HONOLULU (KHON2) — The previous session covered the highly politicized world of Nixon’s war on drugs. Throughout the decades, until the 1980s that is, marijuana kept popping back up as something that most Americans were not afraid of.
The year 1980 experienced its first taste of the Religious Right as Ronald Reagan utilized religious narratives to harness the power of religion in claiming the Presidency. Baby boomers who had watched Reagan act like a cowboy in Western films during their childhood were now in their 30s and 40s and were easily swayed by the narratives pushed by Reagan’s administration.
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While Reagan was Governor of California, he did not want to decriminalize marijuana. And, upon his entry in the White House, his views did not change.
A woman by the name of Marsha “Keith” Schuchard had heard Nixon years earlier and agreed with his drive to create a war on drugs. So, when she caught her 13-year-old daughter with marijuana, she began a crusade that ended up impacting drug laws even up to today.
Schuchard founded Families in Action, and within just a few years, she had millions of members across the country by 1983.
It was around this time that a substance known as crack cocaine had begun making its way through inner cities and rural communities. Anti-drug crusaders jumped on this opportunity to sweep all drugs into the same harmful category pushing many to alter their neutral stance on marijuana.
The binary of you are either a teetotaler or a drug addict became the standard narrative around all drugs, including marijuana.
Nancy Reagan discovered an opportunity in all this confusion. She stepped in and created the Just Say No campaign that famously utilized then drug addict Drew Barrymore as one of its spokespersons.
D.A.R.E. began popping up on school campuses everywhere. And, of course, who can forget the frying egg in the pan campaign that let Americans know what their brains on drugs metaphorically looked like.
Their work was successful. According to Ohio State University’s Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective project, by 1988, sixty-four percent of Americans believed that drugs were the number one issue that would destroy the country even though drug use was much lower than the previous decade.
As the presidents passed from one to another, the narrative that marijuana is one of the most dangerous plants ever to exist persisted. The U.S. spent over $1.2 billion dollars from 1998 to 2004 to tackle marijuana drug use.
Interestingly, it was during this phase that states began to realize that the American Medical Association was correct and that marijuana is a valuable tool for healthcare. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1998. Since then, thirty-seven other states have legalized medical marijuana.
Colorado decided to take it a step further and completely legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012; and since then, twenty other states have followed suit. While firm data is not available on how much each of these states are collecting from the taxation of marijuana, many experts believe that it is in the trillions.
During the decades since Nixon’s war on drugs began, addiction rates have risen, both cartel power and human trafficking have increased and incarceration rates are embarrassingly high.
So, what does any of this have to do with Hawai’i? Well, rumor has it that this legislative session will see a bill that is going to introduce the legalization of recreational marijuana in Hawai’i.
Research today shows the same as research showed in the 1910s. Marijuana is not addictive and is an important part of healthcare.
For Colorado, the total number of marijuana arrests dropped. The use of marijuana products amongst adults increased, but youth use did not experience a significant change. They also claim that they collected $387 million in tax dollars in 2020 alone.
That is over $137 million more than Rep. Mizuno said gambling would bring the state. And, with legalized marijuana, we will not have to deal with increased human sex trafficking and increased cartel activity as gambling has the potential to do. So, the money collected from taxes on marijuana will not have to be diverted to dealing with increased gambling and alcohol addiction like with gambling revenue.
Gov. Josh Green, M.D. had this to say about Hawai’i legalizing marijuana, “Legalization of recreational marijuana use has been happening across the country over the years. Twenty-one states, Washington, D.C. and Guam have laws to regulate and tax it. I support legalization, and we must build in guardrails to be safe and to make sure that marijuana does not go to young people whose brains are still developing. I’ll insist that much of the tax revenue goes toward drug treatment and law enforcement.”
Rep. Adrian Tam [District 24 Waikīkī, McCully, Mō’ili’ili] weighed in on the topic as well: “Legalization of recreational cannabis regulates and controls the substance for safety purposes”
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Well, that is the long and the short of it. Hawai’i has some decisions to make this year. One way or the other, the people will speak.