‘Big Marijuana’ not as dangerous as ‘war on drugs’

Christopher Griffith
Christopher Griffith

In a recent op-ed piece, Frank Rapier, the director of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area based in London, made a few statements that I think a great deal of Kentucky residents should take issue with.

Rapier begins his column by claiming that the push for marijuana is propagated by corporations that make money off its sale.

I would say that is completely true; but to view that in a negative light is overtly hypocritical.

Both our state and federal governments are heavily influenced by special-interest monies. Rapier’s job is to help aid the state in the government’s war on drugs. A war that, in 2014, led to the arrest of seven times the number of people for possession of marijuana than for distribution or trafficking.

He argues, “Law enforcement is too busy to bother with casual marijuana users.”

Yet, FBI statistics show that, in 2014, drug possession arrests made up 83.1 percent of all drug-related arrests, 39.7 percent of which were made for the possession of marijuana.

Arrests for possession of all other illicit drugs combined were just 43.3 percent. This means that 700,990 people were arrested for marijuana out of the total 1,561,231 people arrested for all drug offenses.

The article states that “Big Marijuana” falsely claims our prisons are filled with those arrested on marijuana offenses. While the number is smaller than most advocacy groups claim them to be, the fact that ordinary citizens have an arrest record for marijuana possession is still a very real issue.

Just because a person may serve little to no jail time for a possession charge doesn’t mean they escape unscathed. Everyday citizens in every city across the country have possession charges on their record, making it difficult for them to find employment and housing.

Rapier states the Food and Drug Administration should be researching and approving THC-based medicine. They are and they have.

Many states, including Kentucky, have some sort of THC-based treatment that has been approved by the FDA. To my knowledge, the only two locations you can receive these treatments are the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.

However, not all medical marijuana needs to be in pill form. Treatments for cancer and AIDS can leave patients weak from lack of appetite, and unable to keep any medicine down. Multiple medical studies have shown THC relieves pain and nausea and increases appetite.

It may not be a panacea, but I don’t think anyone is claiming it to be.

Of course, the legalization of marijuana should be taken seriously; we should have many debates on the subject and draw up rigorous guidelines for those growing and selling the plant.

What we shouldn’t do is use scare tactics to halt the conversation.

Big money funds pro-marijuana groups, big money funds anti-marijuana groups. Some people will make successful business from legalization. Many people currently make money with marijuana illegally. Rapier’s office receives money for helping states wage war on drugs.

The day Rapier’s op-ed was published, an announcement was made in Blount County, Tenn., that labeled the location as the newest high intensity drug trafficking area in Rapier’s jurisdiction. This increases the financial support the regional office receives from the government.

I’d like to argue that Rapier’s office has just as much to gain with the continued enforcement of archaic marijuana laws as would “Big Marijuana” if legalization occurs.

Maybe it’s time to try a new approach, not one of throwing money at a problem with unrealistic hopes of making it disappear, but one of making money to regulate it. Lawmakers can’t seem to make a decision based on what is good for our state instead of basing the decision on their personal biases.

Maybe it’s time to let the people decide. Maybe it’s time for the Bluegrass to go green.

Christopher Griffith lives in London.

At issue: Jan. 15 commentary by Frank Rapier, “Don’t fall for the lies from Big Marijuana”

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