Tomorrow, the calendar turns to April, which just happens to be the same month for American’s most celebrated underground holiday, 4/20. On April 20th, any stoner worth his weight in weed will get high, and those who went before them will fondly recall the days of their stoner glory.
The holiday represents a unified act of civil disobedience.
But, it doesn’t always have to.
Our country’s attitude toward marijuana would be humorously absurd if it were fictitious.
Unfortunately, it’s horribly sad.
Along with other drugs like LSD, ecstasy and heroin, the Controlled Substances Act considers marijuana a Schedule I substance. Despite what fourteen other states have concluded, the federal government finds pot “as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”
Heck, even Fox News doesn’t believe that.
In fact, earlier this month, the most fair and balanced Web site in news published a story on its health blog that trumpeted the role cannabinoids played inside and outside the body in pain reduction.
“As state and local laws mutate and change in favor of greater tolerance, perhaps cannabis will find its proper place in the home medicine chest,” the story concluded.
Nevertheless, for recreational and some medicinal users, the consequences of getting caught with pot can range from a ticket to a felony.
For those in college, a marijuana arrest can be even more damaging.
Take Oklahoma for example.
Our state can revoke grants, fellowships, loans or other means of financial assistance authorized through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for those arrested for marijuana related crimes.
Is this a great state or what?
There are only two setbacks to federal decriminalization.
First, marijuana has long been considered a gateway drug, and statistically the numbers tend to back that up.
For instance, the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes the risk of using cocaine is 104 times greater for those who have experimented with cannabis.
Other studies show similar links to marijuana use and the use of harder drugs, according to the Department of Justice.
But it’s not the drug’s side effects that are the problem; it’s the fact it has to be bought on the black market.
Drug dealers usually don’t specialize; they’ll sale anything that gets them a buck. When people are forced into the black market for pot, they’re more at risk to being exposed to harder drugs.
The second thing standing in the way is the American public.
A Gallup Poll from October of last year show 44 percent of Americans want pot legalized, compared to 54 percent against.
Compared to 40 years ago, public opinion for legalization has increased 32 percent.
There’s little doubt the legalization camp will continue to grow.
Politically, there may never be a better time to legalize.
The Democrats political fortunes in November are already cashed, so why not buck the American public again?
The party could help end the senseless assault on a fairly benign drug, and simultaneously stimulate the economy by taxing it.
In reality, decriminalization or legalization federally this year is probably just a pipe dream.
But within the next decade, celebrating 4/20 openly won’t be.
Scott D’Amico is a sports media and political science senior.
By Scott D’Amico