siblings are often raised differently as a parent learns more, realizes mistakes, and adjust in real time to the needs of their children. The government, however, can not operate in this way on an individual level. Instead, they institute a policy under the basis of ‘one shoe fits all’. A clear example of this is common core education. With more money in the education system, improvement has been rare to come by. RealClear Education reports, “Between 2013 and 2017, only five jurisdictions logged improvements in 4th-grade math and just three in 8th-grade math.” As no two individuals develop the same, no government program can claim to be for the benefit of every citizen.

The theorized benefits of paternalism, that cannot apply to every citizen due to the nature of individuality, are not worth the cost. From 2013-2017, a total of $375,577,635,000 was spent federally, with an additional $840,757,185,970 spent in the same time frame by the states. In 2013, roughly 62,146,000 children went to school. That means that between 2013-2017, a total of $1,216,334,820,000 was spent on 62,146,000 school age children, or roughly $19,572.21 per student. As a result of paternalism, $1.2 trillion was spent to see only eight jurisdictions see an increase in math skills of America’s youth.

With the cost not being worth the near invisible benefits, Coercive Paternalism fails to also be effective. While it is not effective, it also fails to be efficient. Prohibition has historically failed to be efficient. The Eighth Amendment, passed in 1917 and ratified in 1919, was passed to prohibit the sales, transportation, importation, and exportation of “intoxicating liquors”, also known, more commonly, as alcohol. During the Prohibition Era, drinking remained constant. It is very likely that it not only stayed at the pre-prohibition levels but that drinking increased following the prohibition. When the government stopped sanctioning the legality of the alcohol industry and its services, it was forced to go into an underground state, run by speakeasies throughout the nation. The people reverted to the black market to get the products they desired, proving government regulation of the market to be inefficient. Furthermore, the government prohibition on the use of marijuana proved again to be a failure for the U.S government. Historically speaking, prohibition has always been ineffective.

Coercive Paternalism fails to promote the individual’s actual goals, is not effective, and is not worth the cost. The theory of Coercive Paternalism offers a simple answer to the complexities of society that fails to respect an individuals rights, needs, and the pursuit of happiness.


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