Last week was a hell of a week for the Obama administration. He successfully negotiated the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is here to stay, and gay marriage is now just marriage.
I join a bunch of other people in saying “Yayyyy!” Something’s been irking me, though, since he took a few minutes to sit down with Vice News in March to discuss climate change, among other pressing issues. In that interview the topic of marijuana legalization was brought up.
“First of all it shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority,” Obama told Vice, “Let’s put it in perspective. Young people, I understand this is important to you. But you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs. War and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.”
Regardless of approval ratings, and a “Blame Obama” mentality, you’ve brought change. Just like you promised. With that acknowledgement of my liberal bleeding heart’s overwhelming respect, what the fuck? I care about marijuana legalization. It is my primary political issue. This issue that’s facing our country is THE issue in a young voter’s mind. I’m a millennial with a job in the burgeoning cannabis industry. That’s not why I think this way. I think this way because of my adolescent and adult experience in this country
At 16, I watched my country that was safe and secure be attacked. At 18, I said good-bye to a large number of young men that felt a call to duty to defend my country and my way of life. At 22, my friends that lived came home. They came home different. Not as young, idealistic or happy as they were four years before.
As another kick while they were down, they couldn’t get a job due to a struggling economy and the array of issues that going to war brings to a nation and it’s citizens. That’s also the first time I had ever heard the term “PTSD.”
Legal access to medicinal marijuana could have helped them incredibly. Veterans are and continue to be fucked in this country. Federal law currently limits doctors working for the government (specifically VA doctors), the ability to recommend any substance that is considered illegal. With a large portion of veterans relying in some way on the VA for their healthcare access, you can imagine what issues this can cause for a former soldier looking for relief through cannabis. It wasn’t until late May of this year that Congress even began a debate of this. And knowing Congress, they’ll table it until it’s closer to the election to leverage it’s political capital.
For me, this issue is clear; if they can look our enemies in the eyes and pull a trigger, they should be able to light up to ease their minds once they’re home.
At 17, a friend and I were pulled over leaving a movie. He was 19. He was arrested and taken to jail for half an ounce of weed. While he only spent a night in jail, that’s not the story for many of his counterparts across America. To give context, one marijuana related arrest happens every 42 seconds in this country. And it’s rising. Between 2001 and 2010 8.2 million arrests were attributed to marijuana. Of that, 88% were for possession. Over 7.2 million!!
An ACLU study in 2010 found that blacks and whites use cannabis at about the same rate. In some cases, whites more than blacks. And though that is true, black men in this country are almost 4x more likely to be arrested for possession. To go even further, if you’re black and in Iowa, Minnesota or Illinois, move. Now. A black man is 8x more likely to be arrested for marijuana related charges in those areas.
To give context, a simple possession charge, can mean losing a job and public benefits. Over $4 billion in public funds are spent annually enforcing marijuana laws every year. I join many Americans in thinking that money could be spent in our failing schools.
At 22, I and my fellow citizens experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression threatening the collapse of large financial institutions across the country. Americans lost their homes and jobs. Just when I was supposed to be looking for my first “real” job, there were none.
At 27, I began to dive into the wonderful world of pot & porn, and haven’t looked back. My brands’ ridiculous nature aside, there’s a legitimacy to the cannabis industry. It shouldn’t be reduced to a bunch of stoned young white guys with dreads selling glass pieces out of a strip mall. In Colorado, an estimated 10,000 jobs have been created since the legalization of recreational marijuana. Reports have cited the growth to be so great that it will go from an estimated $4 billion industry in 2014, to $30 billion in 2020.
If there’s another industry with that potential, I’d like to hear about it. I want to put naked girls all over it.
At 23 someone suggested that I could be depressed and should go see a doctor. I did, and unbeknownst to me, I was. They gave me a pill to solve my problems. This created more. I was a zombie. I went from caring about everything to caring about nothing. I spent 6 weeks on that pill before I decided I’d rather be sad than sit around staring at a wall devoid of all thought.
I am not alone. In America, 1 in 4 adults suffer from some form of mental illness. Patients that have experienced anxiety, depression, and PTSD have noted relief from medicinal marijuana usage over their Big Pharma counterparts. There’s also none of those pesky Big Pharma side effects like nausea, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety.
Endocannabinoids are chemicals in the brain that are very similar to cannabinoids in the marijuana plant. They contribute to our appetite, mood, pain sensations, as well as brain functions like cognition, behavior, and emotions. Our brains are literally mapped with receptors that work in tandem with the plant. In a 2011 study at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, patients diagnosed with social anxiety disorder were given CBD. The study then had patients undergo a brain scan, showing the CBD, significantly decreased activity in certain parts of the brain normally associated with anxiety.
At 22, I watched George W. Bush give a speech noting that illegal immigration was down. Well no fucking shit. There were no jobs. Shit was bad everywhere.
The majority of illegal marijuana in this country comes from Mexico and Central America. 500,000 people in these areas are employed by the illegal drug trade. That represents only 1% of the work force. It also attributes to 80% of the violence in those countries. International companies stray from bringing their operations to a place where security, kidnapping, and extortion are as regular as a Tuesday. Because of the overwhelming security risks, Mexico alone has limited the growth of it’s GDP by 1% year over year.
An overwhelming 10% of Mexico’s economy is made up of the $25 billion in drugs smuggled into this country. Legalizing marijuana in America allows for a legitimate importation from multiple sources south of the border. This allows for regulation which will directly correlate with a reduction in drug related deaths. With all of that being said, stabilizing areas that a wrought with violence and anarchy will reduce the desire and want to immigrate illegally.
At 15, I challenged my English Lit teacher to the point of suspension. In retrospect, I was a little shit and should have shown him way more respect. Sorry Mr. Patterson. I spent my suspension smoking with my friends and reading books that interested me.
At 24, I was making more than he was without a college degree or any real life experience. Legal marijuana in Colorado has generated more than $15 million in tax revenue for public schools. While they’re using this for school-construction money, other states can use it to pay the people teaching our next generation. I live in, literally (not colloquial, legitimately), the worst state when it comes to paying teachers. North Carolina: Home to bbq, the best sports rivalry ever (GO CAROLINA!), and pissed off educators. A close personal friend of mine works as a teacher in North Carolina, and has for over 10 years. She makes $37,000 a year. That can seem like a lot to some but really isn’t shit when you think about what and who she’s helping mold. Pot and porn pays better.
At 29, I am one of only 2 of my friends in my tax bracket that doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of student loan debt. This isn’t because I am some super saving ninja. It’s because I didn’t go. In late 2014 it was estimated that there is over $1 trillion in student loan debt in this country. 10% of these loans are currently in default. That’s fucking $100 billion (say it like Dr. Evil). This can and quite possibly will attribute to the next recession. The student loan bubble. Hopefully my well educated friends will be too big to fail. Over the past 20 years, students and their parents have watched as tuition has raised 4% at public universities. Tax revenue spent building a better public education system at the collegiate level, subsidizing these increases not only elevates and restores the working middle class but it also elevates our country’s ability to compete on the international stage.
At 20, I watched as hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens be displaced by a super-storm. Then again, at 27. Two super storms in drastically different climates drained billions in federal resources. They also changed how I view climate change. It’s a terrifying reality that the generations after me will have to endure. Cannabis and it’s sister plant, hemp, can save us from a scary future of becoming underground mole people living in a post-apocalyptic society that craves natural sunlight and fears the ocean as it rises to meet us in Montana.
To give a quick and dirty lesson on climate change, growing levels of carbon-dioxide is the cause. The mass levels of deforestation and burning of fossil fuels contribute to creating a thicker layer of CO2 making the Earth a warmer place. That sounds ok, until you take into account that it’s the cause of rising sea levels, death of polar bears (seriously the bears are dying) and rising rates of skin cancer. We’re fucking killing ourselves!
Cannabis and hemp, while not just a pretty face, have some pretty bad-ass properties. I don’t have the time or word count (the Content Director for Stoned Girls is already having an aneurysm) to list all of the awesome things. In short, it can be used for: food, biofuel, plastics, paper, cloth, resins, building materials, rope, and medicine. It does all of that while adapting in multiple different soil types. Not only can it replace a ridiculous amount of resources, it can help reverse the effects of global warming through the absorption of CO2 at a crazy rate. The rate of sequestration is 22 tons of carbon dioxide per 10,000 square meters (a hectare, or 2.471 acres), per harvest. To give an example, the oak tree in your front yard is raking in a whopping 48lbs per year. These plants, along with a larger biodiversity plan across the world, can help stop the terrifying idea that we’re all fucked in 100 years.
I Promise I’m Done
The education, reform and legalization of cannabis is my number one issue because I care about veteran issues, the overwhelming incarceration of American citizens, our education system, the 57.7 million Americans that suffer from diagnosable mental health issues, job creation, immigration and climate change. To me, and a lot of other Americans, it’s not only about getting high, it’s a quality of life issue.
The legalization of marijuana in America may not completely solve these issues but it does put a hell of a dent in them. To use your quote this week in reference to the SCOTUS ruling that the DOMA act was unconstitutional, “Today we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we have made our union a little more perfect.” I hold out hope that, as a nation and in my lifetime, we’ll be able to echo those same sentiments by openly lighting a joint in celebration that marijuana is legal, decriminalized and as accessible as all of the shitty craft beers my generation loves.
I am interested in watching the politicians hash this out (see what I did there) in 2016. If you’re interested in learning more about the issues I have referenced, keep checking back. We’ll be covering each issue in depth over the next few months and linking back to them here. We promise the girls still will be naked.
Thanks for reading.
Breeanna Whitehead @stonedgirls.com