Sunday, December 11, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new New York Observer commentary authored by Faisal Ansari. The fact that this piece comes from the Observer is one reason it is notable, as the publisher of the Observer is Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Prez Elect Donald Trump. Here is how the piece begins:
Back in the 1970s, the federal government labeled marijuana as the devil’s lettuce, giving it a Schedule 1 classification. Since then, public perception regarding the plant has shifted drastically — but the government has continued to cling to its archaic stance.
In fact, just a few months ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency once again refused to reclassify marijuana, referring to Health and Human Service reports that claimed it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
But those reports stem from the fact that research into marijuana’s medicinal properties has been hindered by politics for decades. Thanks to its strict classification, federal agencies have not been terribly eager to fund or support scientific studies that could potentially debunk many misconceptions that plague the plant.
Placing marijuana in the same category as drugs like ecstasy and heroin isn’t just a bummer for stereotypical “stoners”; it poses serious problems for millions of people who are in dire need of safe, natural, more affordable forms of medicine.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though. Following our recent election, the number of states that grant citizens access to medical marijuana (MMJ) has grown to 26, and a grand total of eight states have now legalized cannabis for recreational use. An all-time-high 61 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization — and soon enough, the government will have no choice but to reschedule it to a lower category.
Currently, those who live in non-MMJ-friendly states are forced to uproot their lives if they want to seek natural medical relief. And, even if they move to a different state, there’s no guarantee they can easily access MMJ. Insurance companies cannot cover a federally restricted substance, so doctor visits, exams, and other diagnostic services must be paid for out of pocket. Not everyone can afford that. In fact, some patients consider MMJ because they already can’t afford pharmaceutical drugs.
Reclassifying marijuana won’t just revolutionize the healthcare industry; it will also positively affect the overall financial state of the country. Though only available in a small handful of states, legalized marijuana generated $4.6 billion in sales in 2014 and $5.4 billion in 2015. The tax revenue from these sales is being leveraged in a variety of productive ways — from improving local infrastructure to providing services to those in need. For example, Colorado is allocating $3 million from marijuana taxes to feed and house the homeless.