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Opinion: No Laughing Matter, Legalize Marijuana Now


legalize cannabisRespect For Marijuana Reform Is Long Overdue

Any cannabis law reform activist will tell you that it has been hard to get taken seriously by the media, politicians and the general public over the years.  Despite tremendous success at the ballot box since 1996, marijuana law reform has not been given the respect it deserves.  It seems that every news segment on the subject has to include a four-foot bong and a joke about junk food.  Newspaper headlines, even from our allies in the alternative weeklies, love to include a joke as a headline.  Even after the historic marijuana legalization votes in both Washington State and Colorado, our issue was the subject of jokes from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to media personalities across the spectrum.  It was great to see Jon Stewart have our back and take the media to task.

As Show-Me Cannabis Regulation’s John Payne notes, marijuana legalization impacts the core principles of our nation.  Cannabis prohibition severely impacts the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of millions of people, without any success to show for the billions of dollars wasted and the unnecessary lives ruined by lengthy prison sentences and even death from SWAT raids gone wrong.  Cannabis itself hasn’t directly caused a death, yet cannabis prohibition has caused the deaths of innocent people in SWAT raids that targeted the wrong house.  Despite the death, destruction and wasteful spending caused by cannabis prohibition in the United States, the harmful consequences of this failed policy is even worse across our border in Mexico as their drug cartels are today’s Al Capones.  Clearly, ending prohibition is no laughing matter as Mr. Payne states in his latest piece.  Below is a snippet of John Payne’s latest op-ed, click here to read the full text.

Many people who support marijuana legalization are afraid to sign a petition on the issue for fear of retaliation from their employers or the police. This extends to volunteers, as well. Many volunteers have ended their involvement in cannabis law activism because their employer threatened to retaliate against them for it; because it could be used against them in a custody dispute; or because they have been previously convicted of a cannabis offense, and their probation officer would view it as a violation. The very existence of these people proves that cannabis prohibition is eroding our most basic right of free speech, but their justified fears prevent them from correcting those who laugh off cannabis law reform as fundamentally unserious.

This country was founded on the ideal that every individual is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but cannabis prohibition strikes at the most basic fabric of our society by violating every one of those rights. Numerous recent polls show that a majority of Americans want to legalize and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, but not nearly enough people understand that it is not only a good idea, but also one of the utmost importance. This policy is killing thousands of people abroad, eroding our civil liberties by ransacking our homes and suffocating free speech, and creating a permanent underclass of people who have been convicted of nothing more than possessing a plant. I can think of no other domestic policy in the United States today that does so much damage and all in the name of a policy that has been entirely ineffective at preventing people from using marijuana.

When most politically-engaged Americans start to think of cannabis prohibition in these terms, the laughter will stop, and newscasters will stop showing B-roll of people taking bong rips every time they interview a cannabis law reformer. The consequences of cannabis prohibition are deadly serious, and it is time that this issue moves from the periphery of our political discourse to front and center.

Luckily for us, dedicated activists like John Payne are working to end cannabis prohibition and protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of all citizens, regardless of whether they use cannabis as prohibition hurts the civil liberties and pocket books of all citizens.  Despite the giggling after this last election, the tide is clearly turning.  Marijuana legalization garnered more votes at the ballot box in Colorado than President Barack Obama.  Washington and Colorado are poised to lead the way in a new, billion dollar industry.  As cannabis prohibition ends in more states, the only people laughing will be those that are enjoying newfound freedom and are laughing all the way to the bank.  It behooves politicians and policy makers to start taking cannabis legalization serious sooner, rather than later.

Republished with the special permission of the National Cannabis Coalition


About Author

Anthony Johnson is the director of New Approach Oregon, the PAC responsible for Measure 91, that ended cannabis prohibition for all Oregon adults in 2014. In addition to helping organize the International Cannabis Business Conference & the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, he also serves as a Board Member of the National Cannabis Coalition, working to legalize cannabis across the country and Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, an organization specifically working to end cannabis prohibition in Missouri. As President of the University of Missouri Law School ACLU Chapter, Anthony co-authored the measures that legalized medical cannabis possession and decriminalized personal possession for all adults within the city limits of Columbia, Missouri, in 2004. Following law school, Anthony practiced criminal defense for two years before working full time in the political field to help improve and protect civil liberties. You can follow Anthony on Twitter and also friend him on Facebook by following the links below as he posts mostly about civil liberties and politics with dashes of sports, music, movies and whatnot.


  1. The so-called “humor” surrounding cannabis, though often accurate and I admit rather funny, is probably the strongest subversive weapon the anti-cannabis media proponents have. It seems that the very serious subject of legalization always begins w/ a derisive joke and no matter how much healthy and scholarly discourse covers the vital topic, it always ends in indecisive half-hope. My advice to anyone who reads this is to put the truth about us and our culture out online as much as possible and to Washington and Colorado; please make us look good, this is a pivitol time and a chance to save this country, constitutionally and economically.

  2. from Lew Rockwell dot com

    UN To Obama: Punish CO & WA For Legalizing Pot

    The “war on drugs” didn’t begin with Richard Nixon. It is an outgrowth of a 1961 United Nations document called the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which created the framework for a global drug prohibition jihad.

    In that same year, the JFK administration published a proposal called “Freedom from War: The United States Program for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World,” also known as State Department Document 7277. That proposal, which remains the operational framework for U.S. arms control policy, called for the creation of a nationalized, militarized “homeland security force” — in other words, exactly the kind of overtly militarized law enforcement bodies that have been prosecuting the “war on drugs.”

    Residents of Washington and Colorado, expressing a winsome and entirely unjustified faith in voting as a means of reining in the state, approved measures decriminalizing recreational use of marijuana. In response, Raymond Yans, head of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board, has calledfor Attorney General Eric Holder to ignore the law and continue cracking down on marijuana use and possession. Decriminalizing marijuana use, Yans insists, sends the “wrong message to the rest of the nation and it sends a wrong message abroad.”

    Like other prohibitionist Pharisees, Yans is willing to see people killed, kidnapped, and caged in order to send a “message.” Most of the same conservatives who properly abhor the UN and all of its works and pomps also support drug prohibition. Now that a high-ranking UN functionary has offered an official directive to Washington demanding that the Obama administration escalate its war against the American people, will conservatives of that ilk finally come out in opposition to drug prohibition?

  3. PERFECTcitizen22 on

    thank you for being an open minded individual. yeah, in fact when I called the cops, I told them right off the bat “FUCK stoner culture and bob marly and all the theives involed in the drug business.” they thought they could calm me down by saying well if you try to caugh this guy it will bite you in the ass, that was all I needed to hear. i said. “fine,ok, mayan sacrifice me in front of the judge I am numb to these pointless MAN MADE, human error, punishments. “( along with a flood of other points that have been swirling in my head for years!) they then realized I had plently of time on my hands to fuck up the system so they just said they will do their best and left.

    i have no criminal record, I never do stupid shit. politicians are fuckin bullies that are spoiled brats

  4. PERFECTcitizen22 on

    from NORTH CAROLINA, I called the cops on myself once(i was super pissed off) when a guy robbed me of my weed money.(I dont sell ever, I buy) Im not above the law but I sure as hell am not below it. I wanted to talk to a judge about all mess in the community’s through out America. judges and cops are just human beings filling in society roles. I will die to free my people and weed!!!! I asked for help but got NONE.

    death to alcoholic beverages

    one more this.
    when I called the cops and told them what I was doing the dispatcher laughed, the cops laughed, and when I called a place to get sober for weed only, they laughed.

    we will c who is laughing when I go ape shit.

    too politicians ” all of you assholes need to stop F ing with me starting NOW

    I say it again

  5. I agree. This should be treated as the serious topic that it is. Unfortunately decades of “stoner” movies have ingrained this image in the public’s mind. Relieving the pain and suffering of countless individuals is no laughing matter. It’s time to discuss and report on this issue seriously and without the stoner jokes! The media wouldnt dare joke about chemotherapy, why treat this any different?

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