Thomas Jefferson regarded the pursuit of happiness as one of Americans’ unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and likely there are few citizens who would argue with his sentiment. One would assume that as long as an individual American’s pursuit of happiness did not infringe on any other American’s rights, they should be allowed to follow their pursuit unimpeded. However, there are laws and statutes on the books that restrict the pursuit of happiness despite there is no practical reason for their existence. Over the Labor Day weekend, three elderly men were arrested in their pursuit of happiness, and for all intents and purposes they were guilty of a victimless crime of soliciting a willing partner they were willing to pay for casual sex.
If the three men, aged 83, 76, and 72 lived in Nevada where prostitution is legal and regulated, not only would their pursuit of happiness have been fulfilled (at least momentarily), they would be free of a criminal record and $500 richer and it highlights another victimless crime in 48 states; recreational marijuana use. There are valid arguments that marijuana use is not victimless, but they are predicated on the simple fact it is regarded as contraband that opened the door for criminals to control its supply and distribution much like alcohol during the Prohibition era in America. In fact, although there was organized crime before Prohibition, making alcohol contraband contributed to the rise of the mafia and the subsequent cycle of violence between gangs and law enforcement the era is notorious for.
There has been a movement to decriminalize marijuana possession and use for at least two decades, and one of the arguments in favor of recreational use is eliminating the criminal element involved in its distribution. One would think law enforcement officials would welcome eliminating a major revenue source for foreign and domestic organized criminals, but they have been staunch opponents of legalizing the weed for personal or medicinal use because as contraband, it is a major source of funding for law enforcement. Last week, organizations representing the nation’s sheriffs, narcotics officers, and police chiefs assailed Attorney General Eric Holder when he announced the Justice Department would allow Washington state and Colorado to move forward and implement new state laws legalizing recreational marijuana use by adults.
The law enforcement groups sent a harsh letter to Holder expressing their “extreme disappointment” that they were not consulted prior to his announcement, and launched into their typical lies about the weed and its effects. The group warned Holder that liberalizing marijuana laws will lead to an increase in violent crimes, addiction, and cause suicidal thoughts. Obviously the law enforcement officials have never used marijuana or cannot comprehend that legalization eliminates the criminality they complain will increase. The letter claimed “The decision will undoubtedly have grave unintended consequences, including a reversal of the declining crime rates that we as law enforcement practitioners have spent more than a decade maintaining.” However, the letter did not address the abject failure of law enforcement’s war on drugs that has not reduced the weed’s use, or that the number of Americans in jail tripled due to their war on a plant capable of growing in any Americans’ back yard. Likely, law enforcement is not concerned about rising crime rates, suicidal thoughts, or increasing drug use, but the loss of funding for police departments that keep assets seized during drug raids, or the federal grants for conducting operations in the war on drugs such as search and seizure raids.
From a practical standpoint, if the weed was legal, or regulated and taxed like alcohol, it would eliminate the criminal element and bring in substantial revenue to fund law enforcement and programs to address the real drug-related plagues facing America; alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in America affecting all demographics and costing taxpayers dearly. As it stands now, 15-million Americans suffer from alcohol dependency, and it is responsible for 85,000 American deaths every year on top of 16,000 drunken driving fatalities. Alcohol is also implicated in diseases such as anemia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, dementia, depression, seizures, gout, high blood pressure, and nerve disease, but it is legal because it is profitable for corporations.
The detrimental effects of marijuana are that it can interfere with attention, judgment, and balance while under its influence, but it has numerous and well-documented medical and health benefits such as smiling, migraine relief, slows Alzheimer’s disease, stops cancer from spreading, prevents blindness from glaucoma, controls epileptic seizures and calms Tourette’s syndrome, treats depression, and many others. There are also no documented cases of death by overdose inherent with alcohol abuse. As an aside, another organic product that does not require a corporation to manufacture, process, distribute, and create profits is psilocybin (magic mushrooms) that has documented mental health benefits including to treat alcoholism that were revealed in a recent 50-year study.
The only reason marijuana is still illegal is two-fold and they both are tied to revenue. First, because any American can grow the weed in their backyard, corporations cannot profit off its recreational use. Second, keeping it as contraband is a major revenue source for law enforcement, drug cartels, and the for-profit prison industry that are interdependent on each other’s continued activities. In California in 2010, Proposition 19 was put on the ballot that legalized recreational marijuana for personal use for people 21 and older, but the measure was defeated in great part due to an influx of cash from the alcohol lobby, California Police Chiefs Association, and the California Narcotics Officers Association. There was also suspected influence by Mexican drug cartels that, like law enforcement and the alcohol lobby, had a financial stake in keeping the backyard plant illegal.
The time to decriminalize marijuana for personal recreational use is long past due in all 50 states and it is one of the reasons law enforcement sent a furious letter to Attorney General Holder condemning him for respecting Colorado and Washington’s new laws. The various law enforcement associations wrote,
“The failure of the Department of Justice to challenge state policies is both unacceptable and unprecedented. The failure of the Federal government to act in this matter is an open invitation to other states to legalize marijuana in defiance of federal law” (bold theirs). It is also an open invitation to allow Americans the freedom to pursue happiness as they see fit, and regardless it affects law enforcement, drug cartels, and alcohol industry’s source of revenue, decriminalizing marijuana for personal use will take the “crime” out of a victimless recreation.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.