LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Marijuana legalization is an uphill battle | Opinion

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The grass does not leave.

This leafy green plant has been popular in the United States since the 17th century. The demand for ropes, clothing, and sails resulted in a thriving hemp industry for more than two centuries. Eventually imports met this demand, but tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, remained in over-the-counter medicines until the 19th century.

As you may already know, pot’s disgrace came after the Mexican Revolution, when Mexican immigrants flocked to the southern United States, bringing with them recreational cannabis use. Dubbed “the marijuana menace,” anti-drug campaigns have done their best to associate cannabis with the mistrust of the immigrant population. By the 1920s, more than half of the United States had banned its use.

In 2015, nearly a century later, North Carolina lawmakers eventually repealed their ban on commercial hemp production. While the hemp sector in North Carolina is still relatively new and dependent on agricultural subsidies to compete with cotton in the textile industry, new farms are popping up every year.

Unfortunately, THC-rich cannabis has received no such amnesty, despite a slew of bills proposing its legalization.

Last summer, I attended an event organized by the Wake Libertarian Party. During the well-attended seminar, NC House Democrat Alison Dahle answered questions about her recent proposal House Bill 617, which would provide sweeping legalization for adults 21 and older to possess and use marijuana in North Carolina. It also included an overview of regulating a commercial cannabis market and criminal justice reform, including the removal of criminal records for drug-related crimes made legal by the bill.

Attacking the so-called “War on Drugs” is an uphill battle, and HB 617 hasn’t gotten far. Other members of Dahle’s House have expressed concerns about the drastic change, and mistrust of cannabis runs deep in older generations.

There is certainly a public appetite for cannabis products. You wouldn’t have to drive far to find smoking rooms proudly advertising a selection of bans Delta-8 THC Products. The alternative THC market, in which companies provide chemically similar compounds derived from high-THC cannabis, is booming, prompting 18 states to issue restrictions or outright bans to maintain their grip on marijuana use.

Eighteen different states have legalized recreational marijuana and have benefited greatly from it. In 2020, Colorado raised more than $32 million in taxes only from state dispensaries, and an additional $387 million from recreational and retail cannabis sellers. Since the legalization of marijuana in 2014, Washington raked in $3 billion in marijuana sales and excise taxes. The financial incentive for legal weed is undeniable.

Growing this amount of marijuana would not be difficult for farmers in North Carolina. The climate and soil conditions in NC are very similar to those found in the emerald triangle, a region of California famous for being the largest cannabis producer in the United States Existing subsidies for hemp growers could be expanded to include high-THC cannabis growers, and the resulting harvests would be both bountiful and well developed due soil. On a small scale, most legal states allow individuals to grow their own cannabis plants at home, just like any other potted plant. And why shouldn’t adults be allowed to grow their own weed?

It’s a regressive and ultimately pointless attempt to punish responsible adults for making decisions that only affect themselves. Smoking a joint on your porch is no different than drinking in a bar, with all the fun and responsibility that entails. Drinking and driving is already a crime, so criminalizing THC use is redundant at best and willfully malicious at worst.

A little bit less half of non-violent drug crimes are marijuana-related. If we want to progress as a society, we must stop wasting over $51 billion a year on drug law enforcement and start making changes where it really matters.

The United States has been waging the war on drugs for more than 50 years, but it seems drugs have finally won. We have the opportunity to repeal regressive policies and guarantee the freedom to make our own choices.

Now where did I put that lighter…

Michael Oakes is a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at NC State. He is also running for NC General Assembly District 49 and will be on ballots in 2022.

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