Friday, June 18, 2010

Marijuana legalization effort subject to surprising opposition

Saw this article a couple days back but didn't think much of it until I started seeing a trend in public commentary regarding the subject:

The Control & Tax Cannabis 2010 campaign is getting underway, with marketing and educational materials currently being prepared, in addition to students and activists organizing and mobilizing to get out the vote and persuade California that drug policy is not a joke.  Opponents of the ballot initiative have been present from the start, although their logic has been weak at best and their old-world arguments struck down by modern legal scrutiny.  However, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the article above on the Sacramento Bee website...the owner of a medical dispensary, passing out anti-campaign literature and seeking the NO vote?  How does that even make sense?  I placed my two cents in the comment section and clicked out of the article, but since then everything I've read in the news on marijuana is supplemented by dozens of comments by "medical-only" proponents encouraging readers to vote NO in the November election.  After seeing this, I knew I had to figure out exactly what was going on with the marijuana community, seemingly in the midst of a civil war about which kinds of use are permissible and which are not. 

This new backlash against the movement is composed of medical marijuana growers and dispensary owners across California who believe that the recreational use of the herb is a disgrace to the integrity of the Prop 215 community and should not be made legal.  It sounds very credible to a lot of people, which is why I view them as a force to be reckoned with in this campaign season.  Here's why they're a viable threat: reading articles like this, the average adult is probably thinking, "see here, if the medical marijuana people don't even want it legalized, then recreational use is a bad thing".  People are beginning to get the message that marijuana should be for medical use ONLY.  Only problem is that their apparent motives aren't exactly as noble as they sound.

First of all, many of the opponents of the TC2010 initiative are Humboldt-area growers who have made medical marijuana farming into a family business.  Their very way of life is threatened by legalization, and they are worried that their profits will disappear once others take up legal growing enterprises after November.  While this is a valid concern and I pity these people for whatever financial shortfalls legalization may bring them, their opposition is fueled by selfishness.  Recreational users have taken the brunt of the drug war for 70 years, suffering discrimination, incarceration, and long tours in rehab for a non-addictive substance.  Now is our chance to live freely in society and use marijuana without fear of arrest, but these growers would rather keep the status quo to protect their pocketbooks.  Like I said--they put up a good fight, but they are simply not looking at the big picture, which is that there are hundreds of thousands of recreational marijuana users in this country and only a small minority of medical growers.  

My second argument may sound a little far-reaching, and many may think that I am promoting corruption in the Prop 215 system, but I'm only speaking from my experience both as an MMJ patient and as a previous recreational user.  How do you think people even figured out that marijuana had serious potential as medicine?  How did most patients figure out that marijuana treated their problems?  Here's the answer: RECREATIONAL USE.  Without the underground spread of recreational use across California, the herb would have never gained the popularity en masse that it enjoys now, and without thousands to testify to its therapeutic effects, neither scientific studies nor drug-related policy would have ever been considered by the government.  Many dispensary owners also fail to realize that a significant chunk, if not a majority, of their patients are simply recreational users under the guise of having a medical condition (I'm NOT condoning this, but I know that it does happen, and only legalization can put a stop to widespread MMJ corruption).  Let's face it--everyone has to smoke their first joint somewhere, and I think it's safe to say that until you've tried it and know that it works, you're not going to go through the trouble of going to your doctor, paying $100, etc. to get your medical card.  Legalization opponents are foolish for overlooking the vast population of brave recreational users who risked everything to make marijuana what it is today: a widely used, nearly socially accepted recreational substance with legitimate potential in the medical field.  

What I'm trying to say is that it's not a "one way or the other" argument--on the contrary, recreational and medical use can often go hand in hand.  I had never really thought about marijuana as a medicine until my recreational use became more frequent, at which point I noticed the positive effects it was having on my pain as well as my overall mental state.  Who knew?  But I sincerely believe that even if your medical diagnosis doesn't qualify you for a club card, odds are you'll still probably like marijuana, and should have the right to spark up at a party if you get the urge.  This is where the proponents of legalization have something working for them: that it's a substance that most people who try for the first time generally enjoy and which doesn't have any serious consequences for the user nor for society.   

I guess I'm just stuck in the middle.  As a previous recreational user and a current patient, I understand both sides of the argument.  But I'll never forget the value set that I've gained by using marijuana and being a member of the community.  Bob Marley's "One Love" comes to's long been a part of stoner lingo, but from a political aspect, I truly think the only way to win this campaign is to remind ALL marijuana users, medical or not, that it's not about money or special status--marijuana promotes feelings of relaxation and well-being, and a friendly, easygoing culture.  These are things that our state really needs right now, in the midst of an economic catastrophe and a BUY!BUY!BUY! consumer mentality. Fighting on the issue of legalization should be a non-issue; instead we should be collaborating on this worthy cause and working together to get innocent people out of jail, dangerous drug cartels out of our state, and a new beginning for California.  



  1. I have seen the destruction of lives caused by alcohol, opiates, cocaine, cigarettes, sugar and fat. There is much written about the above but I cannot find the same about Marijuana. I only hear the old tired "It's a gateway drug." My dad, John B. Olguin smoked cannabis in his youth and never got "Reefer Madness" We never knew until he told us at age 80.

  2. The propaganda of the past is simply outrageous when you look at it from a modern perspective. I would definitely check out the book "Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink?" by Mason Tvert and Steve Fox. It lays out all the facts you'd ever want to might even learn a lot more about your dad! Happy searching and I hope if you live in CA you'll vote yes in November :]