It’s no surprise that the vast majority of my interactions—be they electronic or IRL—are with people, businesses, and organizations that you could describe as “pro-cannabis.” A lot of them are employed in the industry, in both the recreational and medical fields, and might have financial interests in the biz as business owners, investors, or employees. Or they’re medical patients who use cannabis to relieve any number of physical and psychological ailments and conditions. Or they’re simply consumers—people who partake of cannabis in its many forms to enhance, enrich, and increase the enjoyment levels of their professional and personal lives.
Most of the other people I come into contact with may not have any financial or personal stakes in legalized cannabis, but they have no problem with those who do, and recognize that the people who produce, provide, and partake of cannabis are their neighbors, friends, children, parents, and partners—not strung-out addicts, violent cartel members, or whatever probably racist stereotype the anti-cannabis industry has put forth for decades. Even non-users can recognize that a legal and regulated recreational program generates tax revenue and creates jobs, and not feel the need to limit access to cannabis, or ostracize and punish its users and producers.
But this column and my other work occasionally exposes me to people who feel differently, and their concerns and fears (emphasis on “fears”). My recent takeaway is that people who don’t support growing access to legal cannabis around the country are afraid of the many, many horrible things that’ll happen when that access is established. (I’m not including anyone who financially benefits from cannabis prohibition, such as pharmaceutical companies, the correctional facility industry, or certain branches of law enforcement—in this case, I’m looking at individuals and advocacy groups.)
There’s no shortage of examples, I’m sorry to say—check out the May 25, 2016 edition of Cannabuzz for some culprits—but two more recently came to my attention. While it’s valuable to maintain awareness of what those on the other side are stating and supporting, it’s not much fun. These two are “trigger warning” worthy, so you may wish to avoid them like those animal cruelty TV commercials where they’re rescuing those poor dogs and OH GOD CHANGE THE CHANNEL! CHANGE THE CHANNEL!
First up: The brain trust at Facebook made a page suggestion to me for a group called “Parents Opposed to Pot,” which took me to their site (poppot.org). If you need a one-stop site filled with hysterical fear-based misinformation and rabid foaming at the mouth over cannabis and those who partake, welcome! They can boast all varieties of ill-informed rant, such as “The Truth of Deaths Caused by Marijuana Overdose”; a warning of those who “Dumpster Dive for Weed”; and “Marijuana Lobby Plays Retribution and Slander to the Max,” in which Oregon gets a shout out. Enter this tinfoil-hat brigade of fuckery only after you’ve partaken of a relaxing strain and are ready to abandon all hope of rational thought and constructive engagement.
Up next: The state of New Jersey has been exploring implementing a regulated legalization program for cannabis, and the Legislative Black Caucus, comprised of 19 Democrats, recently heard testimony. During the first of three forums on the matter, on February 21, they heard from 17 speakers, only two of whom were in favor of legalization. The meeting was organized and led by Senator Ronald Rice, a former police detective opposed to legalization. Rice refused to allow testimony from the head of the local ACLU-NJ coalition, New Jersey United For Legalization Reform, and instead recruited 15 fervent anti-cannabis speakers with the help of the Virginia-based nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).
SAM is worried that “Big Cannabis” is on par with Big Tobacco, but that’s just one of their fears. Regarding medical cannabis, they state on their website that “smoking the raw form of marijuana is akin to smoking opium to get the effects of morphine” and that “marijuana meets the technical definition of [a] Schedule I [drug] because it has a high potential for abuse and has no FDA-approved use.” They are pro-Jeff Sessions. Enough said.
This is what prohibitionist belief systems currently look like, and this is how they shape arguments through misinformation. If you want to convince someone who’s on the fence about cannabis, it helps to explore what the opposition believes. Then speak truth to power, loudly.