Why It’s Finally Time for the U.S. to Legalize Marijuana

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Photo by Alexodus

Since 1970, under the eye of Richard Nixon, federal law considers marijuana a drug with high potential for abuse devoid of any medical value. In other words, it’s classified as “Schedule I” on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which rates substances in terms of their relative danger to the population.

The act serves as an important precursor to the War On Drugs, and consequently, the general public perception of drugs in the U.S. When it comes to marijuana, the issue has been just that: perception.

For so long, any mention of the cannabis plant created knee-jerk labels like pothead, stoner, slacker, and burnout thanks to its organized and systematic stigmatization.

Of course, all of this entwines with the Reefer Madness propaganda of yore (fire and brimstone, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria), which was propagated and enacted into law, as Nixon stomped-out hippie scum and waged war on an invisible boogieman.

Whatever your stance on pot, its classification as Schedule I is egregious. Here’s why:

The Drug War doesn’t work. It never did. 

We now know that drug use is a matter of public health, not criminality. Nixon’s war on drugs ended just like Vietnam—we lost. Rather than vanquish drug use once and for all, the socio-economic effects of the CSA and its subsequent policy prove far-reaching.

For one, it created a permanent underclass, as generations of U.S. citizens funnel through a cycle of mass incarceration, stripped of voting rights, job opportunities, and the pursuit of happiness. America now possesses the highest incarceration rate in the world thanks to a dramatic spike in the ’80s, as President Reagan accelerated the paranoia that Nixon began.

reschedule marijuana war on drugs

In regard to marijuana, this issue affects minorities and African-Americans at an alarming rate, despite comparable levels of usage when compared to Whites. Is there a more telling chart of institutionalized racism and the epic failure of the drug war than the one below?


Right on schedule

Meanwhile, America is going green. Prohibition is collapsing state-by-state (just as it did with alcohol), and the majority of Americans now believe it should be legalized nationwide. This push is driven by Millennials, the thought-leaders on a reformed approach to marijuana.

And the domino effect of legalization continues, with 21 states offering medical cannabis, four allowing recreational use, and 17 decriminalizing it, rendering possession a similar offense to a minor traffic violation.


Let’s not forget the District of Columbia, a surprisingly pro-pot region that recently legalized the drug outright, despite considerable pushback from House Republicans. And yet with the movement striking the government capital, one would think the will of the American people would finally reach the Federal bubble. Not so.

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin. Here’s a look at what it takes to qualify:

  1. The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  2. The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

To provide some context, MDMA (or “molly”), Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and LSD are all Schedule I, though many theorize the latter is actually effective in treating PTSD and depression.

At the same time, opium, methamphetamine, and fucking cocaine are Schedule II substances, seen through the eyes of the government as less dangerous and more medically useful than marijuana. FYI, coke can be used as a topical anesthetic, which is totally how everyone uses it, right? Just powdering it over a wound? Right.

Moving on to Schedule IV, one can find Rohypnol, also known as “roofies” or the date-rape drug.

What gives?

So what does it say about the aforementioned onslaught of states verifying the medicinal use of marijuana with tangible law, while the Federal Government remains mum? Well, for starters, the medical qualities of weed are undeniable. It had long been used as a medicine before modern America, and continues to display astounding results on maladies like Glaucoma, complications from Cancer, and even epileptic seizures.

So much for “no currently accepted medical use in the United States,” considering it has nearly half of the United States’ lawful medical approval. Moreover, it’s “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” as famously stated in a movement to reschedule it 27 years ago.

You cannot feasibly overdose on weed unless you were to eat pounds of it, and even then, you’d probably just fall asleep watching Comedy Central and eating Doritos.

As for the “high potential for abuse,” the risk is significantly lower than alcohol or tobacco, both of which aren’t even included on the Controlled Substances Act.

Weed has been completely legal in Colorado for over a year, and the sky hasn’t fallen, people aren’t parading around naked practicing free love, and most aren’t even uncontrollably compelled to party with jazz musicians.

Progress at the hyper speed of government

carers act marijuana legalization

Rand Paul addressing the issue.

Finally, last week, a trio of U.S. senators crossed party lines to present the new CARERS Act (Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States), which vies to remove medical marijuana uncertainty at the federal level, and reclassify weed as a Schedule II substance—I suppose we’ll accept the same level as “cocaine anesthetic powder.”

Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), banded together, not for the right to hit a bong and go snowboarding, but for the increased research into the medicinal effects of marijuana.

As it stands, the Schedule I classification actively inhibits the ability to test and study the drug—an inexcusable and absurd stance based on archaic policy.

Senator Paul said: “There’s still a lot that’s unknown. We actually can’t do the studies to see if it’s a good treatment or a bad treatment [for certain conditions]. With Schedule I, it’s virtually impossible. It’s just too hard.”

No word on whether the three celebrated by hot-boxing their escort caravan. But even if they did, who cares? Marijuana is a harmless plant with medical benefits—it doesn’t transform those who use it into long-haired slackers, and it isn’t evil.

Like clockwork, President Obama shared his comments on the matter of legalization in a recent interview with VICE:

For 45 years, the U.S. has been the friend standing in the circle but refusing to hit the joint. Give in to the peer pressure already, America.

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