Marijuana not as dangerous as people want you to think

The racist history of weed and its demonization may surprise you


Written By Lauren Ortego, Co-Opinions Editor

I remember the first time I ever caught a whiff of weed like it was yesterday. I was walking in San Francisco with my family at around age 13 or 14, when a very fashionable young man passed me.

“Ew, what is that awful smell? Was it that guy? He didn’t look homeless.”

Growing up in the area that I did, I knew what weed was and I knew that, through my socialization and upbringing in a community that enforced the D.A.R.E. program in our schools, the people who smoked it were criminals and low-lifes.

As I got older, I did my own, uh, research and learned more about it, its effects and what owning and selling it could lead to, I’ve found my opinion of it to have drastically changed.

Now, I’m every conservative’s worst nightmare.

No, I’m not a lesbian communist hell-bent on destroying the fundamentals of Republicanism and religion in America. But I might as well be.

I’m a supporter of legalizing weed.

Here’s the thing – weed? Not that bad. That’s not me saying it’s good for you, although you could argue the case for medical marijuana, which does in fact help many people – from cancer patients to people who suffer from seizures.

If you’re not yet a fully developed adult, about 25 years-old, it could stunt your cognitive growth and affect your memory, according to researchers at Duke University.

To go a step further, alcohol and tobacco use is widely considered by scientists to be far more dangerous than smoking some sweet ganja. Like I said, that of course doesn’t make it perfectly safe, but it’s arguable that no one has died from a marijuana overdose, whereas tobacco is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the United States.

Let’s say you’re against everything weed, and what its smokers stand for. You’re probably asking yourself, “If it’s not that bad, then why is it illegal? Checkmate.”

That’s a great question, and the answer is vaguely complicated and has quite a long history in addition to a few key reasons attached to it, but the simple answer is this: xenophobia.

People have been growing weed for thousands of years, and there’s evidence of it being used in ancient cities and civilizations. It was even legal in America until the downfall of prohibition lead to the search for a new substance to demonize.

Americans already hated Mexicans (they kinda still do) and what comes from Mexico? You got it – a rich culture with colorful roots, my ancestors and marijuana.

The fight to associate marijuana with criminal Mexicans who, upon smoking weed, thirsted for the blood of white women was on.

Ronald Reagan also didn’t help. His war on drugs was, literally, just a way for him to criminalize his political opposers – hippies and African-Americans. Reagan’s administration did this all with the knowledge that they were lying through their teeth about the effects of using the drug.

Now, here comes the part where I tell you why I’ve decided to take an hour or so of my time to type all of this information out to you.

Recently, Jeff Sessions, professional House Elf and Attorney General to the United States, announced last week that he is rescinding the Cole memo. Which, according to CNN, “reflected the Department of Justice’s relatively passive policy under the Obama administration since August 2013 on enforcement of federal cannabis laws.”

Here’s the thing: the cannabis industry in states which have allowed it to flourish is too big for this to even make a small hole in anything currently going on there. He likely made the announcement as a reminder that he is a time traveler who brought his ideals from 1931 with him.

Or as a way to warn those who have become comfortable in their legal weed shenanigans in states like California and Colorado respectively, that they have an enemy, and I want you to know the sides of marijuana that the D.A.R.E. program wouldn’t DARE teach you. Ha. Get it?

If you read all of this and you still don’t get it, let me put it a different way, “Weed is, like, not even that bad for you, bro. What’s really bad is the government criminalizing hundreds of thousands of black men and women more than their white counterparts despite white and black people smoking weed at approximately the same rates because of racism from the 70s and purposefully misinformed panic.”