According to the logic of marijuana lobbyists, it is a bad thing that the Federal government disrespected the will of all the slave states and the states that wouldn't enforce desegregation. In actuality, the responsibility of Congress is not simply to follow changing popular opinion but rather to responsibly “promote the general welfare" of U.S citizens as stated in the preamble to the Constitution. When money interests unduly influence popular opinion to the detriment of its citizens, (as the slave trade did -- and their supporting "science" claimed that the order of brain size and intelligence was white male, white female, black male, black female) it is time for elected representatives to make an informed stand. Should D.C. be able to have voting representatives in Congress and be able to pass its own laws without Congressional review? I am one of many who would say yes. But when D.C. or any state enacts legislation that will specifically target and harm segments of a population, it is time for elected officials to intervene. I am glad that Congress blocked an initiative that would have led to the legalization and commercialization of a third legal recreation drug that would disproportionally target and affect minority communities.
There are already more liquor stores on our corners. The American Lung Society reports that “As smoking declines among the white non-Hispanic population, tobacco companies have targeted both African Americans and Hispanics with intensive merchandising, which includes advertising in media oriented to these communities and sponsorship of civic groups and athletic, cultural, and entertainment events.” Why do we want to allow a third legal recreational drug further target minority youth that already face disparities in educational and job opportunities? Tobacco companies are already waiting to market marijuana and have been quoted as saying, “The use of marijuana … has important implications for the tobacco industry in terms of an alternative product line. [We] have the land to grow it, the machines to roll it and package it, the distribution to market it.” Why should we believe that the marketing of marijuana companies will be any different than that of the executives like those of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company that when asked why they didn’t smoke said “We reserve that right for the poor, the young, the black and the stupid."
Finally, by Congress intervening they promote and protect the general welfare of youth who would be most affected by the marijuana industry. Yes there are drug dealers that kids can and do get drugs from. But professional corporations are drug dealers as well -- and far more effective than the shady drug dealer hanging out on the street corner. A look at the numbers of users of alcohol and tobacco versus marijuana illustrate this. Across the nation, there are 136 million users of alcohol with 70% of 12th graders admitting to using alcohol according to the CDC. There are 65 million tobacco users and a staggering 68% became addicted at the age 18 or younger according to the American Lung Association. Compared to those figures, there are just 19 million marijuana users and 21% of 12th graders use marijuana according to NIDA.
Despite the serious health risks associated with marijuana use, particularly for younger users, there are those who are blinded by the money from an industry that many estimate could be bigger than the NFL and will do or say anything to get it taxed and regulated like alcohol and tobacco. Businessmen are looking for a new industry and elected officials are looking for a new profitable tax revenue source. Some have gone so far as to say that kids should be able to purchase marijuana in stores. Councilman Grosso, one of the biggest supporters of legalization in D.C., is one of those and told CBS DC that marijuana should not be illegal because, “it’s just leading a lot of kids right to jail. Until they’re able to purchase this in a regular store and not have any consequences, that’s what it’s going to continue to do.”
No one wants youth to go to jail for smoking a joint, but D.C. has already decriminalized marijuana and Congress is not interfering with that. But when popular opinion and elected officials are ready to jeopardize the health of our youth for money, it is time for the Congress to intervene.
TIE DC founder Will Jones