Thanksgiving, Personal Freedom … and Marijuana

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel November 23, 2015

    Celebrating a day of thanksgiving has a long history in this country, dating back to the first year of George Washington’s first term as president, when he proclaimed Nov. 28, 1789 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

    The tradition continued, although on different dates in different states, until President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, proclaimed the final Thursday in November as Thanksgiving nationwide. Of course the Confederate States refused to recognize Lincoln’s authority, and it was not until after the war ended, during reconstruction in the mid-1870s, that all states participated in the national Thanksgiving celebration.

    The date for Thanksgiving was then changed from the final Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November by a Joint Resolution of Congress signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Dec. 26, 1941, during the early days of our involvement in World War II.

    And we will continue that tradition this Thursday, when most of us pause for a day to consider and give thanks for the people who enrich our lives, and the freedoms we enjoy in our everyday lives. We have much for which to be thankful, regardless of our individual stories. As a member of the American family, we have been privileged in many ways by birth.

    The Threat of Terrorism in the Background

    It would be foolish not to acknowledge the uncertainties and fears caused by the threat of terrorism in our world today.

    None of us will ever be quite the same once our sense of innocence and well-being has been dashed by the reality of a terrorist act, such as we all witnessed in horror on September 11, 2001. When we see the frightening and horrendous death and destruction caused over the last few days by a few evil terrorists in Paris, or in Mali, we can but wonder how long it will be before we experience another 9/11 in our own country.

    The innocence of the victims in these attacks appears to be the purpose — to shock and terrorize — and the irrationality and unpredictability of when and where these attacks occur only serves to make all of us fearful.

    And that, of course, is the purpose of these heinous acts. And it is why we must not allow the despicable, uncivilized acts of a few extremists to distract us from our regular lives, filled with family and friends and meaning and purpose. Yes, life involves some risks, and lots of uncertainties, but as the Parisians have demonstrated, living life to the fullest, and getting back to one’s regular life, is the best revenge.

    Personal Freedom

    Which finally brings me to the topic I am supposed to be writing about – legalizing marijuana. The marijuana legalization movement, at least from my perspective, is only incidentally about marijuana. It is really about personal freedom.

    The freedom to decide for oneself whether to smoke marijuana, free from governmental interference. The government has no business coming into my home to find out what books I read; what music I listen to; how I conduct myself in the privacy of the bedroom; or whether or not I smoke marijuana or drink alcohol when I relax in the evening. It is simply none of their business.

    The freedom to be free from government searches, absent the issuance of a search warrant, based on probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, is a most important freedom that we win back for the individual, once marijuana is legalized. The sight or smell of marijuana no longer gives the police the ability to ignore our Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. When marijuana is no longer a crime, neither is it the basis to obtain a search warrant.

    So this Thanksgiving, I will be giving thanks that as a country we are moving away from the war on marijuana smokers, and moving ever so cautiously towards the legalization and regulation of the responsible use of marijuana by adults. And in doing that, we are returning a measure of personal freedom, once lost, to the tens of millions of marijuana smokers in America.


    This column first appeared on Marijuana.com:



    16 responses to “Thanksgiving, Personal Freedom … and Marijuana”

    1. Roger says:

      Don’t forget that jobs have no right to exclude Marijuana users either

    2. Matthew says:

      “They don’t hate us because we’re free; they hate us because we’re there!” So, free us, from paying for our 900+ foreign military bases! Audit the Pentagon! How many of Lester Dewey’s hemp strains have gone extinct, since his hemp gardens were wiped out, for its construction, anyway?

    3. V0ice of the Resistance says:

      So right on Keith, thanks Norml.

    4. Julian says:

      I’ll be thankful preventing veteran suicides. %1 of the American population is accepting %100 of the burden of war. Here is a letter to representative Lamar Smith-R,TX;

      “Dear Representative Smith,

      The subject of cannabis legalization affects every category in your list of concerns, but none so urgent as our veterans of war.

      …17 U.S. Veterans committ suicide per day…

      …due to symptoms of P.T.S.D. that are treatable, according to 30 years of research by Dr. Sisley, with %75 medical efficacy through the consumption of cannabis.

      Meanwhile, VA prescribed opiates are making matters worse, with addicted veterans begging for pain relief only to be administered a deadly cocktail of opiate in-patient medication that kills veterans while under VA hospital supervision.

      Fortunately, on the eve of Veterans Day, the Senate has passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, which will allow for the first time that doctors in the VA recommend medical marijuana to veterans suffering from PTSD in states where marijuana is legal.

      If language in a bill passed in Texas to provide whole plant CBD cannabis extract could be changed from “diagnose” to “recommend” and amended to include veterans that suffer from far more than seizures preventable through cannabis consumption, then veterans in Texas could receive this life saving treatment.

      There is only a House version of this bill awaiting your support…

      I have received many letters from you concerning veterans affairs and standing up for veterans rights, Representative Smith. If you care deeply about standing up for veterans, providing them safe and effective ways of managing the pain that so few bare for so many, than I urge you to look at the evidence, stop the daily veteran suicides and support a House version of the Senate FY 2016 that provides cannabis to veterans today. You can save lives. After all, they saved ours.

      Best Regards,


    5. Miles says:

      I absolutely agree that the fight to legalize marijuana is only incidental to what most of us are really all about and that is: Personal Freedom!

      As an ex-marine I thought I was fighting for “The Land of the Free”. We should be free to live our lives however we see fit as long as we hurt noone else or infringe on their rights in the process. We should not simply be free to follow the rules our Government imposes upon us. The laws against marijuana, in my opinion, are completely unjust, unconstitutional, and goes against everything that I consider to be American.

      I have said this before and I’ll say it again here: It is Anti-American to force others to do your will when your will is based on lies, racism, religion, or simply your desire for wealth and power. In the case of marijuana, those are the real reasons the Government, controlled by the wealthy, is forcing their will on the rest of us and doing so at tremendous costs to our society.

      Free people should be able to decide matters like whether or not to use marijuana, or even heroin or LSD for that matter, for themselves. If they get hurt in the process then they must deal with it and learn from it. Punishing people for doing something that hurts noone except maybe themselves, is just wrong!

      Some of you may think I’m just preaching to the choir but my message here is actually for those ourside our little choir who might be reading this; like the DEA and other Govt members who really need to reconsider their stance on this issue and others like it. If marijuana was truly a menace to our society then I’d be part of the choir shouting to stop it but, obviously it is not. The menace are the laws in place that do a great deal more harm than good.

      How is it that a small handful of people back in the 1930’s were able to make marijuana illegal and today, millions of us have been unable to reverse this idiocy? This is not Democracy. It is a form of tyranny! It needs to end.

    6. Todd says:

      Freedoms are primarily those unique and personal choices made by the less powerful and less wealthy. The post industrial age economy in America has left us in a corporate stranglehold where a citizen and their mind are definable and fit in a box. We aren’t allowed to be hurt or to complain, whether you’re a football hero, veteran, or common man. The public commentary, social networking, and advertisements for the masses sadly seem only for improving your coddled life with safe sleep, pain and headache relief, and successful relationships. I am thankful for organizations like NORML and High Times.

      I can prove that an age of enlightenment is at hand though! When enough people realize that the entire world with its majestic landscapes and beautiful people we see and experience every day is not a detailed copy made of electricity inside each of our faces, but physically one original, we will take better care of it. Why does smoking weed make you high and feel thankful for being here? It is because you realize that your mind is everywhere.

    7. dk says:

      Hear, Hear ! My sentiments for years ! Stop treating the population like we’re living in a prison !

    8. Galileo Galilei says:

      Tokers consume mass quantitities, but remain leaner. Just sayin…

    9. Fat Freddy says:

      Cannabis was made illegal through the lies and deceit of corrupt people for illegal protectionist and racist purposes. Why can’t we address those illegalities under our laws and reverse those prohibitionist laws?

    10. Mark I. says:

      I am thankful for the right to live where I want.