Feature photo by Teresa Ling
Viewpoint 1: Why Cannabis Legalization Should Be Important to All of Us
By Reyna Jacqueline Peña
Currently bogged down in multiple military engagements throughout the world, it is easy for us to forget about the war that’s been going on for 40 years: The War on Drugs. It is not a war in name alone. Everyday people are profiteering, falling victim and dying in this ongoing battle. With increased drug-related violence in Mexico and Latin America, state and federal budgets tapped out, and a prison-industrial complex that is steadily growing, there is no time like the present for all concerned taxpayers to evaluate our stance on cannabis legalization. This is especially true for us Brown folk.
All is not fair in love and war. The drug war disproportionately affects minorities, specifically Blacks and Latinos. In line with the irrationality of the drug war, possession of very small amounts of cannabis can result in lifelong convictions. The War on Drugs has not curbed demand. Cannabis convictions are on the rise in some parts of the country–especially in New York and California, where, like other parts of the U.S., Blacks and Latinos represent the majority of those convicted on small possession charges. For too long, legalization and decriminalization have been the concern of cannabis users alone. But in the face of such egregious racial disparities in the application of the law and consequences of its execution, anyone interested in social justice, or more simply, fairness, should be given pause by our current laws on cannabis.
Cannabis is just not that serious. For real. If there is a drug to legalize, it’s cannabis. And yes, let’s call it cannabis. If the phonetics of the word marijuana seem familiar to your Latino ears, it’s because this Mexican slang term was used to Hispanicize the cannabis “threat” in an attempt to garner support for harsh regulations against it. The first push for cannabis criminalization came from lawmakers in the Southwest around the Depression, during an era of fervent anti-Mexican sentiment. Many myths about cannabis and its users have been perpetuated by the government for as long as the plant has been banned. It’s an evil Mexican devil weed! It makes you insane! You will become a murderer! If you let your kids experiment with cannabis, they will become heroin addicts! These lies help cement the fear that is the foundation for passing and maintaining unjust laws.
It’s my body, and I’ll get high if I want. But, on the topic of drugs and addiction, if someone does want to use illicit drugs, so what? Should we be concerned because use becomes abuse? With very limited exceptions, addiction is rarely the consequence of experimentation or even casual use. Alcohol, gambling, food, sex, shopping, internet usage and gaming, even love–everything has the potential to become addictive. Why? Because that addictive potential lies in us, as human beings, and not in the object upon which we affix our unhealthiest of tendencies. What should the government’s role be in creating a drug-free society? Is that desirable or even possible? People have altered their consciousness for millennia. Even animals get high. At times, it seems like a particularly stinging slap in the face that we live in a society where we cannot choose what to willingly put in our bodies while industrial pollutants are allowed to permeate every corner of our ecosystem, exposure to them is not subject to our discretion and effects thereof are unknown or deliberately withheld.
Take a stand. With Memorial Day about a month away, I propose we take a moment to commemorate all those unfortunate souls who have died, or otherwise been negatively affected, in this needless war. With no end in sight, undoubtedly many more losses in our communities will be incurred. So, which side are you on?
Viewpoint 2: Legalize It
By Roberto Del Rio
Cannabis is not just a drug. Its uses and applications vary greatly from foodstuff to paper. Being a weed, cultivation is otherwise foolproof (when done out in the sun and not in a closet), which means that it would be a fairly easy and cheap source of income. This plant that so many people have such strong opinions about incites the fear of people who have been riddled with misinformation and abstinence education that in reality is just puritanical nonsense. Bloodshot eyes, increased heart rate and short term memory loss aside, cannabis has gotten a very bad wrap in the past century. The benefits of its medicinal consumption and low toxicity rate have been ignored too long.
The THC in cannabis has been found to help in relieving symptoms in sufferers of chronic illnesses. According to the ICAM, people with anorexia and cachexia can benefit from the drug’s promotion of healthy appetite. This can also be of service to cancer and AIDS patients whose medications often leave them without the will to eat. Since cannabis suppresses nausea, it can be used safely alongside drugs that are harsher and thus disrupt the normal eating habits of its takers.
However, for the THC to take an active role in the affective alleviation of these and other symptoms, doses higher than those of recreational usages must be employed. Spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury can also be positively relieved if not remedied. The fact that cannabis reduces intraocular pressure is of specific benefit to people who suffer from glaucoma. It also functions as an aid when it comes to withdrawal from dependency of benzodiazepines, opiates and alcohol.
Broader psychological effects of cannabis include the acute sense of euphoria one experiences with the drug. In many cases, smoking of the drug is not necessary; for example, in the Indian subcontinent, a tea infused with cannabis known as Bhang has been around since 1000 BCE. It can also be ingested with the use of a vaporizer, which is perhaps the safest and cleanest way to take this drug.
Cannabis is a type of medicine that has been around for millennia, and the side effects are minimal to none. Even though the D.E.A. says that any case of medical marijuana is inferior and not as effective as already approved medicines, we know modern medicine is not without flaw. To deny people the right to less harsh methods of medication is a bit dystopian.
In any case, the fight for medical marijuana is relatively solid and less controversial than suggesting the decriminalization or even legalization of recreational marijuana as the benefits of people with diseases tend to come before social significance. I say that they tend to, because often times they do. A 2006 study in American Scientist by Robert S. Gable concluded that as lethal doses go, you’d have to be smoking nonstop for a good, long while. It found that the toxicity levels present in alcohol are such that drinking 10 times the normal amount of alcohol in a five to ten minute period could prove to be fatal. Compare that to smoking or eating marijuana, which may require 1,000 times the usual dose to garner the same fatal results.
Perhaps it isn’t history and fact that is behind the illegality of cannabis as much as it is certain connotations that come along with its usage and existence. Cigarettes and alcohol may be demonstrably more harmful to the human body than cannabis, but the science behind it was far from sophisticated at the time of its restricting. Cannabis is a victim of bad publicity is all.