America badly in need of rethinking the drug policy

I am about half way through my undergraduate studies here at the University, and suddenly had the urge to get involved in something.

I hadn’t really participated in campus activities, so I recently found myself in the Union picking up forms to start an organization. I have had these forms for some time now and for some reason I could not bring myself to fill them out.

I wanted to start up the campus chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) again, because I passionately believe the so-called “War on Drugs” has been an utter failure and our federal government refuses to recognize this.

However, after contemplating the implications of starting such an organization and the effects it may have on my personal life, and on my future as both a student and citizen of our country, I could not bring myself to subject my future to chance. The reality is if I started such an organization, I would be alerting myself to the powers that be, which control the unjust drug laws of our country, and they may or may not notice me.

I smoke marijuana. I’ve never hurt anyone doing it. The only negative side is the unjust drug policy which I, like many others, encountered firsthand when I was convicted of “drug abuse” charges. Remarkably, it is federal law for a student caught with cannabis to lose all their financial aid.

I am an otherwise law-abiding citizen: I pay my taxes, I pay my rent and my bills and I’m trying to do well in school so I can graduate and become a productive member of society.

No one has ever died from smoking marijuana. Cannabis use has been around for thousands of years. Even as prominent a figure as President Obama has admitted to smoking marijuana and doing cocaine in college. Contrary to what the media likes to portray, there are people who use drugs recreationally and responsibly. What I do to my body in my house is my business. What don’t law-makers and law-enforcement officials get about this concept?

I find it a sad day in America when by simply questioning the laws of government, I find my constitutional rights of freedom of speech, assembly and petitioning of the government in jeopardy because of a plant. I am, however, not naive.

The government makes money off unfair seizure laws (another constitutional right down the drain), apparently more than they could by legalizing and taxing an already existing product.

They make money putting people through our country’s racist criminal justice system, where in some states, non-violent drug offenders are locked up longer than rapists and child-molesters.

Our prison system was privatized recently, which means that our government lets contractors take care of our prisoners – contractors which are for-profit companies that make money for more people being in jail.

Since its inception, people have petitioned the government to stop their useless and banal “War on Drugs” but the government will not listen. Slowly, though, there has been some progression with medical marijuana in 13 states and it appears change may actually be coming.

As Bob Dylan sang, “The times, they are a’changing.” We now have an African-American president, and while it is a sign of decreased racial tensions, it surely does not mean that racism has disappeared.

Over 750,000 people, most of whom are users and not high-level dealers – people with families, friends and loved ones – go to prison every year for a plant. The government spends billions of our tax dollars on a drug war that isn’t working.

I’m not suggesting legalization of all drugs, but we have to take a look at our current policy and see which drugs are really dangerous and which ones aren’t. Marijuana is not.

While some states have voted and agreed that medical marijuana is acceptable, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Office of National Drug Control Policy ignore the voice of the people and apparently do not care about the opinions of the American citizens who pay their salaries.

We can do better than this.

-By Jordan Givens