Help stop the madness by voting yes on Proposition 203

In the interest of full disclosure, let me state that I use high-grade, American-grown marijuana pretty much every day, both for its pleasant psychoactive effects and its medical benefits.

A proven muscle-relaxant, it really works well for my chronic back issues. It has helped prevent the sort of scary asthma attacks that I've suffered a couple of times before. An effective antiemetic, it enables me to read on planes and in cars without the motion sickness that otherwise results. It works wonders with the occasional bout of vertigo, the fallout of a series of concussions. And it allows me to sleep through the night without being chased through my dreams by the bogeyman and waking up yelling thanks to a mild case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

There is substantial research and anecdotal evidence supporting all of these applications, despite the best efforts of the government to suppress it, some of which spans thousands of years.

Although none of my usage will be covered by Proposition 203, the medical-marijuana initiative on the Arizona ballot this year, I'm voting for it anyway. The initiative would allow victims of chronic and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis—people for whom marijuana is quite literally a lifeline—to obtain and use the drug in a safe, legal and regulated manner. To me, Prop 203 is a baby step toward saner public policy, the very definition of a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, proponents of the War on Drugs have chosen to approach this issue with no brain, so you can expect to hear the same tired old propaganda, including this standard refrain: "What message are we sending to our children?" Good question—while cannabis is virtually harmless and often beneficial for adults, psychoactive drugs in general are not good for young people, who are still developing mentally and emotionally.

But consider the messages that the Drug Warriors prefer to send to our children: We don't respect you enough to tell you the truth about marijuana. We don't trust you to make good decisions based in reality, and we would rather manipulate you with lies. It is perfectly fine for you to be dependent on some psychoactive drugs, like Ritalin and Prozac, just not this drug. Extremely sick people should not be allowed to medicate themselves with an effective, nontoxic drug that happens to have pleasant side effects, simply because other people use it solely for pleasure. Chronically ill people should remain captives of a pharmaceutical industry that routinely games studies and enhances its multi-billion-dollar profit margins by putting expensive poisons on the market that often provide little or no therapeutic benefit, but plenty of unpleasant and dangerous side effects. My job/funding stream/political career is more important than good public policy that promotes the general welfare. We will continue pursuing the same failed drug policies and expecting different results—even though it is the definition of political insanity—because we don't have the courage or common sense to admit that we're wrong.

A little history helps explain this madness. The 1930s criminalization of cannabis was driven entirely by the same sorts of lies that are still told today, for many of the same self-serving reasons. Ruthless capitalists such as Hearst, DuPont and Mellon employed racist associations and invented stories about the harmful effects of marijuana to eliminate the threat that cannabis competition posed to their profitable interests in timber, synthetic fibers, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Few today are aware that the American Medical Association opposed the criminalization of cannabis at the time, testifying to Congress about its obvious medical benefits.

There is no more emblematic indication of the insanity of drug prohibition than the name of a group leading the opposition to Prop 203: "Keep AZ Drug Free."

What kind of la-la land do these people live in?! Illegal drugs worth billions of dollars, including almost 10 million pounds of marijuana, already flow through Arizona every year, much of which is tainted with the bloody mayhem of violent Mexican trafficking organizations. The argument that Prop 203 will somehow enhance access to marijuana is based on the fantasy that it is in any way difficult to obtain now. Many billions of tax dollars are wasted every year propping up this ludicrous canard, while our schools and parks beg for funding, and violent criminals go free because the jails are overrun by pot-smokers. Eric Schlosser, in his excellent book Reefer Madness, summed it up most eloquently: "A society that can punish a marijuana offender more severely than a murderer is caught in the grip of a deep psychosis."

Help end the psychosis. Vote yes on Proposition 203.

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