By Kristen Gwynnn / Alternet / Nov. 18, 2012
Unroll the tapestries, twist up a joint and crank up the Bob Marley jams! The stoners have token — excuse me, spoken — and dope is now legal in two states.
That’s the kind of ridiculous banter pundits have employed to discuss a historic moment in US democracy: the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. Put aside the stoner spectacle-making, and we can begin to make sense not only of voters’ decision in WA and CO, but also why other states — and nations — may be following suit in the near future. Here are four of the most fascinating ways marijuana legalization has become the forefront of a groundbreaking discussion to which the media should starting paying attention.
1. Pot is politically relevant.
Clearly, pot policy reform is a hot-button issue for young voters, a fact that many worried might even swing Colorado to legalization-advocate and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. It was a legitimate concern for Democrats, as marijuana legalization in Colorado actually nabbed 50,000 more votes than Obama. In WA, Obama came out ahead of legalization by just less than half a percentage point. In other states, too, voters’ interest in pot policy reform was clear. Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana, and Michigan passed a variety of pot policy reforms, including limited legalization in Detroit and Flint and decriminalization in Grand Rapids.
Take-away point? Pot politics are no laughing matter.
2. Ending prohibition is good for racial justice.As voters were gearing up to decide whether to legalize marijuana, Queens College sociologist Harry Levine released a report detailing marijuana arrests in Washington and Colorado. In CO, his report found that more than 210,000 people have been arrested for pot in the past 25 years, with the annual rate of weed arrests steadily rising. The study also uncovered racial bias embedded in the war on weed. In the last 10 years, police in CO arrested blacks and Latinos at a rate of about 1.4 times that of whites, even though white people use marijuana at about the same rate as people of color. Youths were also disproportionately affected: The study found that more than two-thirds of those arrested for weed in CO from 2001 to 2010 were 25 or younger, and almost 80% of them were younger than 30. In Washington, the pattern of pot arrests paints a similar picture: A skyrocketing number of busts coupled with a higher rate of arrests for youths and people of color. African Americans were arrested at nearly three times the rate of whites, while Latinos and Native Americans had an arrest rate 1.5 times that of whites.
3. Legalizing marijuana could bring peace to the US-Mexico border.
At least 60,000 people have died in the drug war Mexico President Felipe Calderon declared on the cartels six years ago. But a more peaceful solution may be at hand. Legalizing weed in just two states — CO and WA — could deliver a serious blow to Mexican cartel profits; US officials estimate that 60 percent of cartel profits come from marijuana. At the very least, it is the “gateway drug” for hustling, as many Mexican traffickers start with pot before moving up to the harder stuff.
More impacted by marijuana legalization in America, however, are our neighbors to the South. Latin America responded to marijuana legalization in WA and CO with new chutzpah to challenge the US-backed international war on pot. Following the election, leaders from Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Belize pointed out the drug war’s disparate impact on Latin American countries and called for a review of international drug policy.
As Latin America increasingly challenges US drug policy, legalization may help give the Obama administration the domestic political consensus necessary to back international calls for reform.
bob dorn says
I had my first hit in 1964. I’m still alive.
Annie Lane says
You are the exception, not the rule. Wait, wait, that’s not right ….
Malcolm Kyle says
Here are just a few of the many highly motivated athletes whose drug of choice is also cannabis/marijuana:
* Usain Bolt, the 2008 World Record holder of the 100 and 200 meter sprint.
* Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer ever with 14 Olympic gold medals.
* Tim Linecum, the National League baseball’s Cy Young Award winner for 2009.
* Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl XLII’s MVP.
* Mark Stepnoski, two-time Super Bowl champion. “I’d rather smoke than take painkillers.”
* Randy Moss, NFL single season touchdown reception record (23, set in 2007), and the NFL single-season touchdown reception record for a rookie (17, in 1998). Moss has founded, and financed many charitable endeavors including the the Links for Learning foundation, formed in 2008.
* Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored (38,387), games played, minutes played, field goals made, field goal attempts, blocked shots and defensive rebounds. During his career with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers from 1969 to 1989, Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA championships and a record six regular season MVP Awards. He has a prescription to smoke marijuana in California, which he says he uses to control nausea and migraine headaches. He has been arrested twice for marijuana possession.
MARIJUANA IS USED BY THE MAJORITY OF SPORTS PEOPLE EVERYWHERE:
* “I just let him know that most of the players in the league use marijuana and I have and do partake in smoking weed in the offseason” – Josh Howard, forward for the Dallas Mavericks. Howard admitted to smoking marijuana on Michel Irvin’s ESPN show.
* “You got guys out there playing high every night. You got 60% of your league on marijuana. What can you do?” – Charles Oakley (Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets)
* “I personally know boxers, body builders, cyclists, runners and athletes from all walks of life that train and compete with the assistance of marijuana,” —WWE wrestler Rob Van Dam
* Some of the best cricket players of all time, like Phil Tufnell and Sir Ian Botham, have admitted to regularly using marijuana to deal with stress and muscle aches. In 2001, half of South Africa’s cricket team was caught smoking marijuana with the team physiotherapist. They were celebrating a championship victory in the Caribbean.
* “At least a good 50 [US] Olympic athletes” use marijuana regularly before they stop in time for testing.” —Stephany Lee
Annie Lane says
You know I was joking, right? It’s utterly insane that marijuana isn’t legal yet and that money is being wasted on jailing people for minor pot-related crimes. I’ve never met a mean pothead.
Sarcasm can be lost because you cannot parody the extremists on the prohibitionist side. John Walters still claims with a straight face that pot can kill you. When they are SO wrong, and their “facts” are SO skewed, any attempt to exaggerate their positions into absurdity falls flat. It’s not you, it’s THEM.
Lee Jenkins says
The Prison/Police State and Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex along with the Alcohol and Tobacco Industrial Complex and their SCAM(S) have been exposed. Times are changing
Our democracy is being put to the test! We the People ,demand ,andhave spoken in the most democratic form possible to legalize marijuana and our votemshould be respected. If not we will be in ghe hands of an oppresive govt who refuses to do the will of its constituens
Completely agree, If the government decides to go against the voters decisions it’s another way of saying “We don’t care about your voice if we don’t agree with what you think” and although it is true there are many recreational users the medicinal benefit does exist. Plus saying pot was only voted legal because of recreational users is the exact same as 95-96% of African Americans voting for Obama.
#5…..the sky has not fallen…
John Lawrence says
Why wasn’t full legalization for pot on the ballot in 2012? Now with Democratic majorities in the state legislature and a Democratic governor, full legalization can be passed at any time by the legislature and signed by the Governor. Let’s make it happen.
Pot was legal in the US prior to 1933. In 1933 alcohol was made legal again (after Prohibition) and pot was made illegal. Now it’s only the prison lobby and the alcohol lobby that’s against it.
George Bush says
US CDC Figures on Average numbers of deaths per year in the USA :
Prescription Drugs: 237,485
Marijuana 0, none
George Bush says
Famous Pot Smokers: Carl Sagan, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Richard Burton, Margaret Mead, Tim Lincecum, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Louis Armstrong, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Don Ho, Smokey Robinson, Pink, Tom Petty, Benny Goodman, Michael Phelps, Rick Steves, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner, Montel Williams, Stephen King, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Murray, Art Garfunkel, Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Snoop Dog, Thelonious Monk, Steve Martin, Sir Paul McCartney, Rudyard Kipling, Ray Charles, Peter Sellers, Newt Gingrich, Neil Young, Larry Hagman, Julia Roberts, Johnny Cash, Jesse Ventura, Jennifer Aniston, Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppella, Duke Ellington, Drew Barrymore, Dionne Warwick, Bing Crosby, Ben James…..
I’m embarased California didn’t get it done first.