Tag: pot

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 Legalization Movement Only Hurts Libertarians

By Ryan Lau | United States

As the beloved 4/20 approaches, legal marijuana advocates will take to the streets and smoke across the country. Many locations, including Burlington, Vermont, even have established “smoke-outs” for protesters to participate in. Yet, their actions, however well-intentioned, only hurt the liberty movement, for a number of key reasons. First of all, the use of marijuana in this recreational setting serves as an inhibitor to change. Also, the specific goals of these movements only harm the future of liberty by restricting further progress.

As it currently stands, government forces us Americans to play into a system of representative government. Those representatives, whether they have a right to do so or not, make decisions about the lives of other people, decisions which come down in the form of laws. I am in no way disputing the notion that the law is unjust, but rather conceding its unfortunate existence. Due to the majority’s belief in it, the law stands. The state is thus able to use this belief to tighten its grip over the citizens. So, what can we do to get our freedoms back efficiently? Certainly not a smoke-out.

Ultimately, libertarianism centers around the principle of self-ownership. In order for a society to function on the principle of self-ownership, individuals must also exhibit personal responsibility. As a free and equal individual, each of us is able to do as we please, provided that we do not restrict any other equal individuals from doing the same. Yet, usage of recreational marijuana does exactly this, not to others, but to ourselves.

Some short term side effects of consuming marijuana include dizziness, shallow breathing, and slowed reaction time. Thinking about this, one realizes that a dizzy and slow activist is probably less likely to bring about real change. Perhaps, rather than getting caught in the crippling hazes of majority and smoke, these activists should save the blaze for others, or at least for their own homes, instead focusing on professionalism in order to make real change.

Allegedly, these activists have a goal of marijuana legalization. Yet, it is the government officials that they need to convince with these movements. By placing a bloc of disoriented fools under public scrutiny, they only push moderate politicians further away from their cause by embodying some of the negative side effects. Of course, the disoriented fools are not representative of the majority of marijuana users. However, when media gives them the most attention, they become the stereotype of the marijuana user. A mob of stoners will garner considerably more views, and become a much more entertaining stereotype, than a businessman eating a brownie after a long week’s work will. Yet, the politician will more likely see the story of the businessman as legitimate. Hence, exemplifying current stereotypes through foolish movements will only continue to hurt the movement.

Despite the clear pitfalls of the marijuana protesters’ images, this is only the beginning. Much more important to discuss is the fact that these people are simply not advocating for liberty. Essentially, they are only calling for more government regulation, and normalizing asking government officials for permission to act. In fact, the biggest qualm for this movement comes in its very name. By using the word “legalize”, marijuana advocates cede all permission to run their own lives.

The word “legalize” has a very dark, underlying connotation that most will not pick up on. Essentially, it implies that the entity doing the legalizing has full control over the people’s lives. By setting legalization as the far boundary for discussion in the direction of liberty, government only gains power.

Furthermore, the term legalization implies a certain degree of state control regarding it. More specifically, it allows for various forms of taxation and regulation on the plant. Though it becomes a legal substance, it is still very much a controlled substance. Thus, this change is not a step towards freedom, it is merely a slight change in the circumstances in which government will take away individual freedoms.

In fact, this change actually makes the situation worse for true liberty advocates by pacifying moderate supporters. This worsened situation comes as soon as legalization advocates begin praising regulations and taxes as valid reasons for the legalization of the substance. By doing so, government has now successfully framed the debate in a way that entirely excludes liberty as an option. Just as the Republican and Democratic parties are framed to represent two opposing sides within a relatively narrow ideological chamber, the same is now done to the marijuana debate. When we use the word legalize, we allow government to control both sides of the debate. We allow authoritarianism to seep into the libertarian viewpoint. When this happens, true freedom is lost.

Without a doubt, asking the government permission to use a substance under certain circumstances is not freedom. If an individual is not directly preventing anyone from acting freely, they may rightfully act freely without permission. Unfortunately, most legalization movements have lost sight of the ideals of liberty that they claim to stand for. As increasing numbers of reports praise marijuana tax revenues and regulations, freedom advocates lose, and governments win. By bringing the substance into the legal scope, they control it far more than they ever did through criminalizing it.

Hence, if legalization is not the answer, then true deregulation is. We must, as a society, resist the bait of legalization, as it only sets back the movement. We must avoid using the substance in scenarios where we need to be at the pinnacle of mental focus and quick reaction. Most importantly, we must not lose sight of liberty, rather than any one particular policy victory, as our end goal. True liberty does not come through taxation or regulation. One cannot become free by asking permission.

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Why Does Jeff Sessions Hate Herb?

Clint Sharp|United States

It’s no secret that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is strongly opposed to the legalization of marijuana. In fact, the former U.S Senator’s staunch rejection of cannabis has cemented him in the minds of pro-weed individuals and groups across the country as the single greatest threat to their cause that currently exists. Upon taking office as the Secretary of the Department of Justice, Sessions wasted no time in enacting his plan to keep the Devil’s lettuce out of the hands of citizens. In order to do this, Sessions redacted several Obama-era guidances that allowed states to legalize marijuana, with little to no interference from the federal government. Love him or hate him, Obama’s actions fell in line with the 10th Amendment of the Constitution which states:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This left many, both conservative and liberal alike, with a bad taste in their mouth for Sessions. However, this wasn’t the first time that Sessions has expressed his resentment for marijuana.

The earliest known instance of Sessions’ hate for weed occurred in 1986 while he was trying to become the District Court judge for the South District of Alabama. Here, a fellow attorney by the name of Thomas Figures, testified against Sessions for saying that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot”. This statement, in conjunction with other negative testimonies, resulted in the withdrawal of his nomination to the district court. While he later said that he meant it as a joke, it exposed his misconstrued priorities to the nation and set the standard his future marijuana policies. Later, at a Senate drug hearing in April 2016, Sessions made repeatedly attacked marijuana and the users of the plant, stating “Good people don’t smoke pot”, angering those who support the legalization of pot, as well as disregarding those who use marijuana medicinally.

It is unclear what birthed Jeff Sessions’ hatred for cannabis, but what is clear is the threat that he may pose to the booming legal weed business. Unless we do something to prevent him from infringing on state’s rights, we may soon be living in Sessions’ dream. One where weed is illegal and a highly valuable resource is left discarded, waiting for those wise enough to recognize its power to use it.

Happy 4/20 everybody!

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The Fight To Legalize Cannabis Nationwide Continues

Nick Hamilton | United States

As many Americans know, today is April 20th, otherwise known as “420.” Today, marijuana advocates around the country come together to celebrate this plant, whether it’s legal in their state or not.

People have demanded the legalization of weed for a long time now, however, our federal & state governments simply won’t budge. That hasn’t stopped Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and– get this– WASHINGTON DC from legalizing the plant. New York is considering legalization, and an overwhelming majority of states have legalized it for at least medical use. As of now, the only states who still prohibit marijuana on all levels are Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Idaho. However, there’s a huge push to get the plant legal for all uses nationwide.

In Bexar County, which covers the San Antonio area in Texas, there has been a cite and release program to help prevent people with a small amount of weed from getting jail time. However, on February 10th, 2018, a group known as “Open Carry Walks” organized an open carry walk in San Antonio to fight for the right to carry marijuana openly in public. Not only that, but in 2017, a campaign known as the Global Marijuana March set up marches in eight different Texas cities: Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Amarillo, San Antonio, Houston, Lubbock, and the capital city, Austin. Texas is a medical marijuana state, but only 15 doctors in the state are allowed to prescribe it, so it’s very difficult to obtain.
Legalization has proved to be very effective for the good in states like Colorado.

Colorado raked in $76M in revenue in their first year of legalization and used $35M to fund their education system. In 2015, that revenue increased to $135M. In Washington, $83M was made in revenue off of weed in the first year, and in 2017, $230M was made off the plant by the government. But “weed is bad,” am I right?

Putting money aside, an unexpected result of legalization was that in 2014, according to the American Journal of Public Health, Colorado saw a 6.5 percent DECREASE in opioid deaths, a trend that had been increasing for fourteen years straight. In the US today, we’re trying to fight opioid addiction. I smell some hypocrisy there.
So on 4/20, remember, our work is not done. Our duty to make the United States a marijuana welcoming nation is not done yet. Work doesn’t stop until it’s not illegal to possess this plant that can make this country money, especially after that atrocity of a budget passed just four weeks ago to this day. Enjoy 4/20, everyone!

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Hooked on Freedom: Drug Abuse, Personal Responsibility, and Libertarianism

By Jason Thompson | United States

“Taxation is theft” & Legalize Pot!

In my experiences throughout the liberty movement, these two things seem to be what attracts a plurality of people to libertarianism. When one comes to accept the premise that they have autonomy over their own body and actions, it is evident that one should not be subject to egregious taxation. They should also be able to consume any substance of their liking.

Considering society’s changing attitudes towards the latter, it makes perfect sense that the Libertarian Party would market drug legalization an essential feature of its platform. Deregulation of drug use, especially cannabis, is an essential component to a truly free society. However, it is also good marketing for attracting younger voters from other parties. Some libertarian politicians have even run ads featuring themselves consuming cannabis.

This strategy also does an excellent job of showing the LP’s commitment towards autonomy. This can be seen as noble, indeed.

However, it also fails to accurately take a nuanced view of one key plank of libertarian philosophy – personal responsibility.

Although many in the movement disagree with the concept of a social contract, the reality is that we live in a society built upon hundreds of years of Western, Enlightenment-inspired tradition. One can own their bodies and actions, but a mature mind discerns that their personal choices have an impact on society at large.

In the Lockean sense, this holds true. We do not wish to become the party of hedonists. There is, in fact, a societal commons.

Rather, our movement should shift the emphasis on to a deliberate application of choice in such a manner that, through individual decisions, we as a collective of individuals enrich our society.

I can only speak from personal and anecdotal experience -having consumed copious amounts of illicit drugs not limited to cannabis – but if our party wishes to be relevant to the average voter outside of the millennial demographic, then we need to evolve our public image in regards to drug use. Otherwise, we as a party will forever be confined to fringe issues as a fringe party.

To be quite clear, I am not advocating regulation of drugs, nor am I suggesting that our party stop fighting for an end to drug prohibition. Prohibition has ruined countless lives. The drug war has done nothing to quell drug use. If anything, it has produced violence and decay in communities in America and abroad.

As a libertarian, I believe in personal autonomy and responsibility. I often make the distinction between society and the state; however, our movement must be honest in its appraisals and criticisms of individual behavior. Not all choices are equal in their repercussions.

Yes, non-violent drug offenders make up a disproportionate amount of the US prison population. The overcrowding of prison populations creates a financial burden on society and disenfranchises whole communities and demographic groups.

Yes, countries such as Portugal have decriminalized drug use. This has led to lower rates of incarceration and less drug use, in general. The focus has shifted towards rehabilitation. I agree with this strategy.

Yes, these personal choices to consume drugs are victimless crimes…

Per se.

In my own struggles with addiction, as well as my recent commitment to recovery and living life deliberately, I have had to come to terms with the fact that the choices I have made and the substances I have put in my body have had a negative impact on my loved ones and society at large.

Even smoking weed, which I had always seen as victimless, has had a negative impact on those around me. Everyone is different, but in my personal experiences, I notice I am much less motivated when I am high. I am more likely to not do things which are pressing and to cause stress on people around me.

A lot of people can relate to that.

I have seen friends have to move from home to home because their mother decided getting high was more important than paying a mortgage.

I have had two DUI’s, and could have killed someone. Thankfully, I only maimed and injured myself. Even that was a burden. People had to care for me because I was physically disabled and unable to work or contribute.

I have had cousins ferried from foster home to foster home and struggle to live with a single mother because my uncle was a heroin addict. I watched him go in and out of a system which cares little about rehabilitation.

I’ve seen the pain in people’s eyes at funerals where they lay their child to rest….

Dead.

From an overdose.

I could go on and on about societal repercussions of drug use, but to do so would violate people’s privacy and put my own recovery at risk.

I know not everyone has these experiences. Some people function fine.

And more power to them.

Again, to be quite clear, I am not advocating regulation of any substances. I don’t think cannabis is a gateway drug. I personally believe recreational heroin should be legal, in fact.

In short, I write this because it is something I struggle with in my own life and which I have seen kill people I love.

The pain doesn’t stop when someone is dead or in jail. It reverberates through society.

I also value freedom and wish to spread a message of liberty to the American electorate. I believe in the Libertarian Party and think it is capable of actually winning elections.

But first, our movement needs to be mature in its assessments of personal choice and responsibility and focus on our marketing, especially as it regards divisive issues such as drug abuse. Like it or not, we need to cut across demographic divides – that includes the boomers, who have a quite different take on drug consumption than our younger base.

I said it earlier in the article. We do not wish to be the party of hedonists. We want to be the adults in the room and offer real solutions that people take seriously.

Evolving our rhetoric on drug abuse, while standing our ground on people’s freedom to do as they wish, can help us market our movement in such a way that we win.

And I want to win.

Liberty depends on it.

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