Pubdate: Thu, 6 Aug 2009
Source: Battalion, The (Texas A&M U, TX Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Battalion
Author: Ian McPhail


Marijuana has been the subject of smear campaigns since the 1930s. As 
the oldest generations become out-numbered, it's time for a change.

Both the government and the press have collaborated in the 
prohibition against marijuana, a drug millions of Americans have 
realized does not deserve the same enforcement policy as heroin. 
Federal institutions and many state governments have fallen behind on 
the sentiments of almost half the population that claims to have 
tried marijuana at least once in their lives. Still, a strong 
anti-cannabis minority exists, supported by industries built on 
prohibition. Advocates work toward legalization, but their success is 
far from inevitable.

The country's mindset about marijuana is changing, but it has been 
slowly hindered by slander from the media. "Informative" videos 
similar to the '30s short Reefer Madness films have indoctrinated the 
oldest generation to ridiculous untruths about marijuana. Even today, 
the "Above the Influence" campaign claims that smoking pot hurts 
video game performance, undoubtedly attempting to compare this to the 
way college students struggle to combine beer and ping-pong.

The organizations funded by the government have been feeding 
Americans a biased view on marijuana for the past 70 years, one 
filled with half-truths and lies.

Before the 1960s, when there was no Internet and less of a 
counter-culture, the lies on the screen had more weight. These are 
people who grew up with the almost-comical myths about marijuana 
leading to rape and murder, and many will never change their minds. 
But because the older generation watches news and votes, they wield 
tremendous power in maintaining the status quo.

The major news outlets feed a constituent audience the information it 
wants to hear about marijuana. The news shows the large illegal 
marijuana fields, protected by armed gunmen, with officers panicked 
about the criminal growth. A core audience wants to believe that 
marijuana is the danger they think and the media is always willing to 
sell to both sides and call it balanced.

"The general mindset is changing, through the demographic change is 
in the baby boomer generation. As, regrettably, we say goodbye to the 
last generation, and whether the generation's values are liked or 
not, each new one gets the opportunity to lead," said Allen Saint 
Pierre, director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"Each generation clearly inserts and acts upon their ideas. Right 
now, the people who are leading the country are the first ones to use 
recreational drugs that institutions will not allow, both Republicans 
and Democrats. My mother has a very different view on marijuana than 
my grandparents."

The laws against marijuana have justly been referred to as a 
prohibition, and should be compared to that more well-known ban. For 
every Joseph Kennedy who went legitimate with the drink, there was an 
Al Capone - a career criminal encouraged by profits to be made by 
outlawing something everyone did. The violence and criminal behavior 
associated with marijuana would disappear if the drug were 
legitimized and treated more like alcohol and tobacco than heroin and LSD.

Oakland's city council estimates that it could earn at least $400,000 
from taxing a fledgling industry at a modest rate. Taxing and 
regulating marijuana would also create more jobs, in both production 
and sales. NORML estimates that enforcing laws alone cost the country 
$7.6 billion, with countless more money lost from treating cannabis 
as an enemy combatant in the War on Drugs. This does not mention the 
harm caused to the average marijuana user, a productive person caught 
up in the teeth of the criminal justice system. Surely half the 
country does not belong behind bars for smoking a mild plant.

More convincing than what marijuana activists are saying is the lack 
of legitimate negativity reported by the media.

Decriminalized states have not crumbled and fallen into the sea, and 
the best arguments against legalization do not hold water. Drug 
dealers don't have health standards or check identification, and an 
awareness program similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving could 
educate teenagers better than current abstinent lies. Adults should 
be able to make their own decision about marijuana and their health 
in the same way they do about fast food, tobacco and alcohol.

Not all states should have to adopt marijuana legalization, but the 
ones who do should be allowed to make decisions free from federal 
meddling. Regardless of your opinion on legalization, Americans 
deserve an accurate depiction of cannabis in our culture, the good 
with the bad and the freedom to make decisions based on facts.

The first step is for people to give smaller organizations and 
private residents the chance to inform them and force the media into 
action. Then enter the political playing field, let your congressman 
know your opinions on marijuana through an actual letter and that you 
will vote accordingly. Give a spare dollar to support politicians, or 
donate one to a private group providing you with quality information. 
The elderly have largely made their decision on marijuana, and to 
change the culture before 2025 many more young poeple will have to 
participate equally in America's political system. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake