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Marijuana Prohibition on Its Last Legs

By: Contributor - Mar 18, 2015, 7:10 am
Republican member of the Texas House representatives has been active in calling for the legalization of marijuana. (Facebook)
Texas House Representative David Simpson has been active in calling for the legalization of marijuana. (Facebook)

Español Proposals recently emerged in the Lone Star State that could signal the turning of the tide in the War on Drugs across the Americas. At the beginning of March, Texan Representative David Simpson (R) put forward a bill that would effectively legalize marijuana, and regulate the plant in the same way as agricultural crops.

Most notable about this bill was Simpson’s biblical justification of the measure. Simpson holds that all God’s creations are good, and that the role of government is to punish wrongdoers, not drug users and those who commit victimless crimes. Regardless of its radicalism and religious justification, this latest effort by Simpson represents a major advancement in the national discussion of drug reform. Twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable for a conservative politician of any stripe to advocate the decriminalization, let alone legalization, of marijuana. The bill is likely to fall flat given the conservative nature of Texas politics. Nevertheless, one thing is absolutely clear: the legal use of marijuana nationwide is a question of when, not if.

Generation Game

A bipartisan trend towards legalization has only become stronger in the past two years. With legalization in Colorado and Washington in 2012, and recent initiatives in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, public opinion is shifting drastically, not only on marijuana but on the validity of the drug war itself. According to the latest polls from the Pew Research Center, constituent views on marijuana legalization have become more favorable in the past few years, with the younger generation leading the way. Sixty-nine percent of millennials (defined as those born between 1981 and 1996) now support legalization, as opposed to the 34 percent of millennials who supported it during 2006. The times are definitely changing. As of October 2014, a slight majority of US Americans (52 percent) were in favor of marijuana legalization, a massive increase from 1969, when only 12 percent believed pot should be legalized.

Among millennials, at least, the trend also goes across party lines. About 63 percent of Republicans in this age group are in favor, while 77 percent of Democrats support legalization. This issue clearly transcends partisan lines in the eyes of the younger generation. Nevertheless, Simpson’s intervention — coming from the unlikeliest of political and religious backgrounds — also shows that bastions of resistance can be transcended. Age and ideology are no longer barriers to change.

Let Us Unite

Issues of basic human rights and decency should not be subject to political bickering and generational posturing. The victims of these unjust policies are brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and relatives — just like you and me. Statistical figures aside, these reforms are all about offering more humane solutions to problems that heavy-handed policies have not been able to solve for 40 years and counting. It’s high time to reassess this near 50-year-old campaign that has cost more than a trillion dollars, led to the highest incarceration rates in the world, and violated civil liberties time and again. Disproportionate numbers of young people from ethnic minorities have had their lives completely shattered for merely possessing a plant that is no more dangerous than alcohol.

Too many dollars have been spent; too many lives have been lost; and too many families have been torn apart for this policy to continue. In times when the United States finds itself divided by partisanship in other domains, the polling data shows that this issue could unite the country. It takes courage for a politician from a staunchly conservative state to put forward a bill that goes against the party leadership and cultural lines. It also takes great courage to work on a bipartisan basis and assume great political risks. Now is the time to discard partisan labels and unite for a humane cause that will restore faith in our communities, law enforcement institutions, and political institutions. It’s time to end the War on Drugs.