A Beginning of an End?

Racism in drug enforcement is a well known, statistically validated issue, and yet it has prevailed despite that ever since drug use began to be enforced. Since marijuana is, by far, the most popular and widely used illicit substance in the US, race has been a factor in all legislation pertaining to it. As brought up in this article, The approach taken by the 64th amendment to Colorado’s constitution is groundbreaking in this sense. Instead of trying to mitigate or solve “the race problem” in the drug war, it simply eliminated the issue all together by making marijuana legal.

At best, the war on drugs can be considered a Pyrrhic victory, and at worst, a bloated, racially biased cash-sink of a loss. It seems state governments are beginning to ask themselves at what cost to society should legislation such as this be kept in effect. A clear answer has begun to emerge in the aftermath of Colorado’s marijuana legalization: None, especially when the alternative has such a positive effect on economy, tax revenue and crime rate. If these trends hold steady, and Colorado can be seen as an accurate representation of the rest of the US, an end could very well be in sight to the marijuana side of the war on drugs and all of the racial disparities that came with it.

To assume that nationwide legalization of marijuana would eliminate the problem of racism in law enforcement would be absurd. Seeing as nothing else so far has worked and the problem does not seem to be going away on its own, however, a new approach was clearly in line.

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neill-franklin/marijuana-legalization-race-racism-minorities_b_4651456.html

 

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Breaking Steroetypes

With more and more states considering the legalization of marijuana the more people become concerned with the spread of marijuana use. Many of those who are critical of the new regulations have their opinion based on stereotypes that have been around for several decades. Recent studies have shown that marijuana use is on the rise across the country and not only in the states in which marijuana is legal. When the results of the studies were examined closer some of the numbers went against the common perception of those who use marijuana. The study looked at the difference of users in two time periods. The number of marijuana users was higher in the second time period that was studied. This was not as surprising as the percentages of users.
Going with the normal train of thought the group with the highest number of users would be African American males. When the study reviled that Caucasian males had the highest percentage of marijuana users many were shocked. The difference between the groups was not very large. Even with such small differences between the groups the way that people think about marijuana users has been changed. The stereotypes that people have held for decades have been changed. The study also reveals that marijuana is not only a problem for young people. Some people have reported that there are some users that are in their thirties and forties with some users even older.
With the overall number of users not having risen very much the important detail is the group percentages.

Joseph Roseman

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=198686

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Racial Inequalities in the War on Drugs

As we delve deeper into the legalization of marijuana, it is important to study the history of drug prohibition in the United States.  In 1917, the war on drugs officially started with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act.  Although it was legally a law in the US, not much was done with it until decades later.   Interest was sparked in the act in the 1960’s as middle-class white youth began to pick up an interest in drugs.  This caused President Nixon to refer to drugs as “public enemy number one” in 1971.  This led to a period in which the American government spent billions of dollars in an effort to prosecute drug users.  However, drug users of different racial backgrounds were not prosecuted at equal rates.  It is reported by the Human Rights Watch that in the 1980’s, African-American citizens were five times more likely to be arrested for their drug offenses than white citizens.  An additional study conducted in 1998 reported that of all American drug users, 72% were Caucasian, while only 15% were African-American.   Even with these statistics, black citizens continued to be jailed for their offenses at a higher rate. 

                It is argued that there is only one solution to this unfairness in the United States justice system, and that is to legalize drugs.  Professors Walter E. Block and Violet Obioha make this point in their journal, War on Black Men: Arguments for the Legalization of Drugs.  However, Block and Obioha make the distinction that drug legalization must be gradual.  They explain that marijuana must first be legalized, followed by ‘harder’ drugs such as cocaine and heroin.  The authors backed up their argument with other benefits of drug legalization, such as the health related issues that come from laced marijuana and other substances. 

                The journal makes a valid point as it discusses what may be the only solution to a justice system that treats members of a specific race with unfairness.

 

Nicole Lyons

 

http://0-search.ebscohost.com.wncln.wncln.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=79343203&site=ehost-live

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Pulling the Weeds Out of Our Youth

With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado discussions have come up concerning the economy, the federal government and even air quality, however many people tend to forget those who don’t or can’t participate. Although I’m sure some have argued on behalf of the children in Colorado, I’m not convinced that it has been a main concern.

            A survey in 2003 reported that 47.5% of 12th Graders said they used alcohol within the past 30 days and 24.4% stated that they had smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days (Joffe). The legal consumption and purchase age for alcohol is 21, for tobacco products you have to be 18. The legal age for alcohol is the same for purchasing marijuana in Colorado which raises the question, how are we keeping this drug away from adolescents?

            In reality are we keeping alcohol, tobacco and marijuana away from children? No. Beer and other alcoholic beverages have “fun” commercials, especially for adolescents in their teens. With good music and images of stunning, successful, men and women, teens actually idolize the message behind each commercial. In recent years however tobacco advertisements have gone down and now their place is filled with commercials against the usage of their products. What we must consider however is advertisement with marijuana. Already there are references to it in TV shows and music, but what happens when there are billboards or “fun” commercials and children begin to idolize marijuana as well?

            Although studies have shown that marijuana is not as dangerous or as harmful as alcohol and tobacco the drug is still harmful. Driving under the influence of marijuana is said to be just as bad as driving under the influences of alcohol. And while marijuana does not contain all the chemicals and by products that cigarettes do it still contains chemicals that can be damaging to the respiratory system and brain over time. Laws and anti-drug advertisements do deter some children from using substances but for the children that continue to abuse alcohol, tobacco and marijuana also continue to affect their still developing bodies.

            We often forget about our countries youth when such a hot topic arises, you have state law directly conflicting law which creates several issues and arguments about whether the federal government has any real power or not. We can’t forget though that a large portion of our population is considered to be adolescents. For instance if 1% of 15-19 year olds decided to start using marijuana right now then there would be approximately 190,000 new users (Joffe).

            All of this raises several questions regarding the legalization in Colorado. Will there be advertisements for marijuana aimed towards adolescents? Can we control use amongst minors? Will this affect any groups more than others based off class or ethnicity? And what health issues could possibly come from recreationally legalizing marijuana, especially regarding our youth?

 

Alyssa Nance

 

Sources:

Joffe, Alain, W. Samuel Yancy. “Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth.” Pediatrics 113.6

                (2004): n. pag. Web. 6 Apr. 2014

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Driving Early Illegal Marijuana Trade

Throughout the 72 years in which marijuana, both recreational and medicinal, was completely banned across the United States, new subcultures began to form.  One of the largest and most commonly known of these cultures was the hippie movement.  However, the people who drove this movement were the suppliers of marijuana, and these people started a culture of their own.  Too risky to talk about, this culture remained a secret for decades. 

All along the Pacific shores of the United States, groups of fun-loving Americans in the 1960’s seemed to lead normal lives.  What their anti-drug peers didn’t see was the undercover business they were leading once the sun went down.  Blacked-out ships waited for them just a few short miles off the coast, having just arrived from the Gulf of Thailand.  These ships carried 15000 pounds of the most potent marijuana available, carried slowly to the shore in small ferries.  Early American drug dealers met these Thai marijuana distributors at the coast, where they then divided the thousands of pounds of illegal drugs to transport back to their hometowns and sell. 

Some of the more active participants of the underground American drug dealers took an even more risky role in this culture, deciding to move to Thailand and other Southeastern Asian countries to play a larger role in this business. 

Upon the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, some of these former dealers and distributors decided to share their story with two authors Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter, who published a book called Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade Under the protection of anonymity, these dealers told their stories from being a participant in the cannabis network.  Though this trade came to an end in this 1980’s due to pressures from the DEA, contributors to the book continue to fear prosecution.

Though rarely spoken of, this subculture of Californians becoming dealers or even moving to Thailand to become distributors is one of the most noteworthy in the history of marijuana legalization in America.

               

-Nicole Lyons

 

 

Source: http://www.independent.com/news/2014/apr/03/untold-story-marijuana-trade/?on

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The Roots of Marijuana’s Legal Status

Marijuana legalization in Colorado has been the table-talk of the nation since the day it went into effect, and you would be hard pressed to find somebody with access to the news who hasn’t heard about it. With the conflict of law, media attention and strong division among the population in terms of support, one can easily see why the marijuana topic is such a “big deal”.

But why is there even a law conflict in the first place? While almost every American is aware of marijuana’s illegal status (excluding the states of Colorado and Washington), very few seem to know why or when it came to be that way. The laws are old, and the principles they are founded on seem to be a bit of a grey area in the history of drug legislation.

This topic is more complicated than most would, and a bit of setting and background information is requisite to delve into the issue. Luckily, the topic is well written about, and “The Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge: An Inquiry into the Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition” by Richard Bonnie and Charles Whitebread provides an excellent backdrop and explanation of the law. Their article explains the key subjects pertaining to American drug legislation in the early 20th century, namely the founding of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), recently enacted legislation prohibiting use of heroin, morphine and various other opiates that preceded the Marihuana Tax Act, and the widespread anti-marijuana propaganda spread by the FBN.

Bonnie and Whitebread note (in reference to the FBN) that “The existence of this separate agency, anxious to fulfill its role as crusader against the evils of narcotics has done as much as any single factor to influence the course of drug regulation from 1930-1970” (990). In fact, the leader of the FBN at the time, Harry Anslinger, seemed to have what can only be defined as a personal vendetta against marijuana usage. Under his lead, the FBN spread their anti-marijuana propaganda far and wide. All of it demonized the drug and its users, claiming that it was extremely addictive, and turned normal individuals into criminally insane, sexually crazed monsters capable of rape, murder and any array of violent crime. He also made a point of associating marijuana usage with black males, and spread stories of them using the drug and then raping or murdering innocent white people. When you combine this with the generally ignorant and apathetic attitude the majority of the population held towards marijuana and the widespread racism that was directed towards black Americans at the time, it is easy to predict the effect these stories had on public opinion.

In fact, these same racial overtones also heavily influenced opium regluation only years prior to marijuana, only with Chinese immigrants instead of blacks. Bonnie and Whitebread even cite the Oregon district court in their paper saying that “Smoking opium is not our vice, and therefore it may be that this legislation proceeds more from a desire to vex and annoy the ‘heathen-Chinee’ than to protect the people from the evil habit” (997). Once enacted, it was only a matter of time before opium laws landed addicts in court, and once they were convicted, the trials served as precedents for later legislation pertaining to alcohol and other narcotic drugs, which marijuana was classified as.

In summary, the marijuana policy we have today sprung forth from the time of prohibition and the great depression, and has never been based upon truth or scientific studies as much as it was on propaganda, politics, and blatant racism.

-David Ross

Source:

Bonnie, Richard J., and Charles H. Whitebread, II. The Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge: An Inquiry into the Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition. 98 vols. N.p.: Virginia Law Review, 1970. JSTOR. Web. 4 Apr. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/view/1071903&gt;.

 

 

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Keeping Users Safe despite Recent Legalization

                With the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado has also come the concern of safety, particularly with children.  One major worry of parents and anti-legalization groups alike is the packaging of THC-infused products.  The apprehension is that the packaging of medical and recreational marijuana products has not been made distinct enough, causing citizens to unknowingly consume marijuana goods.  

                This concern comes from the recent events in which middle school students unknowingly brought THC-infused gummy bears to school, sharing them with unaware students. Another anxiety-provoking incident regards an 18-year-old man, who ate a leftover candy bar while cleaning a rental condo, unaware that it was a medical marijuana product and then having to be treated for an overdose.

                A law recently signed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper requires that edible medical marijuana products be forced to have specific packaging.  Lawmakers believe that an opaque, child-proof package will make citizens more informed of contents and less available to children.

                Organizations such as Smart Colorado are not anti-legalization and are formed to promote better packaging of these newly-legalized products.  Regardless of the recent success with the law signed on March 17, 2014, organizations like Smart Colorado believe that the opaque, child-proof packaging is still not enough, and continue to fight for better notification on marijuana products.  Another goal of Smart Colorado is to limit the amount of pure THC that can be sold.  Currently, those of legal age can buy an ounce of pure THC, or 2,800 servings.

                Another new law that will be enacted on October 1st is the testing of potency and contaminants of all products that will be sold in dispensaries.  One issue with this law is the lack of laboratories to do so.  In Colorado, there are only three laboratories that can test for the potency of THC-infused products.  The requirement for potency testing starts even sooner, on May 1st.

These new laws create a huge advancement for the safety of legalized marijuana, and greatly minimize the risks that come with the drug. 

 

 

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2014/0318/Colorado-wrestles-with-how-to-keep-edible-marijuana-away-from-kids-video

 

 

Shelby Nicole Lyons

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