AUSTIN, Texas (U-WIRE) — Some people have a lot of nerve. One of them is a professor at Pennsylvania State University named Julian Heicklen. During the course of this year, he has repeatedly sat in front of the gates of that university and deliberately fired up a joint in protest of the state’s anti-marijuana law. Here are two words for this man — hell, yeah. The anti-marijuana law should be protested until it’s finally seen for the crock that it is.
Unfortunately, it would take so much more than minor protests to make a whole nation, and its government, see the truth. And the truth is this: Marijuana, even consumed in gargantuan quantities, will never be half the evil that alcohol is. Alcohol is responsible for the deterioration and desecration of friendships, careers, marriages and families — but family units rarely dissolve because one of the parents is a pothead.
Another collection plate that alcohol contributes generously to is the one filled with date rape, domestic violence, unplanned pregnancies, the spread of AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, and car accidents that claim the lives of more than 17,000 people a year. But please, drink on. In the eyes of the law, alcohol remains on the moral high ground.
Meanwhile, marijuana smokers are arrested and criminalized for engaging in an activity that is harmless in comparison even after giving its critics thousands of years to prove its evil. At the federal level, there are an estimated 17,180 marijuana prisoners, amounting to one-sixth of the prison population. Is the stupidity not obvious here? If each prisoner costs an average of $20,804 a year to maintain, then we taxpayers waste more than $357 million annually locking up citizens who have committed only an ideological crime. A better idea would be to put people who actually pose a threat to society in prison.
Some of those found guilty by a jury include people who used marijuana solely for medicinal purposes. William J. Foster, a California man diagnosed with degenerative arthritis, received a sentence of 93 years for growing cannabis in his backyard. The only crime in this situation was committed by the government when it wouldn’t let a hurting man ease his pain.
If marijuana use wasn’t so taboo, it could serve a very useful purpose in many people’s lives. The chemicals in marijuana have repeatedly proven themselves effective in treating the symptoms of a wide range of diseases including glaucoma, asthma, epilepsy, arthritis, cancer and AIDS. And unlike its pharmaceutical counterparts, marijuana has stood the test of time. But oh, it’s been declared illegal — therefore it must be bad.
The ridiculous reluctance to acknowledge marijuana’s benefits is to our great disadvantage, and will continue to be as long as it’s outlawed. There are fabrics, paper, rope, paints, energy and medicine to be made using this incredibly resourceful plant and its botanical cousin, hemp. Even the effects of global warming could be alleviated if only we would use the hemp plant for energy instead of fossil fuels.
Sure, alcohol has a purpose, too. You can, like, use it to get drunk. In our fine, upstanding society, that’s exactly what we do, and somehow, this is morally and socially acceptable despite the havoc it wreaks. Perhaps the government prefers us drinking instead of smoking because then, we don’t think too much.
— Sunni Brown’s column originally appeared in Tuesday’s edition of the University of Texas-Austin Daily Texan.