Let's Talk About: Marijuana
"Women Cry For It - Men Die For It!"
That's the tagline for the classic 1936 film, Reefer Madness. The movie is about a group of drug dealers trying to get the innocent local folk hooked on marijuana by having parties and listening to jazz music.
Marijuana (cannabis) has always been a big issue during my lifetime. Just like every other town in the county, weed was always kind of around, even though it was never my thing. My schools, just like yours, had an array of stoners, potheads, and casual smokers. And those were just the teachers! (I kid, I kid). But in all seriousness, my generation wasn't any different from the generation before me and the generation after when it comes to pot. That is why it always has been so shocking to me how so many people could be anti-marijuana. I've seen it first hand. I've DONE it first hand. And the older I've gotten, and the more I've learned about marijuana through both a medical and recreational lens, the more my beliefs have been validated.
Just as a heads up, this article will be a little long. That's not because I'm some huge pot guy, but because marijuana and marijuana laws cover a LOT of areas in everyday life. Marijuana directly affects healthcare, criminal justice, societal recreation, business growth, tax revenue, education, unemployment, interstate commerce, tangable consumer goods, racial issues, and cultural histories. Yes, I'm going to touch on most of these and then tell you what I'd like to do in Columbia, so get comfortable.
Marijuana use isn't new. It is estimated that it was first used in Central Asia for medicinal purposes around 500 BC and in China for recreational use around the same time. Generation after generation has had some sort of exposure to this plant. Countries all around the world regularly use this plant. So anyone that tells you that weed is so bad that it will destroy our county may be a little overdramatic. Contrary to what we were told growing up, marijuana is not a gateway drug. In fact, marijuana is as much of a gateway drug as alcohol or cigarettes. Yes, people who use these stimulants are more likely to move on to harder drugs compared to a control group, but this is a small percentage and says as much about a person's naturally addictive habits as it does about anything specific in these "vices".
Every year, roughly 88,000 Americans die from causes due to alcohol. Another 480,000 Americans die due to cigarettes. Every. Year. Deaths caused by ingesting marijuana, both short term and long term? Zero. Now, to be fair, there have absolutely been injuries and deaths caused by people operating vehicles while high, as well as other random instances. But from a purely biological standpoint, unlike alcohol and cigarettes, you cannot die from marijuana. No one has ever developed lung cancer from marijuana. No one has every died from an overdose of marijuana. There is no evidence of any long term health issues in adults from marijuana use.
So why is marijuana illegal?
Well, that's a long story that goes back almost 100 years, so I'm not going to bore you with that tale. But let's just say there have been many people in our country's past that have been more interested in making pot taboo than understanding it's actual benefits.
What has illegal marijuana done to our society over the years? Two big things immediately stick out in my head. The first is that it has allowed the illegal drug trade thrive both from domestic dealers and international cartels. These nefarious organizations have been allowed to become more powerful, rich, and influential over many decades. The second thing illegal marijuana has done is caused a staggering increase in jailed Americans, particularly minorities. Sure, some of those jailed were high level drug traffickers, but most have been low level users or dealers. This has caused not only a financial strain on us as a country and state, but it has also ruined families. It has led to broken homes. It has led to low level inmates become indoctrinated while in prison to only lead to worse crimes once they are released. Marijuana still remains a Schedule I drug, right up there with heroin.
So we know that illegal marijuna has wreaked havoc on our criminal justice system and also allowed drug cartels to flourish. Not a good start. But what other negative things have these archaic laws caused? Well how about being a contributing factor to our current opioid crisis? Wait a minute, didn't I just argue that pot isn't a gateway drug? Well it turns out all of those scare tactics my mom (successfully) used on me while growing up about pot being laced with something is finally coming true. Dealers now are often lacing basic pot with other drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. This causes the buyer to become addicted to that seller's "brand" of pot without them even knowing.
OK, so let's get away from the negatives associated with the prohibition of marijuana and talk about some of the positives!
From a medical standpoint, marijuana has been used for years to treat diseases such as glaucoma. It has also been used for pain relief for those suffering from diseases such as ALS and MS. So if pot is effective for pain relief and has no short or long term negative health repercussions, why shouldn't it be more readily available for our elderly? I know when I start getting up there in age, if I have an option to either take 2 pills and smoke some pot or have to to take 10 pills to calm my ailments, I'll take the pot! And I'm guessing many elderly already do that today. It goes without saying that Beaufort and Jasper counties have a large amount of retirees and elderly. I think they deserve all of the medical options that can be afforded to them.
So should South Carolina join the other 31 states that offer medical marijuana? Well of course we should. We need to work towards allowing specially trained pharmacists to be able to prescribe the perfect product to our ailing community. That may be a highly potent strain to help with a cancer patient's nausea or a low THC-high CBD product for people with migraines. My wife suffers from incredibly debilitating migraines. She can be out of commission for 3 or 4 days on end and is completely miserable. Even if we wanted to find CBD oil for her to use, she wouldn't be able to because she works at the hospital and they drug test. So because of the illegal and taboo nature of marijuana, she suffers for days instead of being able to use a product and be ok within minutes. We live in a crazy, and very frustrating, society.
Who else can medical marijuana help? How about our soldiers suffering from PTSD? 20 veterans die every day from suicide. Now I'm not saying that they all had PTSD. I'm not saying that marijuana would have prevented them all. But I am saying that doctors having the option to prescribe marijuana-based treatments to soldiers as an alternative to other potentially dangerous and addictive pharmaceuticals could have moved the needle in the right direction. As you all know, we have a very large contingent of soldiers here in South Carolina, particularly in Beaufort and Jasper counties. If medical marijuana is another tool we can put in their toolbox, we should do it.
You can't talk about medical marijuana without talking about recreational marijuana. Every state that has adopted recreational marijana has started with allowing it medically. So should South Carolina just try to pass medical marijuna first? I argue no. I believe we should push to legalize both recreational and medically marijuana as quickly as possible.
If you think that marijuana is going to remain an illegal Schedule I drug for for the next 15 years, you aren't paying attention. States around the county are quickly passing medical and recreational marijuana laws and many more are planning to soon. They see the success states like Colorado has had and they want in. South Carolina should be right there with them.
Yes, marijuana is becoming more and more culturally accepted, but the financial benefit of full legalization is what excites me. Our state is incredibly cheap when it comes to spending tax revenue on anything of social substance. We have some of the least funded schools and teachers in the country. It's embarrassing. Nobody likes raising taxes. So where can you get money without raising taxes? Bring in new business! South Carolina has the perfect climate and soil to grow marijuana. We can be the new Tobacco Road. When you start farming out marijuana, and you are a regional leader for this crop, revenues will show up in all kinds of places. New businesses will open for farming, packaging, and retailing. All of these employees will be paying payroll tax. We will draw more regional customers into the state because we are the first out of the gate. More jobs means unemployment will decrease. Clothiers can use the excess of hemp to make purses and clothing and bracelets. Artisan beauty care products and alternative medicine shops will open to take advantage of the naturally beneficial elements of the plant. We can save millions of dollars by no longer having to send people to prison for marijuana possession. This isn't hyperbole. This is something that is happening, right now, all over the county. We need to be the leaders in this region!
In Columbia, I will propose laws to fully legalize medical and recreational marijuana. We will not tax medical pot and will heavily tax recreational pot. All marijuana products will be strictly controlled by state agencies to assure safe and responsible production. I am only interested in allowing natural marijuana and it's byproducts to become legal. I am not interested in legalizing genetically engineering plants with unnaturally high levels of THC and/or CBD for recreational use without thorough testing over several years. I am open to allowing these high level engineered plants for medical purposes based on recommendations from medical professionals. Lastly, I would set the age for recreational purchasing at 18 years old.
I was asked recently at a Meet & Greet if I was being reckless, politically, by calling for a full legalization on recreational marijuana. I don't know the answer to that. Maybe. I'll probably lose some votes because it is too bold, but I will also gain votes because it makes so much sense financially. Regardless, it is how I genuinely feel and I feel very strongly about it. It is true to my beliefs and that is how I am proud to run my campaign.
If you like what you've read here and want to invest in our campaign, please donate by clicking here. Thank you for reading and look for future journal entries about how I'd like to help our state as your next representative!