Launch Slideshow
Marijuana possession arrests in New York over two decades broken down by race.
H.G. Levine

Legalize by 2010.

Why the War on Drugs must and will be ended within the next half decade

Publication YearIssue Date 

Here's a crazy idea that may sound a bit absurd, but follow me through on this:

Cannabis will be legalized in the United States of America by 2010.

"Totally absurd," you say, as you shuffle the pages and mutter something about illogical and idealistic hippies with no grounding in reality. Even those who would support such a concept would have an idealism tempered by decades of disappointment and be--rightly--cynical about any sort of far-reaching change like that. And geez, wouldn't legalization come after decriminalization?

Why on Earth would he think something so goddamn silly?

The prohibition of cannabis (and indeed, the entire orchestration of the U.S.-led "War On Drugs") is likely the single most-neglected social justice issue of the last two decades in North America. When people think of the term "drug abuser," they think of homeless crack cocaine-addicts spoiling the beauty of downtown or causing harm upon innocent citizens, not non-violent cannabis users, many of whom use cannabis in a legitimate medicinal fashion. Flipping through the pages of Treating Yourself, the closest the cannabis community has to a full-fledged academic journal, one quickly realizes that pot offenders aren't the problem.

So why have cannabis arrests in the United States skyrocketed in the last ten years?

Cannabis is actively being pursued as the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) drug of choice, a development that's only taken place recently. In 2002, deputy director for state and local affairs Scott Burns was quoted in a letter to state prosecutors as saying that "no drug matches the threat posed by marijuana." A fantastic Rolling Stone article ("How America Lost the War on Drugs," Ben Wallace-Wells) quotes drug czar John Walters as equating cannabis growers to "terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties." The numbers are even scarier than the rhetoric. A study by a Harry Levine at Queens College in New York shows arrest rates for cannabis possession increased from 39,000 between 1987 and 1996 to 362,000 in the last decade. That's over nine times the rate of the decade prior. While the less rational among us will argue such an increase is because of the inherently addictive and destructive nature of such a terrible, terrible drug, the more rationale (such as those among us who've read the dozens and dozens of medical reports stating that prior conclusion is most definitely not the case) will realize this is a politically- and ideologically-motivated attack on an incredibly intelligent and diverse community.

Obviously, a trend of increasing drug arrests is in no way indicative of a future trend of legalization. However, there is also a U.S. presidential election in the works and it's increasingly likely a young, mixed-race Democrat will take the vote.

But so what? Potheads have been wanting to legalize cannabis for ages, and neither Kerry nor Gore hinted at even decriminalization when they ran. Add to the fact the sheep-like mainstream voter is deathly afraid at the devil merry-ju-wanna and it looks like the second verse will be the same as the first.

Obama, however, is significantly different from both Kerry and Gore. U.S. political culture has also dramatically changed since 2004. Bush's rhetoric of fear was entirely effective due to not only a mediocre Democratic nominee but also prevailing worries about Iraq and the War on Terror. There's also the trend of Americans generally not voting out the incumbent during a time of war.

How Obama also differs is that even if you discount his mixed-heritage he's--to use probably the understatement of the year--probably at least a little bit more sensitive to black issues than Bush. This is significant because the War on Pot is heinously discriminatory towards minorities. In the Levine study, 85 per cent of the people jailed for marijuana possession were either black or hispanic. The rate of incarceration in New York for blacks is nearly 3.8 times that of whites. Taken to a national level, the rate is two and a half times greater. Worse, in some parts like Syracuse, the rate is nearly ten times that of whites.

Regardless of how you interpret this, the fact of the matter is that there is an immense number of non-violent black drug offenders in prison. In fact, according to an International Herald Tribune article, 2008 marked the first time in history when more than one in every hundred Americans was in prison. The total U.S. prison population is in the neighbourhood of 1.6 million. According to a separate source, an estimated 80 per cent are non-violent drug offenders. How is this sustainable in any capacity? If you look at the graph of incarceration rates, it's an exponential curve. One would think it would level out, however, it hasn't. Furthermore, states spend almost 7 per cent of their entire budget on corrections, behind only the three big ones: health care, education and transportation.

Consequently, there's both a financial and social aspect to the situation. It is quite likely the black community will pressure Obama to do something about the fact they're being unfairly discriminated against (whether this is true or not, though I tend to veer towards the former), and if not, then the obscene cost of the U.S. prison state will result in at least some sort of leniency towards drug offenders by necessity alone. The average cost to imprison a single person for a year in the U.S. is $23,876. This doesn't even begin to touch upon the lost income tax revenue potentially generated if those jailed for cannabis sale or production were able to legitimately make their living. The British Columbia marijuana industry is worth over $8 billion according to a Fraiser Institute study--and that's in a country of 33 million. Were cannabis legalized in the States, a country of 230 million, the money made from taxes would be enough to fund either the War on Terror or something like health care ad infinitum. It doesn't matter which end of the political spectrum you lean towards, legalization makes brilliant financial sense.

I also believe that if the Democrats are smart and want to dismantle the Republican party for the next two decades, they will try to differentiate themselves from the Bush administration as much as humanly possible. What better way to do this than to legalize an innocuous substance that has been demonized by conservatives since time immemorial? The near-fascist detention of cannabis users can easily be coupled with the near-fascist manner in which Obama's predecessor has done everything. Were the Democrats and media to historically paint the Bush administration as fascist, the notion of President Jeb Bush will seem utterly farcical come 2012.

None of this will ever come to fruition if the cannabis-using population of the U.S. remains silent. If there is to be change in the manner I've described, it has to come from massive grass-roots pressure--no pun intended. If cannabis prohibition in the United States ends, it will end everywhere. How utterly bizarre would a news story about Canadians trying to extradite U.S. pot seed dealers sound? Canada is economically pressured by the U.S. in the bulk of our domestic policy and this is just another instance where we'd follow--and this time, it wouldn't even cause us national queasiness.

Freedom's coming in 2010. Spread the word.




this sounds like the best news I have heard for a long time... I live in Australia, but if the U.S. gives in, so will the rest of the world

Something has got to give with the debate over which is the worst drug in the world. The Fact of the matter is we need to start saving money and invest in our children's future if that means allowing those who wish to consume a plant in the privacy of there own home so be it. But don't take lightly to the fact that once the government is involved there would be far reaching GOOD in this country. I am not touting that it is less likely for someone to be violent, merely that if we are to provide for the future of our children, ie, our country then we must wake up to the fact that there would be a massive sub-culture impact that would create a global reaching economic boon.

Thank you for writing the truth. That is all that is needed anymore. Unfortunately, nowadays those that speak the truth are thought of as "kooks" or " crazy".

Sadly a lot of the Alberta media and politicians prefer not to research the truth or even outright ignore it for all to many decades to date. From the Frazer Institute, 2002 Special Senate committee to 1972 Le Dain commission and a whole host of other studies that say prohibition of cannabis causes a lot more harms then the drug itself.

Sadly cannabis is still saddled with a undeserved nasty stigma! A lot of people are afraid to speak the truth due to the long term undeserved nasty stigma placed on cannabis and the continued persecution of people connected to the cannabis culture.

As a supporter of Treating Your Self for many years it was good to see Treating Your Self magazine was mentioned as well.

Thank you for the courage to write and publish this article!

Keith Fagin
Founder Calgary 420 Cannabis Community - Calgary420.ca.
Norml Canada member #40 - Norml.ca

Prohibition puts us all at risk.
Its about time we had legalized regulation education.
Give people their medications, legally.
Stop breaking up our families ( taking away our kids because some people will grow to keep away from the gangs) for the freedom to choose what we use.
We have sciencetific information that this plant is not harmful the truth is out there.
If you need to be education more on this subject stop by calgary420.ca
And if you do not find what your looking for there ask us we will educate you
As leap.cc says if crack was legal tomorrow would you run out and buy it?

Debbie Fagin


Thank you so much for the honesty in this editorial. After reading so many lies in the media it is always a relief to see an author that has done some reading and research before they write!

Thrilled to see Treating Yourself the Alternative Medicine Journal cited. It is a fantastic magazine that is written for patients by patients. Free back issues in full colour and high res are available for download :

Let's focus for a moment on the dismal state of affairs regarding the drug war in Canada. Particularly the medical cannabis fiasco. If you really believe you can trust career politican lawyers for the right thing to do, you need to become informed of the reality of the situation. Harm Reduction and the compassion club movement in Canada are on the forefront and have been now for over a decade. All your readers need to visit www.thecompassionclub.org and need to get involved. Thankyou for the courage to bring up this #1 social issue.

For anyone interested in my figures:

Study: More than 1 in 100 U.S. adults are in prison -- International Herald Tribune

New study reveals blacks arrested at more than twice the rate of whites -- Via NORML

Marijuana possession arrest rates in New York City in three decades -- H.G. Levine, Dept. Sociology University of NY

Also, I concur with Keith and Vycki, Treating Yourself is awesome. Anyone who thinks that cannabis doesn't have any medicinal benefits will think otherwise after reading it. Go check it out.

Why would you write this article? it's not true. Was it just an assignment for class or what, because there is nothing on the internet saying that pot will be legalized in the states by 2010.

Rininsland, don't you ever fucking use the term "fascist" until you crack open a history textbook and learn what it really means. you're using such a word out of a complete inability (or unwillingness?) to formulate an intelligent counter-point. it's nothing more than angst and it does nothing but discredit your fairness and ability.

i have never heard nor seen anyone use the terms "fascinating" and "Rolling Stone (magazine)" in the same sentence, until Rininsland.

@djkdhdh: It's not my idea; I've seen the idea of comparing the Bush administration to the classical definition of Fascism for years online. See:

Those are the first two decent sites I picked out of a Google search for "Bush fascist" (which yields 266,000 hits, by the way). While obviously the Bush adminstration isn't shovelling people into ovens, they fit the classical view of a fascist society wherein the military is given precedence over individual liberties. If a single thing has happened under Bush, it assuredly is the (further) militarization of American society.

Also, the Rolling Stone regularly has absolutely excellent political commentary, I don't know what you're going on about. Their politics writer, Matt Taibbi, is an ex-editor at one of the best Russian indie papers around and consequently their political coverage is fantastic.

Unlike our counterparts in academia, we in the media tend to read our sources before criticizing them...

@Everyone else:
Anyone interested in the Rolling Stone article mentioned above should go to "How America Lost the War on Drugs," http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/17438347/how_america_lost_the_war_on_drugs

> Rininsland, don't you ever fucking
> use the term "fascist" until you crack
> open a history textbook and learn what
> it really means

I find the concept of fascsim to be perfectly in fitting in this context.
You are probably confusing fascism with state-run racism as many do. While this too, is a form of fascism, it does not end there. In the broadest sense of the word, you can refer to something as fascist when basic human rights are denied when a group/society/state in a forceful manner imposes its views on individuals within that group. While nationalism is often an element found in fascist societies, it is not a defining character of the concept.