By ABIGAIL BUCHHOLZ
Marijuana should be legalized in Virginia and across the nation for two reasons. First, the basis for marijuana’s classification as a schedule one drug was laced with the racist views of the system’s creators. Second, if America truly espouses liberty, then citizens should have the liberty to impact their health positively or negatively without the government’s infringement.
As of 2019, marijuana is illegal under federal law–despite 22 states legalizing forms of medical marijuana and 65 percent of Americans supporting legalization, according to a CBS poll from April. The federal illegality of marijuana was originally established by the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, which also created the drug scheduling system.
There are five official schedules of drugs, with schedule one drugs being considered the most dangerous, having no medical use and a high potential for abuse. The current schedule one drugs include heroin, ecstasy, LSD and marijuana. Cocaine and meth are considered less dangerous than marijuana, as they are schedule two drugs. This scheduling system is absurd.
“I don’t think anyone in their right mind who knows anything about substance usage would ever put weed alongside heroin,” said freshman Liam Kiely.
Having marijuana as a schedule one drug makes it difficult for scientists to explore the benefits of marijuana. This scheduling system has created a cycle of anti-legalization politicians claiming that there are no medical uses for marijuana, but then allowing the system to hinder research on marijuana.
The racism of the criminalization of marijuana predates the Controlled Substance Act and racial profiling currently used by the police force. In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act was passed with the help of Harry Anslinger, the commissioner for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
In regards to the criminalization of marijuana Anslinger said, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
The racist origins of marijuana criminalization continued following the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act, when black Americans were three times more likely than whites to be arrested for violating narcotic drug laws. As of 2010 the bias persisted. The ACLU reported that “black people were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people, even though both groups consume marijuana at about the same rate.”
The criminalization of marijuana also infringes on the liberty of all Americans.
Liberty is defined as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior or political views.”
Those against marijuana legalization warn of the drug’s dangerous side effects, but Americans are already able to consume a highly addictive drug that kills an average of 480,000 people a year, tobacco.
The health risks to marijuana are on par, if not less than, those of cigarettes. The Center for Disease Control claims that smoking causes more deaths per year than HIV, illegal drug use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm-related incidents combined. They also claim that more than 10 times as many US citizens have died from smoking-related health issues than all those who died in wars fought by the US.
The CDC further warns that the consumption of both marijuana and cigarettes could lead to: addiction, damage to lung tissue and a greater risk of bronchitis. The CDC claims that the research on marijuana and its link to cancer is inconclusive, while cigarettes are proven to be the leading cause of lung cancer.
The discrepancies in the drug scheduling system are confusing, misleading and are labeling addictive substances based on outdated biases and research. The government needs to take a logical look at what is legal and what isn’t.
I’m by no means saying that people should go and smoke a pack of cigarettes or get high every day. I’m saying it should be up to the individual to decide what they do with their own bodies. It makes no sense that a person can consume one addictive substance over another because one is more socially acceptable.
“Cigarettes are terrible for you, just like alcohol can ruin your liver. Weed should be legal because it’s less dangerous than alcohol,” said Savannah Roberts, a junior political science major.
Marijuana should be legalized because the laws that criminalize it are outdated and based on systemic racism. The liberty of Americans depends on the freedom to make choices that you know aren’t good for you.