Happy anniversary, War on Drugs

We must admit that Nixon’s war on drugs has failed and cost the nation dearly.

Sean Little

Wednesday, Oct. 14 marked the 27th anniversary of the launching of the domestic War on Drugs. One can certainly make a very compelling argument supporting the prohibition of substances like cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine, as each can kill from overdose and is highly addictive (meaning discontinuing use causes physical illness). But really, it is time for our society to pause and take a look at our policy regarding cannabis. In 2007, more than 40,000 people were in prison for marijuana alone; more than half of those charged with simple possession. Prohibitionists say marijuana needs to remain illegal because it is a âÄúgateway drug.âÄù By the same logic, milk could be a gateway to alcohol. Start âÄôem young âĦ ItâÄôs just a nonsensical argument. If thereâÄôs any truth to the theory, it is because of prohibition; buying marijuana puts you in touch with the people you need to know to get the harder drugs. Marijuana has technically been illegal since 1937, but things didnâÄôt get serious until the actions of President Richard Nixon. When Nixon launched the War on Drugs, he appointed a commission to investigate marijuana in our society. He expected his position against marijuana to be supported by their conclusion. When Raymond P. Shafer, the head of the commission, submitted a report recommending ending its prohibition, Nixon threw it out, placed marijuana in schedule one and launched the war anyway. Campaigns contend that using marijuana kills your brain cells and that using it automatically leads to an empty life without any real substance. Neither of these claims is true. The position that marijuana needs to be illegal because it is dangerous is just plain false. Yet, the most dangerous drug in the United States remains a staple to our economy: tobacco. Tobacco kills over 400,000 people every year in the United States alone, but itâÄôs legal and distributed to adults who understand the risk and are free to make a decision. Alcohol kills about 21,000 people per year, and again, we allow for its legal sale to adults. Marijuana has never killed anyone, but we imprison people for smoking it. The hypocrisy is staggering. Most teenagers will tell you that marijuana is easier to get than alcohol or cigarettes, as a drug dealer is not checking IDs. WouldnâÄôt it be smarter to sell this stuff out in the open, so we can work to keep it out of the hands of kids? While marijuana is not physically addictive, prohibitionists will contend that thereâÄôs a psychological addiction that comes with it. While this has truth to it, one can also become psychologically addicted to just about anything, from cheeseburgers to the internet to sex. While all those things can be abused, none of them are illegal, and none of them should be illegal. MarijuanaâÄôs potential for abuse is not grounds to forbid everyone from having it. Briefings H2929 and S1801 are pending in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The pair of bills calls for the taxation and regulation of commercial sale of cannabis to adults 21 or older. This measure is designed to generate revenue for the state. Alcohol prohibition didnâÄôt work, and we saw that. As soon as we entered the Great Depression, we repealed the prohibition to generate tax revenue for the government. In these bleak economic times, itâÄôs time to repeal prohibition and generate revenue again. Marijuana use has increased exponentially since prohibition began. Since we canâÄôt stop people from using it, it should at least be controlled. To learn more about marijuana prohibition, visit www.norml.org, the Web site of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We need to release those prisoners. We need to stop wasting police resources and government money on enforcing an absurd drug policy. Sean Little University undergraduate student Please send comments to [email protected]