The favorite holiday of habitual weed smokers has arrived: it is once again 4/20, the 20th of April. Nationwide, those that enjoy smoking marijuana will celebrate today in solidarity with each other. In 18 of the 50 states, that won’t be an issue. Recreational marijuana use is legal in those states, namely Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Those living in the non-US states of Washington DC, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands may also enjoy themselves without fear of state violence.
Of course, this does lead to a massive problem: less than half of the United States can enjoy recreational cannabis. While some states have decriminalized the plant, legalized it for medical use, or both, others have left marijuana to be classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. This means they view marijuana as a dangerous, abusable substance with no medical benefits, and it is thus highly illegal to have in your possession.
How did this come to pass? Well, you could look back to President Nixon’s “War on Drugs”, where marijuana officially became a Schedule 1 drug and felony offense. You could also look back to the first time marijuana became stigmatized, when refugees of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, many of them recreational smokers, fled to the United States, and smoking marijuana became more commonplace – but the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant sentiment of the USA led to the smoking of marijuana being looked down upon (1) (2).
By 1936, it was illegal in every state, but not federally, for non-medical use. In 1937, this too would change as the Federal government would pass the “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937”, placing a mandatory tax on the sale of cannabis. As it was already illegal in the states, this was essentially the death blow, but come 33 years later with the Controlled Substances Act, it was a felony.
It cannot be understated the damage that this decision has caused this country. According to the Bureau of Prisons’ website, 45.3% of prisoners in this country are in jail on drug related charges (3) . That is nearly 65,000 prisoners. Of that number, roughly 40,000 people are in jail for marijuana possession (4). In a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, and in a country where prison labor is slavery (the 13th amendment states that slavery and involuntary servitude shall not exist in the USA “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”), you can see how this is long past the point of problematic. This is a systematic problem that needs correction.
The United States Pirate Party calls for the long overdue federal legalization of marijuana. We call for the states to not drag their feet on the issue and wait for the federal government, instead legalizing recreational use themselves. We demand that all those locked up for marijuana related charges be released and have the charges expunged from their records. Finally, we call for the end of the War of Drugs.
4/20 is a time to enjoy one’s self. It is despicable that citizens in this country can be considered and charged as a criminal or felon for something others can go to their local dispensary and enjoy freely. Everyone deserves the right to freely enjoy recreational marijuana without retribution. The fight will not end until the persecution of those in possession of marijuana does.
Happy 4/20 from the US Pirate Party. Please enjoy yourself responsibly.
This article was authored by Mitch Davilo and Edited by Rose Klein.