Cannabis: The Ultimate Misconception by Gregorio Osha

Here in America we love hard workers. They are what our country is based on, from our founding fathers, to the men and women who have built this country to the superpower it is today. We believe that if you have the will to work hard, you should be able to thrive, no matter your background. Yet, there were still people, like Bernard Noble, who don’t get this luxury. Noble grew up in a single room apartment, with his six siblings, and a single mother. His mother survived on welfare and doing small jobs on the side. Noble graduated John Ehret High School, the largest high school in Louisiana. Due to lack of funds and external motivation, he never pursued a college education. In this time he fought drug addiction problems. However, consistently tried to work on his drug abuse issues throughout his life. He opened his own janitorial service in New Orleans, and started his own family. With Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he was pushed to Kansas city. There he struck success, when opening his own catering business for Cajun food. He was on track to opening his own restaurant, when his life took a turn for the worst. He was visiting his father in New Orleans, he was riding his bicycle around the area. When along the way, he was pulled over by local officers, where they conducted an illegal* frisk. On him, they found 2.8 grams of Cannabis (the equivalent of two Cannabis cigarettes). He was immediately arrested. And due to two previous non-violent, drug related arrests, he was sentenced to prison for 13.3 years. Currently Noble is residing in jail, his seven children (his youngest with autism, and another with rheumatoid arthritis) alone, without a father. Cannabis charges have destroyed many others, taking them away from their families, and costing our state government billions in prison service charges.

Cannabis or more commonly referred to as Marijuana, is a natural growing plant, that has both male and female species. Now contrary to popular belief, you are not smoking the actual plant to get the psychoactive effects. Rather, the female plants produce a flower with a high concentration of naturally occurring THC (the actual molecule giving you the high). You then harvest that to get what is being smoked or ingested. Today Cannabis is listed as a schedule 1 drug — saying that it has: “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” (DEA, Drug Scheduling)– along with Heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy.  However, according to a study conducted by CBS News, around three-quarters of North American physicians, accept that Cannabis does have medical properties. Studies have shown Cannabis’ use in areas from pain, multiple sclerosis, nausea, epilepsy, concussion, alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, and much more. Then there’s the money wasted on Cannabis related crimes.

In 2012 around 1,552,432 people were put in prison for drugs, and around 658,231 (42.4%) of those were due to Cannabis Possession (most being minor charges). On average each state pays around $31,307 per prisoner each year (sometimes up to $60,000). Put that altogether our country is paying more than 20.5 billion each year to keep, people who have been caught with mostly small amounts of Cannabis, in prison. That’s absurd.

Recently states such as Colorado, have taken the initiative and legalized Cannabis. In the last year Colorado made around 53 million, that money going to go to Schools, Road and Bridge, and other government agencies. And, we saw no pot-fueled crime wave hit Colorado, while still pulling in millions in taxes. From what we have seen legalising and regulating Cannabis has not only worked, but worked well.

So what has been the main concern driving anti-cannabis organizers? The children. As a country, we hate the thought of our children getting addicted to drugs, and spiraling into poverty. It’s scary. We do anything in our power to prevent this from happening, and it is a valid concern. Around 40% of high schoolers have admitted to trying Cannabis. That percent has risen over the past few years, and that worries people. Cannabis has proven to cause damage to people under the age of 21, harming mostly the developmental area of the brain. Now this does not mean if your kid tries Cannabis, he will be scar’d for life. However, many studies do suggest that using Cannabis at early ages once or more per week, can have negative effects on their brain. But, this is a common issue with teens, in the form of something new. An example being of this old behavior is safe sex. The idea behind this, is that we can not tell teens blatantly not to engage in sexual behavior, it doesn’t work. We see that in 1991 teen pregnancies were up, with 61.8 live births per 1000 women. However, by educating and teaching safely in sexual health we have seen that number drop to just 26.5, in 2013. The same rules apply to Cannabis. Teens may be prone to disobey, put when we put the information in there hands, we see major changes.

Currently five states have legalized Cannabis recreationally (Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and D.C.), and it is suspected that 7 more will follow in 2016 (Massachusetts, California, Missouri, Maine, Hawaii, Nevada, and Arizona). And the world is not spiraling into chaos. We have to ask ourselves: what is the judice in paying money to lock up a hard working, family men for being in possession of a flower? To move forward as a country, we have to leave these old misconceptions of Cannabis, in the past, and begin to look deep at the many flaws in the age old War on Drugs.