The Star Tribune refused to print this article submitted to their opinion page in December, 2022:
The Tragic Treadmill of Prohibition.
Since 2012, fourteen states have voted “Yes” on ballot measures to end cannabis prohibition.
Seven more states, lacking the Initiative option, have re-legalized cannabis by legislative action, thanks to Democratic Party majorities. Like those seven states, Minnesota’s laws are crafted in the Legislature, not by plebiscite.
When the 2021 legalization bill reached a floor vote in St. Paul, 94% of the “yes” votes came from Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legislators, while 90% of the “no” votes were from Republicans. The Republican State Senate blocked the bill.
The DFL will organize both chambers in the forthcoming legislature, so a legalization law might possibly pass in 2023. Retiring State Representative Ryan Winkler hopes Minnesota’s lawmakers will enact “the best cannabis legislation in the nation.”
They might revisit 2021’s House File 600, a comprehensive starting model, and improve it by adopting useful elements from South Africa’s “Fields of Green” proposal.
However, in the complicated, strung-out legislative process, bills can be sidetracked in dozens of committees, or vivisected during a floor debate. Therefore, it’s helpful to define the minimal features of a just, progressive, responsible cannabis policy:
First, recognize the right to home-grow; Second, erase past records of all nonviolent “marijuana” offenses or violations; Third, release current nonviolent cannabis prisoners.
As Mr. Winkler witnessed, a clear majority of people participating in his statewide “Be Heard On Cannabis” town meetings expressed by show of hands their endorsement of applying to cannabis gardeners the rights enshrined in Article 13, Section 7 of Minnesota’s Constitution, notwithstanding casuistic court decisions wrongly construing that Section.
The cartel-centered Medical Cannabis law concocted in 2014 is a reminder of legislative pitfalls to avoid.
Anti-legalization zealots still strive to deflect the debate towards alleged hazards to health and public safety, which they attribute to cannabis consumption.
But far greater harm to public health and civic safety stems from the nature of prohibition, not from the nature of the herb. The problem is in the law, not the leaf.
Remember the unintended consequences of alcohol prohibition: violent clandestine markets; criminal gangs; corruption; contaminated products; overcrowded courts and prisons; titanic-sized tax evasion, and cynical disrespect for laws in general.
The “war on drugs” repeats that folly, with flourishes.
Anti-cannabis legislation, overtly racist in its origins and indisputably discriminatory as implemented, forms the keystone of the “New Jim Crow”—the ostensibly “color-blind” perpetuation of historic patterns of racial caste oppression.
Draconian laws, saturation anti-drug propaganda, mass incarceration, high-tech surveillance, and police-state paranoia succeed in terrorizing citizens, cancelling civil liberties, and blighting both urban and rural communities—without eradicating the outlawed substance.
Prohibition fails, even on its own terms!
What about public safety?
During the Al Capone bootlegging era, 29,000 lives were rubbed out in just fourteen years. In contrast, the national rate of murders and assaults by firearms declined after Repeal, for ten consecutive years, dropping to approximately half of the 1933 level.
We’ve had 85 years of “marijuana” prohibition.
What has it brought us?
On July 6, 2016, a police officer approached a stopped car in Falcon Heights. Within seconds, the policeman blasted the life out of Philando Castile.
At his trial, the cop testified that he feared he was endangered when he noticed “the smell of marijuana” near the automobile.
Summary execution for “the smell of marijuana!”
A year later, 17-year-old Austin Young was shot to death in north Minneapolis. Disregarding prohibition laws, he’d arranged to sell a trifling amount of cannabis. He trusted the wrong persons, and was waylaid and robbed by strangers, who didn’t hesitate at committing murder as well.
Let’s turn off this treadmill of tragedy!
Prohibition exacts too cruel a tax, paid in blood, suffering, and grief.
Legalization can’t neutralize all adverse consequences from mind- or mood-altering activities, but the collective costs will be less traumatic—as twenty-one other states already know.
Cannabis is a plant, not a crime. There’s a common-sense distinction between use and abuse. Use by adults is simply a human right, exercised (or abstained from) by informed consumers. Abuse should be treated as a medical condition, not a legal infraction. The law against “marijuana” creates more dangers than any risks from the herb itself.
Let’s support action to end cannabis prohibition and promote healing of the nation.
Chairman, Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis Party
St. Paul, MN