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If You Think Marijuana Isn't an Important Issue, You're Dead Wrong

The question of how we as a society choose to deal with marijuana is more than just a serious issue, it's a matter of life and death.
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As the debate over marijuana legalization continues to heat up, those who'd rather duck the discussion are increasingly incapable of concealing their discomfort. We recently saw Mitt Romney snap at a reporter for asking about marijuana in Colorado, and in a recent segment, CNN contributor LZ Granderson went further still:

CNN's Carol Costello asked contributor LZ Granderson to respond to any of the Colorado voters who might be less likely to back President Barack Obama because he does not support marijuana legalization.

"Well, they're idiots," Granderson explained. "If you're voting for a president, any president, on one single issue -- especially one issue that is so peripheral such as marijuana usage -- you're a idiot. I don't want to mince any words here. We have way too many more important things to talk about as Mitt Romney said earlier, as the president has said earlier." [Raw Story]

One scarcely knows where to begin unraveling such an arrogant and self-righteous statement about what other people should and shouldn't care about. To call it a "peripheral" issue makes a mockery of the millions of Americans who've had their lives turned upside down by a marijuana arrest. It's an insult to innocent victims of rampant racial profiling brought on biased and brutal drug enforcement practices. It dishonors the memory of the tens of thousands who've lost their lives at the hands of violent cartels to whom we've handed a huge stake in the lucrative American marijuana trade.

On a daily basis, the war on marijuana destroys families, ends lives, destabilizes communities and diverts limited resources away from the people who need them and into an endless cycle of drug war devastation. Either that, or it prevents all these horrible things, as its defenders continue to claim. In either case, the question of how we as a society choose to deal with marijuana is more than just a serious issue, it's a matter of life and death. Of course it is. There's no such thing as a multi-billion dollar question that isn't worth asking.

That's why it's odd to see people like Romney and Granderson taking such pride in their indifference to the issue. When the marijuana debate is surging would strike me as a stupid time to start showing off how little you care about it. It should be obvious that so many people are raising this topic because they take the matter seriously and that offering anything other than a smart answer could make you look less than smart. LZ Granderson does his best to prove my point:

So if you're basing your vote on who's going to be president about whether or not they let you roll up a blunt then you're just an idiot and I hope you don't have the right to vote anyway.

If you've ignored the legalization debate long enough to persist in thinking it's about nothing more than people wanting to get high, I almost understand why you think it's not important. Heck, I'd even agree with you that aside from medical use, it's not exactly a tragedy if some dude can't get stoned on one particular occasion or another.

Of course, stopping people from smoking marijuana isn't even a feature of our marijuana laws. In all my years fighting for marijuana reform, I've met very few people whose complaint about our marijuana policy was that it deprived them of pot. The only time we actually stop people from smoking marijuana is when we rip the joint out of their mouth and cuff their hands behind their back so they can't roll another.

The real marijuana reform debate is about much more than that, and it ought to be obvious that legalization wouldn't poll so high if only stoned self-interested stereotypes sympathized with it. The belief that our marijuana laws are wrong is a mainstream viewpoint among regular people, a majority of them in fact, and that's who you're attacking when you reject the reform argument as some form of drug-induced idiocy.

As a child raised in the midst of Reagan-era drug war hysteria, I attended my first anti-drug assembly at the age of 5. I was literally taught the terrors of drugs at the same time that I learned to add, subtract and spell. From childhood through adolescence and into adulthood, I've been told again and again by my government that making the right decisions regarding drugs is one of the most important things I can do in my life. Today, I watch in frustration as that same government makes one bad decision after another in its own approach to drugs. And when I speak up, I'm told this isn't an important issue? The hell it isn't.