By Daniel Scharpenburg

I have a friend and I’ve known him for a long time.

My friend has a good job. I’m not going to tell you what he does for a living, but he makes twice as much money as I do and he is a specialist. He’s very good at what he does and excels in his field.

He also does a lot of work for his community and he is a member of several charitable organizations. He does some volunteer work that involves helping needy children. He probably gives more to charity than anyone I know and he is involved in social justice work as well.

My friend has several kids and he is, by all accounts, a very good and loving father.

He’s also a very good friend. Everyone that spends time with him likes him very much and he is known to be loyal—sometimes to his own detriment.

Hard worker, good father, charitable person.

My friend also smokes pot. And not a little. He smokes it almost every day. He does it mainly to manage anxiety problems, but I would argue that the reason doesn’t matter.

I remember the stereotypes. I heard about them when I was a kid, but I don’t hear about them much anymore.

“People who smoke pot are lazy”

“People who smoke pot can’t hold down a job.”

“People who smoke pot aren’t good parents.”

“People who smoke pot are selfish.”

These things aren’t true.

Some facts:

Marijuana has been legal in several states now for recreational use.

In still more states, it’s legal for medical use only, and has been for over a decade.

I’m not going to argue that there is no harm in marijuana usage, because we don’t need to know if it’s safe. All we need to know is if it is harmful enough that it should be illegal. We do a lot of things that are bad for us.

Cigarettes and alcohol are legal and they are almost certainly more harmful than marijuana. A lot of the food we eat is probably more harmful too. But that doesn’t matter. I’m not arguing about whether marijuana is harmful.

I’m arguing that the drug war is.

According to some reports, there is a marijuana arrest every 42 seconds in the United States. That sounds crazy, right?

In my opinion, that’s a lot of people—people like my friend—being arrested for possessing or using this forbidden plant.

These people fill our prisons. They have this crime on their record for life. They have their kids taken away. They lose their jobs. This happens every day.

And it hasn’t really slowed down usage at all. If everyone who smoked pot was actually serving the penalty for that crime, there wouldn’t be enough people in the workforce for this country to function.

So, I submit to you: the drug war does a lot more harm than good.

If my friend was caught, he would likely serve jail time. Especially if they wanted to make an example out of him. He would definitely lose his job and have a lot of difficulty getting another one. And he would probably lose his kids.

For what?

Can’t we do better than this?

I don’t think that people who support the drug war must be bad people. I think, for the most part, they are thinking of it in the abstract. They aren’t thinking of their friends and neighbors and co-workers going to jail. They aren’t thinking of the drug war as a real thing with real consequences that ruins lives.

I heard someone ask, “Why should it be legalized?”

And I just thought, “Is that how we do things?”

Shouldn’t we be asking why things should be illegal instead?

Victimless crimes make no sense to me and the case has not been made that marijuana does enough harm to the community for it to send people to jail.

My friend became an activist. He works with several organizations that are devoted to legalization here in the midwest, so that people don’t have to suffer; so families don’t have to be torn apart.

A similar thing has happened to one woman. This could happen to my friend and it could happen to countless people.

My friend is a marijuana activist.

And I am proud of him.

If you support the drug war, then you have to acknowledge that you want my friend to go to jail.

Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall