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Politicians forget principles of freedom with pot

By Will Foster Copy Editor
On April 17, 2012

  • An admitted former pot user, President Obama (above) has recently come under firing for being worse than Bush in his crackdown on medical marijuana.

As Mitt Romney becomes the Republican's reluctant candidate, we shift from watching the circus that was the presidential primaries to looking at the finish line in November. No longer preoccupied with the Newt Gingrich's childish taunts and Rick Santorum's latest push toward a theocracy, many of us are looking back at Obama's run to see how he shapes up against Romney.

The Obama of 2008 would've laughed at the lineup he faced this year. With his charismatic cut-to-the-point rhetoric and iconic "Yes we can" chant, he would've all but buried his indecisive opponents. But it wasn't just his personable approach that won our hearts; rather it was largely due to his progressive views and promise of change. Big changes too, harkening back to an America that praised freedom with claims like closing Guantanamo Bay and stopping federal persecution of medical marijuana facilities.

Unfortunately when we fast forward to today, the vast changes he called for are more minor alterations. Guantanamo Bay continues its dubious detainments, and the man who said "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on [medical marijuana]," is now responsible for a stronger crackdown on the plant than the conservative Bush presidency.

Yes, the man who unabashedly admitted to smoking pot and using coke now believes the best allocation of our resources in this recession would be continuing the crackdown of this plant. The fact that this medicine, which has been in use for thousand of years, is still illegal is almost as egregious as the fact that deep-fried butter is a thing that actually exists.

Yes, there are many valid arguments against marijuana, even as a medicine, but the debate goes so much deeper than that. It should be part of my right as an American to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to live my life how I want, even if that means the liberty to pursue the happiness of smoking a joint.

And to those who put pot's adverse effects on a pedestal, saying it's illegal for our protection, I call bulls**t. Outside of a bad case of the munchies and sleeping in, pot's adverse effects are minimal. And since I could point to a plethora of scientific studies that prove either side of this argument, I'll stick with logic.

Even if marijuana, a plant which byitself has been responsible for zero deaths a year, is harmful, it shouldn't matter. Plenty of things are bad for you in America. In minutes, you could go most anywhere in town and walk away with cigarettes containing formaldehyde, ammonia and arsenic; the speedball that is Four Loko; an 1130-calorie burger at Burger King; and any number of high-fructose-corn-syrup-filled, chemically-synthesized, trans-fat-saturated concoctions that fill the shelves of supermarkets and drug stores everywhere.

Up until recently, I could even buy K2, a substance made to match cannabis' effects, with the exception that K2 actually causes physical, and sometimes fatal, harm. And don't even get me started on similarly psychoactive, yet dangerously deceiving, salvia.

That's the problem with prohibition, it doesn't stop people from using the drug. Alcohol was prevalent throughout the '20s and '30s despite being illegal. The only real difference was the booze was a lot lower in quality, and the industry was put in the hands of criminals. Sound similar?

I'm reminded of a quote from another president, Abraham Lincoln. In addition to his two favorite things in the world -­ playing harmonica and "smoking a pipe of sweet hemp" - Honest Abe was also a fan of debating, and once stated in a discourse that prohibition "goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

This quote would've rung true with some other famous potheads - I'm looking at you Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Monroe. Yes, many of the founders of this nation enjoyed a good toke, because they believed in a free nation. Not just a nation where you're free to practice whatever religion you follow, but one where you can proudly light up a fatty of Granddaddy Kush, or pursue whatever life you want to live, so long as it doesn't harm others.

Unfortunately today's political leaders' logic isn't so crisp, and in addition to labelling pizza as having the same nutritional benefits a vegetable, they also think marijuana should be labeled as a schedule 1 drug. This not only infringes on our rights, but it lumps pot in with heavy hitters like meth and heroin, creating a dangerous mentality. It's why marijuana is considered a "gateway drug," because once a person realizes it's actually fairly harmless, they'll be more likely to distrust the warnings surrounding harder, and definitely harmful, drugs.

So this April 20, and every other day of the year, I encourage you to celebrate being an American. Celebrate the fact that you can be who you want to be and do what you want to do - without encroaching on others - because you're in the land of the free and the home of the brave. And even if it means a little civil disobedience, celebrate the freedom to smoke a bowl, blunt, bong, joint or whatever you use to pursue happiness.

 


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