Despite Progress, War on Marijuana Rages On with Heavy Toll

If future generations of Americans look back in the annals of history, there will be countless pages of blood, tears and dishonor when it comes to our government's long and futile war on marijuana.

Ever since the fateful Marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, an otherwise mundane green plant effectively became Public Enemy No. 1, the scapegoat for everything from violence, to degeneracy, to mellow laziness, to lower IQ, to mental illness. While in the eyes of the powers-that-be, the leaf is an anathema to be defeated and anybody who dares to use it, for medical, recreational or spiritual reasons is an enemy, more than one-third of Americans has tried it and there are about 20 million annual users.

In other words, our government is essentially in a battle against tens of millions of its own people. There is no way this would not tear the fabric of our republic apart with heavy casualties.

All of the signs tell us the people are fed up. Polls indicate a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition. Two years ago, citizens of Washington and Colorado courageously stood up to the federal war machine, utilizing their constitutional right to legalize and regulate marijuana in their states. While the new regulatory schemes in the two states are hardly perfect, they gave the solemn message to the country and the world that we the people are not without recourse to pursue peace with this plant and our fellow humans who choose to use it. It is a reminder to the feds that the war is not without an end in sight.

Yet, notwithstanding this new dawn of hope we see, the road to peace is long and arduous. In most U.S. States today, even simple possession of marijuana is a crime. A youngster who has lit up a joint to unwind from a stressful day can be incarcerated and then bear a criminal record for his entire life. And drug warriors and police across the nation have been recalcitrant to give up their losing battle – if you do a simple search in Google News, heavy-handed busts and raids on marijuana users and growers remain a daily occurrence. These raids have caused countless men and women dead and maimed, and the body count never seems to end.

Several months ago, a Florida man was slaughtered by police at his home over $2 worth of the plant. This is far from an isolated incident, as the think tank Cato Institute has maintained a map of all other deadly raids across the country. More recently, an infant was killed by foster parents when the authorities in Texas took her away from her parents who admitted smoking marijuana, even though never in the infant's presence. It is both a tragedy and travesty that while most Americans recognize the futility of marijuana prohibition, the death toll from prohibition continues to climb.

As long as any one individual can lose his or her life or liberty because of the government's misbegotten crusade against cannabis sativa, Peace on our Streets is an impossibility.

In my own hometown, New York City, despite repeated calls by residents and many political leaders, including district attorneys, the very people who otherwise play an integral part in the drug war, to end the skyrocketing and often racially discriminatory arrests for small marijuana possession, these arrests of non-violent citizens have not decreased at all. The NYPD simply does not care about the will of the people. These abuses continue even though marijuana is legally decriminalized in the state. The NYPD uses tactics such as stop-and-frisk to round up minority youths for the crime of public possession, when officers force them to take out marijuana from their pockets. When I open up a newspaper to read about the new developments in Washington and Colorado, and the likely victories this year in Oregon, Alaska, and elsewhere, It makes me yearn for the day that kind people here in my beloved Big Apple who responsibly use marijuana will no longer face the truncheon and cages of the state.

Peace is long overdue for this war that should have never been waged in the first place. Almost a century ago, our collective hubris dragged the country into this quagmire. Federal and state governments fought against the leaf for eighty years and the leaf is still winning, while our own neighborhoods and streets have became war zones of internecine bloodshed. It has never been more obvious that this war must come to an end.

The people of Colorado and Washington, along with the people of Alaska and Oregon, have already taken upon themselves to extend the olive branch, and a few other states are sure to follow. But as we have seen, the war still rages in much of our homeland, from New York, to Florida, to Texas, and peace will not come without sweat and toil and tremendous sacrifices made by advocates, activists and concerned citizens everywhere. Peace on Our Streets is one group of dedicated individuals working towards that noble goal, and we will need people like you to support our fight, one street, one city, and one state at a time.