The ‘war on drugs’ has been so loud that we’ve been prevented from hearing the sounds that make sense for people who have found social, medical, professional, economic or spiritual benefits from Marijuana. After a series of reports, documentaries and local conversations even at the parliamentary level, I was moved to write this review. It is my own attempt to reveal what has been a vexed conversation fraught with, among other things, problems, hypocrisy, ignorance, disrespect and sabotage.
Having been exposed to marijuana use as a culture among university students and colleagues, I had a sense of Jamaica’s deep attachment to marijuana especially in the context of the Rastafari community for which ganja is the holy herb. While my interest at a cultural level was solid, my interest at an academic and personal level, even at the level of advocacy, began when I began to see the hypocrisy around a ‘war on drugs’ that excluded those waging said war. My quest picked up steam when @stuartsmellie introduced me to The Union: The Business of Getting High, popularly referred to as ‘The Best Marijuana Documentary’, which I watched, shared and continue to speak of as one of the most comprehensive visual representations of the marijuana conundrum.
The Best Marijuana Documentary
Most significantly, the legal history of cannabis in the United States cannot be avoided in contextualising the problem so go ahead and take a look. Supported by the Best Marijuana Documentary above, that history becomes interesting at a legal level especially when analysing marijuana use for medical, spiritual and most importantly economic reasons. Just in case you are unaware, some 20 States along with the capital have proceeded with various levels of decriminalisation especially for medical use.
States With Legal Medical Marijuana as at November 2013 http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881
|State||Year Passed||How Passed
|1. Alaska||1998||Ballot Measure 8 (58%)||$25/$20||1 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)|
|2. Arizona||2010||Proposition 203 (50.13%)||$150/$75||2.5 oz usable; 0-12 plants2|
|3. California||1996||Proposition 215 (56%)||$66/$33||8 oz usable; 6 mature or 12 immature plants4|
|4. Colorado||2000||Ballot Amendment 20 (54%)||$35||2 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)|
|5. Connecticut||2012||House Bill 5389 (96-51 House, 21-13 Senate)||TBD*||One-month supply (exact amount to be determined)|
|6. DC||2010||Amendment Act B18-622 (13-0 vote)||$100/$25||2 oz dried; limits on other forms to be determined|
|7. Delaware||2011||Senate Bill 17 (27-14 House, 17-4 Senate)||$125||6 oz usable|
|8. Hawaii||2000||Senate Bill 862 (32-18 House; 13-12 Senate)||$25||3 oz usable; 7 plants (3 mature, 4 immature)|
|9. Illinois||2013||House Bill 1 (61-57 House; 35-21 Senate)||TBD*||2.5 ounces of usable cannabis during a period of 14 days|
|10. Maine||1999||Ballot Question 2 (61%)||No fee||2.5 oz usable; 6 plants|
|11. Massachusetts||2012||Ballot Question 3 (63%)||TBD7||Sixty day supply for personal medical use|
|12. Michigan||2008||Proposal 1 (63%)||$100/$25||2.5 oz usable; 12 plants|
|13. Montana||2004||Initiative 148 (62%)||$25/$10||1 oz usable; 4 plants (mature); 12 seedlings|
|14. Nevada||2000||Ballot Question 9 (65%)||$2008||1 oz usable; 7 plants (3 mature, 4 immature)|
|2013||House Bill 573 (284-66 House; 18-6 Senate)||TBD*||Two ounces of usable cannabis during a 10-day period|
|16. New Jersey||2010||Senate Bill 119 (48-14 House; 25-13 Senate)||$200/$20||2 oz usable|
|17. New Mexico||2007||Senate Bill 523 (36-31 House; 32-3 Senate)||$0||6 oz usable; 16 plants (4 mature, 12 immature)|
|18. Oregon||1998||Ballot Measure 67 (55%)||$200/$10010||24 oz usable; 24 plants (6 mature, 18 immature)|
|19. Rhode Island||2006||Senate Bill 0710 (52-10 House; 33-1 Senate)||$75/$10||2.5 oz usable; 12 plants|
|20. Vermont||2004||Senate Bill 76 (22-7) HB 645 (82-59)||$50||2 oz usable; 9 plants (2 mature, 7 immature)|
|21. Washington||1998||Initiative 692 (59%)||**||24 oz usable; 15 plants|
The United States is moving full speed ahead at the State level with various levels of decriminalisation ahead of a ‘backward’ federal machinery that has been ‘conveniently’ slow in making bold moves that States have been given the liberty to make. The United States’ ganja economy is boosting the overall economy especially of States such as Colorado where ‘ganjapreneurship’ is the order of the day. Look no further than Doug Fine’s recently published book Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution which seals the point and puts needed perspective on marijuana’s benefits to the the USA, specifically in boosting the economy, reducing the prison population, and ending the drug war death toll.
While some countries have had long histories of marijuana consumption and even relaxed legal frameworks, some have had trouble with renewed interest in clamping down on use in pot shops such as the Netherlands. Arguably though, at the international level, it is Uruguay that has been most vocal on the sale of marijauna in tandem with calls from many quarters to legalise marijuana for tax revenue in the United States. President José Mujica is determined to make new moves in the fight against criminals. The Uruguayan plan is ‘to create a government-run legal marijuana industry to combat criminals’. Similarly, Israel is clear that legalising cannabis will boost its economic revenues.
Stay tuned for Part II of this post which takes the conversation to Jamaica.