Kudos to Berkeley’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy activists for protesting the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ban on hemp products, products that are incapable of getting anyone high. The DEA’s marijuana jihad seems even more absurd when placed in a historical context. Prior to the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 few Americans had heard of marijuana, despite widespread cultivation of its non-intoxicating cousin, industrial hemp.
The first marijuana laws were a racist reaction to Mexican immigration during the early 1900’s, passed in large part due to newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s sensationalist yellow journalism. Incredibly violent acts were allegedly committed by minorities under marijuana’s influence. White Americans did not even begin to smoke marijuana until a soon-to-be entrenched government bureaucracy began funding reefer madness propaganda.
These days marijuana is confused with 60’s counterculture. This intergenerational culture war does far more harm than marijuana. Illegal marijuana provides the black market contacts that introduce consumers to hard drugs like meth. This “gateway” is the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy. As long as marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, consumers will continue to be exposed to sellers of hard drugs. Taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana to adults is a cost-effective alternative to the $50 billion war on some drugs.
At present the drug war is causing tremendous societal harm, while failing miserably at preventing use. Attempts to limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn’t fight crime, it fuels crime. Students who want to make a difference should contact Students for Sensible Drug Policy at http://www.ssdp.org.
Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation