The Prohibition Is Dangling By Its Last String

I am very pleased to see that the people of 2 of the 3 states with propositions to end the prohibition of cannabis spoke up and agreed that it makes no sense to keep spending billions of dollars trying to enforce this prohibition. Between these states votes and the current case in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s schedule 1 classification of cannabis as a dangerous drug with no medical value, this is the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition and I say it’s about time.

Why does the cannabis prohibition even exist? I don’t want to get into the history of all that, but it is mainly based on racism, fear, ignorance and corporate & political greed. It was built by people like Harry Anslinger and Richard Nixon. If you would like a lengthy history lesson on the matter this is one of the best I have read – The point is, the prohibition exists today for reasons which are mostly ridiculous. And just as the prohibition of alcohol fell, so will the prohibition of cannabis.

So why should we want to end the prohibition of cannabis?

It’s about money. The so called “war on drugs” has cost the American people over a trillion dollars in a failed effort. In a study by Jeffrey A. Miron, professor of economics at Harvard University, it is estimated that replacing cannabis prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcohol would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year. In 40 years, the failed war on drugs has cost taxpayers more than $20 billion to fight the drug gangs in other countries, $33 billion in marketing “Just Say No”-style messages to America’s youth and other prevention programs, $49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs, $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana and $450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. And this is without even mentioning the vast new revenue that could come from industrial hemp, something I will get into shortly.

It’s about personal freedom. In national polls the majority of Americans are now against continuing the cannabis prohibition. States are allowed to regulate alcohol as they see fit. Why would we not want to do the same for cannabis? It’s time to let the people decide instead of politicians and corporations. Who are the top supporters of continuing the cannabis prohibition? Lobbies who have a vested financial interest in it. Lobbies such as Police Unions, Private Prisons Corporations, Alcohol and Beer Companies, Pharmaceutical Corporations & Prison Guard Unions. While groups like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the AMA are either for ending the prohibition or at least rescheduling cannabis with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines.

It’s about common sense. How dangerous is cannabis? Well, let’s compare to some legal things that Americans like to play with… Annual deaths in the United States related to firearms: 29,000. Prescription drugs: 32,000. Alcohol: 85,000. Tobacco: 435,000. Marijuana? 0. Zero. Not a single case of death ever recorded in the United States, or even the world has been attributed to the use of marijuana. Ever. When have you ever heard about a guy who smoked a lot of pot and beat his wife? When have you ever heard about a fatal auto accident caused by pot influenced driving? When was the last time you saw an obnoxious idiot at a ball game and thought to yourself, wow, that guy must be on a lot of pot?

It’s about our farmers and jobs. Everyone knows that US farmers are struggling these days. Everyone knows there is a real US unemployment issue. Industrial hemp has an estimated $500 billion annual potential worldwide market, because anything made from trees, cotton or petroleum can be made from hemp, and usually better than from what it’s made from now. Over 25,000 products are known to be able to be made from industrial hemp. Absorbents such as cat litter, oil spill cleanup products, paints, varnishes, lubricating oil, sealants, industrial detergent, solvent, printing inks, Bio-fuels, clothing and accessories (everything from shirts and pants to backpacks and dog leashes), cosmetics, food for humans and animals alike. The list is nearly endless. But because the cannabis prohibition also includes industrial hemp our farmers cannot grow it, because of politics. Millions of new jobs could be created and I would rather see those jobs than the jobs of prison guards watching over people in the privatized for profit prison system who were arrested for a dime bag.

It’s about keeping our kids safer. Guess what… drug dealers don’t card. They don’t care how old a customer is. Regulated businesses do. If cannabis was sold and regulated like alcohol it would be a big step forward in keeping it away from kids. Ask any high school kid today what is easier to get, pot or beer, they will tell you pot. Also, people always talk about cannabis being a “gateway drug”. There is no scientific evidence that this is true, there is nothing inherent to cannabis that makes anyone want to try other drugs. Then why does this perception exist? Because when you have to buy it from drug dealers they will inevitably ask “hey, if you liked that, I’ve got something else for you to try”. This is caused by the prohibition itself!

There are so many reasons to end the prohibition of cannabis in the US. The time has come. I read a USA Today article about the 2 states that passed the laws and I liked it, I think it’s a good way to end this post…

“Millions of Americans who have no particular affinity for marijuana have decided that it makes no sense to keep spending billions of dollars trying to enforce an unenforceable prohibition when state and local governments could be taking in comparable amounts by taxing and regulating marijuana. They know that legalizing marijuana will deprive criminal organizations in Mexico and this country of profits and power, and enable police and prosecutors to focus resources on serious crimes. They are convinced that arresting 750,000 people each year for possessing a small amount of marijuana is costly, cruel and unjust. And they rightfully believe that young people will fare better with responsible regulations rather than ineffective prohibitions.”

– Steele



  1. This is really well done. I hope we get some people arguing from the other side.

    Although we need to consider the fact that several studies have demonstrated that cannabis can be psychologically devastating to young people and one excellent longitudinal study that demonstrates that regular pot use (even infrequent pot use) by teenagers costs the user an average of 8 IQ points, for adults who are able to use this drug responsibly, there seems to be no harm.

    What is harmful is having a criminal record, being forced into drug rehab unnecessarily, and empowering drug cartels by forcing this product underground. I’m in favor of legalization, but we need to make sure that we’re sending a clear message: Kids shouldn’t use pot.

    • M. Steele says:

      I agree that it is very important to reduce access to kids. I also believe that the prohibition itself, pushing marijuana into the the underground, is exactly what makes it easier for kids to get it. If it was regulated like alcohol, in time, the underground market would dry up. Why would any adult go to some shady dealer when they could go to the neighborhood pot store, or harvest some from their own personal garden?
      Interesting you bring up the criminal record angle. I totally forgot to mention this in my post, but it is another thing that infuriates me. The “Aid Elimination Provision” of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1998 bars financial aid, including loans and work-study opportunities, to those with drug arrest convictions. But if you rape and murder someone? No problem, doesn’t apply. I don’t personally like the message that sends.

  2. Thomas Click says:

    I went to the press conference today at the Civic Center in downtown Denver. The mood was both jubilant and reserved. To say that the prohibition is hanging by a thread might be jumping the gun a bit. While the importance of the passage of this amendment can’t be overstated, as you mentioned in your blog there is still a vested interest in keeping this prohibition alive. Although the people have clearly spoken on this issue, I can’t help but wonder just how much that means in this country anymore. Several states, including this one, have passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana but that hasnt stopped the federal government from prosecuting sick and dying people, and it certainly hasn’t stopped the ultra profitable business of busting the huge commercial grows that provide these people their medicine. The infamous “Holder Memo” that promised to not waste Federal resources prosecuting operations that were state compliant is seen in these parts to have been the proverbial “fattening of the calf.” I have a hard time trusting that same government to honor the rights of businesses catering to people who just want to get high. Having said that the implications for the average Colorado citizen are huge. The federal government doesn’t have the resources or the capability to police the streets or the homes here, and the possession, transport, and production of marijuana is no longer a state crime. (Hasn’t really sunk in yet) And Dave, to your point about keeping the kids off pot (good point) I would offer that since the medical marijuana has taken a foothold here we have seen a steady decline in the reported marijuana use of our high school students while just about everywhere else the numbers have risen. It seems that more permissive societies tend to develop discretion, and that is the only thing that can truly keep people off drugs.

    • M. Steele says:

      Hey Thomas – Thanks for reading my post and for taking the time to leave a well thought out comment. So maybe the title should have been in question form rather than as a statement, something like “Is the Prohibition Dangling By It’s Last String?” But anyways, it’s going to take time, but this is a step in the right direction. Just as the repeal of the prohibition of alcohol was ratified state by state, having some states, and hopefully more in the future, stand up to the feds is movement. It’s forcing the feds to think about it, to have to talk about it. In the case of Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, oral arguments were just heard by United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The case argues that the DEA acted irrationally in ruling that cannabis belongs in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Finally the courts are hearing evidence of science and not just politics, rhetoric and the status quo. The DEA is obviously going to fight this out of self preservation, but the case was finally allowed to be made to the court. That is huge. Change take time. But at least now we are seeing the wheels begin to move. The people are getting their voice.

  3. AMEN. I completely agree with your post. I think we should go further to regulate and tax prostitution…a discussion for another day, perhaps. We should tax all vices! In the words of Reverand Lovejoy “Once the Government approves something it is no longer immoral”. I’m not totally serious, but am just a little.

    • M. Steele says:

      My wife made a comment to me last night about my posts here and on Facebook regarding cannabis/marijuana/hemp. She said something like “I would be nervous posting those things”. For me it’s not really about the drug element. It’s about the economics and the injustice. The amount of money wasted annually on criminal enforcement instead of treating addictions. And if addiction was the main reason for prohibition then shouldn’t we outlaw alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar…? The amount of money that could be made with new businesses, jobs and crops. The revenue from these would be astounding. And if you look at the numbers of blacks, Hispanics and Whites that have criminal records due to crimes as trivial as simple possession, it’s pretty skewed against minorities.

      • Thomas click says:

        Wow. Pretty stark contrast to the world we live in up here. In Boulder you can walk to the coffee shop past houses and commercial spaces that reek of growing marijuana to see red eyed growers talking openly about growing it as well. All the papers feature adverts for cheap weed with full page buds not uncommon. It’s also socially acceptable for people to tell you they are growers when asked what they do. I just can’t imagine being afraid of simply posting an extremely well written, logical argument against prohibition. It’s unfortunate and completely insane that this is the world we live in.


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