Marijuana Is More Mainstream Than Ever, So Why Is Legalization Still Taboo?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 3, 2009

    As voters in several states head to the polls today to decide Governor and city council races it seems appropriate to ask: “Why are most politicians still inexplicably silent on marijuana law reform?”

    The recent legislative hearings on cannabis regulation in Massachusetts and California notwithstanding, the fact remains that these debates are the exception, not the rule. In fact, voters in Maine and Colorado will decide on marijuana law reform ballot proposals today (Note: Check back here tonight for the results.) precisely because their elected officials outright refused to vote on the issues when they were put before them.

    In short, prominent politicians continue to run away from sensible marijuana law reforms at the same time that the public is demanding them. Two longtime NORML allies, former High Times editor Steve Wishnia and former NORML Board Member Richard Evans, recently explored this phenomenon and offer some insight and possible explanations:

    Pot Is More Mainstream Than Ever, So Why Is Legalization Still Taboo?
    via Alternet.org

    Almost every voter under 65 in this country has either smoked cannabis or grew up with people who did. Among its erstwhile users are the last three presidents, one Supreme Court justice and the mayor of the nation’s largest city. The pot leaf’s image pervades popular culture, from Bob Marley T-shirts to billboards for Showtime’s Weeds.

    So why is actually legalizing it still considered a fringe issue? Why haven’t more politicians — especially the ones who inhaled — come out and said, “Prohibition is absurd and criminal. Let’s treat cannabis like alcohol”?

    One reason for the lack of urgent political pressure, says Deborah Small of Break the Chains, is that the people most likely to get busted for pot are the ones who “don’t have a political voice” — young people of color from poor neighborhoods.

    … Washington State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles says that many legislators, particularly in the state’s more conservative rural areas, “buy into the cultural stereotypes about marijuana,” such as the idea that it’s a gateway to harder drugs. The Seattle Democrat, who is sponsoring a bill to reduce the penalty for less than 40 grams of pot from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, says … that law enforcement has largely opposed her decriminalization bill.

    Writing locally in the Massachusetts Daily News Tribune, Evans questions why none of the state’s major party candidates have reached out to the 65 percent of state voters who elected last year to decriminalize marijuana possession statewide.

    The Senate race and marijuana prohibition
    via The Daily News Tribune

    Odd, isn’t it, that all the U.S. Senate candidates, and the people who ask them questions trying to elicit their positions on issues people care about, seem to have forgotten that in the last election, a whopping 65 percent of the voters went for marijuana decriminalization?

    If that many voters care about the marijuana laws, why do these candidates, who claim to have their fingers on the public pulse, ignore the subject?

    Politicians report little “noise” on this issue, mistaking silence for indifference, not fear. People are justifiably fearful about writing a letter, showing up on a mailing list, even sending an email with the “m” word in it. They have to be very careful about their jobs, their drivers licenses and the kids in school whose parents will talk. But put them in the privacy of a voting booth, and stand back!

    … No living person is responsible for the marijuana prohibition laws. They were conceived three generations ago in a cultural and racial climate far different from our own, and very different from that to which we aspire.

    Are we ready for a serious, sober discussion about repeal, without the usual winks, smirks and puns? Can we handle it? Will someone lead it?

    And finally, speaking of “serious discussions,” it doesn’t get much more serious — and mainstream — than the persuasive and well-articulated arguments from longtime NORML-ally Jessica Corry, who has an amazing ability to tongue-tie both probitionists and Fox News hosts within three minutes! I’m just glad that she’s on our side.

    73 responses to “Marijuana Is More Mainstream Than Ever, So Why Is Legalization Still Taboo?”

    1. jd. says:

      “I’m just glad that she’s on our side.”

      for sure.

      conservative + sensible drug poilicy = win.

      Minorities + young people is what the conservatives lack.. this should be a conservative issue.


    2. jah says:

      very cool

    3. JR says:

      This might happen sooner than we think!! 🙂 sweet

    4. kevin k says:

      wtf… Shes making cannabis sound like it makes you as stupid and violent as cannabis. If you noticed they try to achieve that connection between cannabis and Heroin by using lines like “Mind altering” and using it over and over and Emphasizing it so much.

    5. MatterofLiberty says:

      I dont think anyone has a problem with someone inebriating themsleves to any degree in their own home….HOWEVER the BIG DIFFERENCE between Cannibus & “Hard Drugs” (I.e. heroin, cocain, alchohol…) is TOXCICITY.
      No matter how hard you try you will not get a LETHAL OVERDOSE on Cannibus, even if you eat a Quarter Pound or more (stomache ache probably). ALL these other drugs can easily lead to higher chance for overdose if chronic use begins just due to body tolerance. Too much Cannibus has only one real effect… drowsiness.

    6. SimpleSolution says:

      Stop voting idiots that support prohibition in.

      Vote Libertarian or a candidate that openly supports lessening marijuana penalties.

    7. CKDK29 says:

      11.5 millon mmmm…take that times how ever much they wanna charge for an ounce in taxes …… its kindergarden shit ,an common sense

    8. David says:

      Jessica is a sensible woman and she speaks well. We need more people like her on our side.

    9. corey says:

      The whole notion of being impaired by marijuana while driving as a risk to society is pretty much false, granted reaction time may be delayed the user of Marijuana realizes this and adjusts driving accordingly, this subject has been studied by many countries on the north American continent and European continent and all have come out with failure results, that the user of Marijuana is a far safer driver then a drunk driver, drivers on cell phones and especially sleep deprived drivers. So to use the argument that someone will toke up then get in a car and drive is faulty used to continue the prohibition on marijuana. No doubt even if hypothetically Marijuana were to become legal in a specific state or federally there should still be laws against driving while high. Driving is alone a large enough distraction, the argument to keep prohibition valid by virtue of random high drivers is invalid. Proven by science and factual tests it’s no larger danger then going to change the radio station. It’s a fact of life, called probability deaths will occur for a certain number of reasons due to driving. What happens when we get to the point where we no longer control vehicles and computers control traffic flow and personal cars then an accident occurs will we then outlaw, prohibit and jail the creators of the algorithms who designed such a system? Any argument a prohibitionist has to debate, an anti-prohibitionist has a strong, more factual argument to rebuttal with. The end times are here for ignorance, confusion and plain lies.

    10. R.O.E. says:

      Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have … The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.
      Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

      If all of you want freedom to chose, dont vote for someone that wants big government. Also , dont let these politicians convince you to trade your freedoms and rights. Dont trade legalization in trade for a bill they want passed that deceases freedom.

      I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
      Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)