Legalizing marijuana is inevitable and will be achieved state by state, as is happening now, or at once by an act of Congress. In the meantime, the price we pay for not legalizing marijuana and hemp is growing as fast as the national debt. As part of this important trend, Cook County, Illinois, just announced plans to expunge decades of felony convictions for marijuana. The tide has turned.
To review, our jails are jammed with marijuana users and other low-level drug offenders, principally the poor and otherwise marginalized groups without effective legal counsel. Our courts are flooded with marijuana offenders, so much so that marijuana is a significant driver of crime rates across states where it is illegal. In states where it is legal, marijuana is not a significant factor in criminal activity.
Marijuana has significant medicinal properties. People have known about and relied upon marijuana for at least 5,000 years. Thirty-two states have legalized marijuana either for medical purposes (24) or altogether (10), a total of 64 percent of American states and the vast majority of our national population. North Dakota has decriminalized marijuana and legalized medical marijuana and hemp production.
Gov. Noem says she’s worried because law enforcement won’t be able to tell hemp from marijuana. She’s right; the argument that there is a difference between the two plants is pure sophistry. They are the same plant containing various levels of THC and CBD. When marijuana is legalized, her problem will disappear. Craig Price and his officers can quit worrying about “holding a firm line” against recognizing and legalizing plants that will be legal, ready or not.
The game we play with THC and CDB is as distracting as the false narrative about hemp and marijuana. Marijuana contains THC and CDB, among other things. The two chemicals work together to achieve medical efficacy for pain patients, seizure patients, cancer patients, and anyone else who finds relief from the good herbs of the field. Separating the two is an unnecessary exercise designed to solicit political support for marijuana and has nothing to do with medical use. Any pain patient can tell you that CDB has no effect on pain and that THC is the primary factor in relieving pain and nausea in chronic pain patients and cancer patients.
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Gov. Noem’s completely transparent 315-question roadblock inquiry to the Legislative summer study committee on legalizing hemp fooled no one. It is part of a pattern of official denial and avoidance favored by our state leadership when the issue of legalizing hemp or marijuana rises. Like the tide and taxes, the issue is rising again this year. Either we legalize it and move on or we accept the federal government’s judgement, leaving us with a program we didn’t design.
Republican lawmakers and farmers Oren Lesmeister and Lee Qualm waded in to support hemp and passed House Bill 1191 this year, later vetoed by Noem. They were appropriately responding to the inevitable, and they are taking the moral high ground. The fight against marijuana began in the 1920s when our government needed a way to monitor and control Mexican immigrants. A pharmacist who saw the monetary potential in controlling a commonly used plant sealed the deal.
It’s time to reverse a century of failed policy and legalize cannabis so we can produce hemp and use marijuana appropriately. The number of people who use marijuana, legally and illegally, is growing exponentially. Most states are profiting from hemp production for energy and agriculture, and most states recognize marijuana for medical and personal use.
Qualm was right not to answer the governor’s insincere inquiry.