Post-Obama America: Does Drug Legalization Look Possible?

“We have to make a choice in this country,” said a prominent cable news personality in 2009. “We have to either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars, or we legalize it. But this little game we’re playing in the middle is not helping us, is not helping Mexico and is causing massive violence on our southern border… I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana.”

People might expect this sentiment from an MSNBC host, but this pro-legalization rant came from former FOX News host Glenn Beck. That’s right, it appears Glenn Beck and Kanye West finally agree on something, and if these opposing personalities can find common ground on cannabis, maybe America’s two political parties can as well. Legalization could become the first major bipartisan issue in a post-Obama America.

“The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated” – William F. Buckley

Consider several of the key issues found in the official party platforms. The Republicans espouse state’s rights, spending cuts, civil liberties and limitations on government oversight. Prohibition, however, effectively promotes the following:

  • A denial of state sovereignty on cannabis issues in favor of federal regulation
  • Federal interference on medical decisions made between a doctor and patient
  • Excessive government spending on incarceration, law enforcement and the drug war
  • Restrictions on civil liberties involving personal use in the privacy of one’s home

The Democrats, meanwhile, prioritize social justice, racial equality, health care and employment issues. Prohibition also counters these priorities in several ways, including the following:

  • Prevents the natural production of new jobs in the cannabis industry
  • Creates employment hurdles via criminal records related to cannabis
  • Fosters social and racial injustice with discriminatory drug law enforcement
  • Limits legitimate health care options for serious and terminal conditions

In this age of hyper-partisanship, few issues exist in which aging hippies and left-leaning millennials can unite with rural conservatives and family-values suburbanites. On the issue of cannabis, however, the tide is turning. In ever-increasing numbers, individuals in both parties recognize the benefits of reform, the damage from prohibition and the dishonest propaganda in anti-cannabis campaigns.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, looked into the issue with the 2010 study The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition. The 54-page findings argued that ending cannabis prohibition would cut spending by $8.7 billion and increase tax revenue by the same amount. In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Stereotypes suggest that ending prohibition is a liberal cause, and polls do show that Democrats are twice as likely to support legalization than Republicans, but several conservatives are taking public stands. Former judge Andrew Napolitano said, “These are times that call for more freedom, rather than less” in offering his support for legalization, while right-wing power broker Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) aligned with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on a bill to allow legitimate dispensaries to deduct business expenses on their federal tax returns. Mama Grizzly herself, Sarah Palin, even told National Review in 2009 that “I’m not going to get in the way of a doctor prescribing something that he or she believes will help a cancer patient.”

In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Speaking of National Review, William F. Buckley founded the seminal conservative magazine 60 years ago. During an interview with the Yale Free Press in 2001, Buckley said, “The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated.”

Anti-prohibition conservatives like Buckley were more common in the 1970s, and in 1972, National Review ran the headline “The Time Has Come: Abolish the Pot Laws.” The War on Drugs propaganda machine helped shift the needle in prohibition’s favor, but the political pendulum appears to be swinging back. A Pew Research survey last year found that 63% of Republican millennials support cannabis legalization.

The religious right might still need more convincing, and some conservatives believe the cultural associations with cannabis justify its prohibition even if science and sociology do not. At the same time, yellow-bellied Democrats who privately support legalization often avoid public support because focus-group data suggests they shouldn’t. Libertarians, economic conservatives and conscience-driven liberals currently lead the political charge, and with the change in tides becoming ever-more clear, the number of legalization supporters should continue to swell.

Last March, bipartisanship took a major step forward when Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act. The proposed bill would end federal prohibition, expand medical research, change the controlled substance schedule and reclassify certain CBD strains for expanded use. A few weeks later, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) led a bipartisan effort in the House introducing a similar bill to restrict prohibition and increase access.

Similarly, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) helped make history last month with their Veterans Equal Access Amendment. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted (18 to 12) in favor of the bipartisan bill, which allows Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana (MMJ) for patients in states that legalized MMJ use. The historic vote marked the first time any Senate body approved legislation that increased access to cannabis.

How far will these legislative bills go? Time will tell, but unlike the hyper-partisan battles under Obama, pro-cannabis legislation will likely pass by bringing the political parties together rather than pushing them further apart.

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Interview with a Catcaller: America’s Most Misunderstood Man

As The Daily Twenties’ fourth most trusted investigative journalist, it is my job to occasionally infiltrate some of America’s seediest undergrounds. I was intrigued by the viral video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” in which a woman endured countless disrespectful catcalls while walking on the sidewalk, and I was determined to get to the bottom of this phenomenon. It was time to go undercover. “It’s a risky operation,” I informed the editor of The Daily Twenties, “if my cover is blown, I could face a barrage of insults.”

“Uh, yeah man. Go for it I guess,” he said, clearly concerned for my wellbeing.

“Please don’t beg for me to stay. It’s just something I have to do.” I hung up before he could try to convince me to abandon my plans.

I traveled to New York City, the hotbed of catcalling as depicted in the video, uncertain of what I would find. I was on the corner of Madison Avenue and E 106th Street for three minutes before I heard what I had come for: “DAMN GIRL, YOU SHIT WITH THAT ASS?!” I couldn’t be sure, but I had a feeling I had just witnessed a catcalling. I approached the gentleman to inquire what he hoped to accomplish with his yelling.

“You really want to know?” His voice became hushed and he leaned in with an air of secrecy. “I don’t do this for my benefit. My actions are purely for their wellbeing.”

“Wait. What?”

The man, Marcus Johnson, continued. “Today’s society is complex. It has changed in the last few decades. Magazines and reality shows bombard women with unreachable physical beauty standards that most cannot hope to attain.”

He must have sensed my incredulity when I asked what the fuck he was talking about.

“It is our duty–the catcallers of the nation–to inform women that despite what Cosmopolitan tells them, we do, in fact, appreciate that ass” he said while biting his bottom lip and staring at a passing woman.

“Well why don’t you just initiate a polite conversation with a woman you’re interested in? Why the inappropriate yelling instead of just walking up and talking with her?”

“It’s not the 50’s any more. Today’s woman has places to be. Jobs to go to, meetings to attend, Tinder dates to be disappointed by. They simply don’t have the time to be stopped on the street and–sorry, pardon me for a second,” he said, gazing past me to an attractive young woman walking by in business attire, “EY GIRL NICE HIPS WANNA SIT ON THIS DICK?!” She shot him a disgusted look and quickened her pace. Marcus sighed. “If she wasn’t in such a hurry I could’ve complimented her enchanting eyes.”

“So you’re saying that every man who catcalls is in on this?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Yes. Our society goes deeper than you can imagine. Why else do you think we would do this? Do you really think we expect a woman to approach us simply because we shouted innuendos at them?”

“I… I don’t know. I guess I just assumed you were all being dumb assholes.”

“Oh, my sweet naive child,” he smiled warmly. “We are persecuted but will continue fighting the good fight. Because we are the heroes America deserves, but not the ones it needs right now. So they’ll hunt us, because we can take it.”

“…did you just quote the Dark Knight?”

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He hesitated before running off and disappearing into the crowd. In the distance a faint “LET ME GET THEM DIGITS GIIIIIRL” could be heard before being swallowed by the noise of passing cars and honked horns.

God speed, Marcus. A silent guardian. A watchful protector. Still kind of a dick.

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It’s Time To Change the Gun “Debate”

In response to the mass shooting that took place in my home state last week, President Obama said “we are collectively answerable” to the families of the victims of mass gun violence. I appreciate the political factors behind that statement, but I disagree strongly. Responsibility for gun violence does not rest on the shoulders of the policymakers and advocates who have tirelessly worked to enact gun control laws, to no avail. Nor does responsibility rest on the shoulders of the majority of Americans who support background checks for prospective gun purchasers and bans on assault weapons.

The president also said (this time correctly) that “gun violence is a political choice.” It is a choice made, not by all of us collectively, but by those among us who refuse to lend their support to smart gun control policies. And it is a choice which resulted directly in the deaths of ten Oregonians in Roseburg last week, many of them teenagers, and hundreds of thousands of other people across the county over the last decade.

The president’s comments should spur us to think about the conversation we routinely have after every incident of mass gun violence – why has it continually failed to produce meaningful reforms?

The answer is simply that it’s the wrong conversation. We respond too readily with lines like “we can have common sense gun reforms that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.” These responses, while ostensibly true, disperse the culpability for gun violence to such a degree that nobody feels compelled to change their behavior or their beliefs. This mode of arguing has been useless for achieving lasting and effective changes to our gun policies: 406,496 Americans were killed by a gun between 2001 and 2013, and mass shootings are happening more frequently than at any time in the past three decades.

It is time for a new line of thinking (and arguing) that focuses on the true impetus behind gun violence in America, and which shines a bright light on the actors responsible for bringing that impetus about. The fact of the matter is that there is only one factor contributing to the frequency of mass shootings. It isn’t mental illness. It isn’t evil. It isn’t poverty or drugs or religious extremism. Those things exist everywhere. The one variable that exists here at a level unparalleled in any other country, and which by every quantifiable metric is causally connected to our outlandish death-by-gun rate, is wholesale opposition to gun control.

From this point forward, our response to mass shootings should be one which centers around anti-gun control advocacy as a causal contributor to gun violence, and which casts those who engage in it as active participants in each and every mass shooting that takes place. I’ll go first:

If you continue to pay membership dues to the NRA, you had a hand in the deaths of ten Oregonians last week.

If you helped to elect a Tea Party candidate to Congress, you had a hand in the deaths of ten Oregonians last week.

If you refuse to support assault weapons bans and universal background checks even when those policies would have no discernible impact on your life, you had a hand in the deaths of ten Oregonians last week.

Either you support strong gun control, or you’re comfortable with your role in promoting domestic terrorism and murder. There is no gray area.

I would like to submit for the record that gun ownership (even gun fanaticism) and support for strong gun control are not mutually exclusive ideas, and in pointing my finger at gun advocates I don’t mean to suggest that gun ownership on its own confers complicity in gun violence. Rather, I intend to suggest that specific actions like supporting the NRA and Tea Party politicians, and opposing gun laws, should be taken for what they are: tacit endorsements of the status quo, and meaningful contributions to each and every instance of gun violence in the U.S.

As the president said, this is a political choice. So let’s start treating it like one, and maybe anti-gun control advocates will finally start feeling some pressure to account for the consequences of their actions. It may be a long shot, but I’d really like not to have to do this all over again in a few months.

Kim Davis Has Declared War on Red Lobster

Rowan County, Kentucky: Kim Davis, a local Christian woman, has gained notoriety for her enthusiastic support of the Bible passage that forbids eating shellfish and assaulting people trying to enter the town’s Red Lobster. She states that because the Bible declares that consuming shellfish is an “abomination”, it is her duty to prevent others from entering the restaurant and damning themselves to eternal hellfire. She said she will use any means necessary to achieve this goal.

“It is not a light issue for me. It’s a Heaven or Hell decision,” she said to local reporters, while executing a flawless armbar on an elderly man.

“God grows angrier with every order of oyster shooters, or lobster tails with sides of butter, or baskets of cajun seasoned crawfish…” her voice trailed off and her eyes appeared to glaze over. “Ma’am? You alright?” a bystander asked in concerned voice. “Oh, yeah, I was just thinking about… all the sinnin’… going on in there,” her eyes drifted to the restaurant. With a half-hearted sigh she landed a left hook into the man’s solar plexus.

When asked by a reporter what her response would be if, for instance, a Muslim waiter refused to serve her ham based on his religious beliefs, Davis responded, “Well that whole premise is stupid, I wouldn’t let no Muslim be my waiter.” She punctuated her statement by scissor kicking a passing couple.

Mike Huckabee (R, AR) flew in to show support for her brave resilience.

“You know, it takes courage to stand against the Lobster Agenda that’s trying to destroy the sanctity of our dinner. Nowadays, folks are saying stuff like ‘but I don’t believe in that part of the Bible’ and ‘I can’t help it that I like crab legs’ and ‘mind your own fucking business you twat’. But by standing up for what she believes in, she is bravely making other people submit to what she believes in. And isn’t that what living in a free country is all about?”

The thunderous applause was interrupted only by the whimpering of a child who thought he could sneak into the restaurant past the vigilant defender. But he was wrong. Punched wrong.