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Vivian McPeak

2014 Victories. The Hempire Strikes Back!*

It seems like just yesterday that I was a young cannabis activist enduring the incessant derision of naysayers who confidently insisted that cannabis (which you probably call marijuana) would always be prohibited. People told me I was “jousting at windmills”, “pissing in the wind”, that legalization was a “pipe-dream”, and that lobbying for legalization was a waste of time. They asked us why we were not working on an issue that had half a chance.

Of course, my fellow activists and I did not agree with them at all. We felt that if enough Americans learned the truth about prohibition they would react by changing the laws. We strongly knew that pot prohibition was a policy built on lies, fear, racism, and cultural bigotry.

Well, there ain’t nuthin’ like a little vindication after decades of ridicule. However, any personal satisfaction that may come with being proven at least partially right is strongly overshadowed by the awareness that millions of Americans will now live free from the threat of arrest or prosecution for minor pot offenses.

The thought of a more just, more free America is what has kept us pot activists going for so many years. We surely have not been motivated by some self-serving desire to be able to get high, because prohibition never stopped any of us from imbibing if that was what we wanted to do. Of course, prohibition has hardly kept anyone from using cannabis because it has been a dramatically failed policy all around.

Now, even in the midst of a sweeping Republican rebellion, cannabis legalization is still on the march. Alaska, Oregon, and Washingtonian D.C. now join Colorado and Washington as having seriously reformed pot laws. In 2016 ballot initiatives are expected in states such as Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada.

While Florida’s medical marijuana initiative did not win, the fact that 58% of the voters approved it means that it may have been a technical loss (60% of the vote was required) but it was still a big political victory. Any Florida politician now knows where the electorate stands on the issue.

In Oregon, it is now legal for citizens 21 and over to grow, possess, or sell cannabis. The state will now implement a commercial regulatory system similar to those of Washington and Colorado.

In Alaska, where a staggering 80 percent of all drug arrests have been for pot, cannabis production will be taxed and regulated, making it legal for those 21 and over to imbibe.

In Washington DC, where blacks comprise about half of the population but account for as much as 90% of arrests for drug possession, the future of legal pot remains hazy. DC has a unique status as a district rather than a state. Several lawmakers, all Republicans, have pledged to overrule the will of the voters and use the federal status of cannabis to block legalization, which is typical. Those politicians are still living in the old paradigm, and I believe they may be in denial of what is taking place here, which, of course, is the slow and eventual crumbling of the policy of pot prohibition.

Washington DC’s law would allow a person over 21 to possess up to two ounces for personal use and to grow up to 6 plants in their home. The fact that the Pentagon now sits on land that was the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s hemp plantation brings all that much irony, eh?

So it is not only the 1% celebrating in penthouses and boardrooms across the nation. No doubt, they are giddy that they are enjoying the spoils of Citizens United and their ability to literally hijack democracy, and the ultra-rich have never been richer. They have been consolidating their wealth throughout this entire economic collapse. That is what they always do. Well, now they have even more potential to chase that precious ROI, as a new emerging market is coalescing, and legal impediments to its expansion are falling away like pot plants careening out of a DEA helicopter and back into the hands of the people who planted them.

The era of scapegoating, of dehumanizing, of persecuting otherwise law abiding, responsible, contributing Americans over their use of pot has started to end. What will be the result?

Well, let’s think about it. Violent crime has been steadily decreasing the entire time legalization has been making progress. There is a study that was co-written by professors from San Diego State, Montana State, and the University of Colorado at Denver, that concluded that the suicide rates for males aged 20-29 decreased 10.9 percent in states where cannabis is legal. Gee, it ain’t like suicide is a problem in the United States these days, right?

Then there is the study published by author Dr. Daniel I Rees, published in the University of Chicago Press, which concluded that “traffic fatalities decreased between 8 and 11 percent after legalization.” The study went on to conclude that “total beer consumption dropped five percent post-legalization and that traffic fatalities in which at least one driver had a positive blood alcohol content level lessened by 13.2 percent.” Less alcohol and more pot equals less deaths.

Yes, the Hempire is striking back with ferocity. All across America for decades pot activists have been using the system the way it was intended; by the book, peacefully, and without incident. There has been no violence, no victims, & no social upheaval. That may be because the cannabis reform movement is a peace movement.

Finally, the people are pushing back, and in the process, pushing the envelope forward. Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and finish the job for good. What is the eventual end goal? TOTAL WORLD LEGALIZATION. That is the last stop of this freedom train.

“All aboard!”

*This article originally appeared in the Seattle P.I. “City Brights” guest blog column. 

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