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Est. April 5, 2002
October 25, 2018 - Issue 761

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Legalizing Marijuana
Makes My Imagination Run Wild
Help a sista out who wants to have
a radical position on drugs


"Americans are abusive, and they are deep into
self-medication abusing prescription drugs, alcohol
and everything in between. I foresee medical weed
being over-prescribed by doctors
as they have done with opioids."

For the first time, Missouri voters will be voting on legalizing medical marijuana. There are three ballot measures, each very different in its approach to who controls the process to who gets to benefit from the medical benefits.

My first encounter with pot was in college. It may come as a surprise but I never saw drugs being used or sold in my working-class community. Therefore, my parents never gave me the “Just say No!” speech. It was 1968 and I was on my way to becoming a self-proclaimed Black radical. I wanted no parts of a mind-altering drugs. No smoking of anything, not even inhaling. I needed to be woke!

Since then it’s been challenging for me to develop a reasonable position on marijuana. I’m all for de-criminalizing it but I always stop short on supporting legalization. I suspect Missouri voters will inevitably be faced with a ballot initiative on recreation marijuana. This is where my imagination goes to zombie land.

If my view needs to evolve, it will require help from my readers. Here are the issues I am struggling with.

Despite the arguments I’ve heard over the years that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs, that it’s a natural plant (so is deadly Oleander!), it has definite negative effects on the brain and body. In exchange for that nice high, the short-term results are increased heart rates, lowered blood pressure, distorted perception and loss of coordination. Long-term use leads to loss of memory, risk of lung ailments and loss of bone density. There’s a reason - I often tell people - that marijuana is prescribed to people with terminal illness.

Americans are abusive, and they are deep into self-medication abusing prescription drugs, alcohol and everything in between. I foresee medical weed being over-prescribed by doctors as they have done with opioids.

With the widespread use of pot, are you comfortable that your surgeon didn’t enjoy a blunt before surgery on your heart? Or that a pilot didn’t hit a spliff before take-off? Or that your mechanic didn’t roll a joint before s/he worked on your brakes?

For decades, Black and Brown folks were hauled off to prison for long periods of time for possession of weed - regardless of the amount. Blacks were arrested and convicted more than twice the rate of whites in the Show-Me State despite comparable usage.

Last year, the cannabis industry brought in $10 billion dollars and the profits are expected to escalate. Business is booming yet Black entrepreneurs and Black farmers can’t seem to catch a break. Racism and lack of capital are the main barriers. African Americans own a measly one percent of the 3,500 marijuana dispensaries in the U.S. Growers and the related businesses are locked down by white folks.

Lastly, I can’t wrap my head around Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a marijuana shop. One scout in San Diego sold a record 300 boxes in less than 6 hours. For this former Girl Scout and eternal child advocate, something is just wrong with that picture.

Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana. Nine states and Washington, DC have legalized recreation marijuana that require no doctor’s permission. Now people can grow, distribute and possess in states where the drug is legal in the state. Yet pot is still illegal on the federal level. I can see some continued racial targeting with this scenario.

Am I wrong to envision a society where pot and opioid users and abusers will run amuck causing chaos and confusion, maybe even deaths? What is a Black radical position on drugs in a land where Black folks always get the short end of the stick. Most times, we get the whole stick - across our heads. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle.  Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.comContact Ms. Rogers and BC.
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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
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Peter Gamble

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