Why I care about the 4th of July holiday, and you should too.
July 4th for me has always been Independence Day. The most quintessential of our national patriotic sentiments, Independence is at the core of what it means for me to be an American. This weekend I’m celebrating Freedom, Independence and Cannabis.
I started smoking marijuana back in the 1970s, and have been a regular consumer ever since. Cannabis use for me has always been about freeing my mind, allowing the anxiety and rigidity of social conformity to fall away, and the expansive and magical possibility of the natural world to open up. Marijuana has been integral to my Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.
Despite otherwise being an upstanding, productive member of society, for most of my life my pot smoking made me a criminal. Every bag of weed that I bought from a buddy, every joint I toked with friends was a criminal act, and made me an outlaw in the eyes of my government. Every time that I freed my mind, I risked losing my livelihood and my liberty.
The war on drugs – really a war on marijuana users – has always been a political war meant to quell independent thought and political freedom. Pot smokers were the targets of discrimination and prosecution because we questioned authority. We challenged the status quo – about the war, civil rights, sexual expression and consumer culture. We turned on, tuned in and dropped out of the system, and the powers-that-be declared a war on us — a war that is still waging to this day to devastating effect.
According to the ACLU, over half of all drug arrests in the United States are for marijuana. There were 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% for simple pot possession, with Blacks 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested.
As a society we’re ready to end the federal prohibition of cannabis. Citizens in four states have already voted for legalization of the adult use of marijuana. Polls consistently confirm that a solid majority of Americans support a full legalization of marijuana. This November, citizens in 8 states, including Arizona, Florida, Maine, Nevada, Michigan and California, will get the chance to vote on cannabis legalization. We, the people, can and are making a difference with our votes.
As the fastest growing industry in the country, Legal Cannabis has been an engine for creating jobs, reinvigorating local communities and filling government tax coffers. Legalization has provided economic independence for tens of thousands of Americans, not just for the hundreds of new licensed growers, processors and retailers, but also for the many ancillary businesses that support them.
With economic power comes independence and normalization. As the legal cannabis industry generates tax dollars, we also amass political currency and power. Local, State and even Federal Politicians are beginning to appreciate that cannabis companies represent jobs, votes, taxes and political donations. We also represent significant intellectual capital – and state and local governments and regulators are turning to the cannabis industry subject matter experts to aid them in crafting the legislation and regulations that will shape our new, post-prohibition future.
On this July 4th, I celebrate the freedom that I enjoy as an adult living in Washington State to purchase and consume cannabis legally, and I commit to doing everything that I can to see that this right is extended to all Americans.