(The following article represents the opinion of the editorial board of Bigeasymagazine.com)
To call modern Louisiana a Conservative values state would be an understatement. Recently, we passed the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country and every now and then we continue to press schools into teaching regressive, anti-science curriculum. It can be daunting, having progressive ideas in such an area.
We at Big Easy Magazine are excited about the signage of our state’s medical marijuana law and its implementation in the coming months. It may not be exactly akin to Canada’s sweeping new legislation, but we’ll take it. To celebrate, high ranking staff writers got together a few paragraphs each on what this subject means to them, their families, their friends and their city and state:
With recent studies showing marijuana to be an effective treatment for those who suffer with mental illnesses such as PTSD, the Louisiana State Legislature saw fit to add these ailments to the list of illnesses that can be treated under Louisiana’s medical marijuana law. This is great news for me, as well as all the veterans who suffer with PTSD. Considering the degree to which marijuana’s medicinal benefits outweigh the side effects of the herb, the recent law is long overdue for Louisiana.
In New Orleans, we often celebrate after a long week of work by consuming alcoholic beverages at a festival, event, show or bar. Despite the negative impact that alcoholism has had in many people’s lives, our modern society has never really stigmatized it. In the 1930s, prohibition was overturned after a massive outcry from citizens. In contrast, despite its benign nature, we have a history of associating marijuana use with criminal activity, with the drug industry spending millions of dollars to falsify stories about how marijuana use results in murderous rage, all in an effort to stigmatize a natural plant.
The staff here at Big Easy Magazine celebrates and supports the new medical marijuana law, and we believe it is a very positive step in the right direction in treating patients with physical and mental ailments. It is our hope that this law will be a harbinger for change throughout the United States and the world. We are confident that the data will refute the fallacious claims from Big Pharma that marijuana use leads to more mad men committing crime, leading to higher incarceration rates. Conversely, we believe the evidence will show that the legalization of this natural herb will lead to lower health care cost, better treatment options, increased revenue to state coffers and lower incarceration rates. Finally, it is our hope that the law will eventually lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana and to the end of the war on drugs.
After a most stressful yet somewhat fulfilling house move (down the street, but still), I was walking past my brother Bobby in our new shotgun home. I had just read up on some information regarding Governor Edwards’ passage of medical marijuana, including how people with autism will be able to seek treatment.
My brother is on the high functioning end of the spectrum and is active in the community, but as of late, he has had many panic attacks and loads of anxiety. Something like legal weed could take the edge off. Amused at the thought of him “getting high” (this would not necessarily be the case depending on dosage), I asked him, point blank, if he would like to try this new option.
Eyes wide and surprised, face contorted in disgust, he said “Eh.” Really, I thought? I clarified that it may not have to be smoked. “Oh, ok!” he exclaimed. I think there is, even now, a strong stigma associated with weed, legal or otherwise, that what you’re doing is somehow shameful. But, if thought of in a different form – be it lollipop or pill – it circumvents the conventions. No shame in alleviating pain, sir! And if any comes about, it’s coming from you. So relax.
For my brother, I hope he considers. For my brother, I hope he qualifies. For my city and state, I hope we can move towards recreational regulation.
To discuss marijuana legalization, medical or recreational, without touching on the issue of race and mass incarceration, would not only paint an incomplete picture but would ignore some of the most pressing problems with the prohibition of marijuana. The United States is the prison capital of the world. Louisiana is the prison capital of the United States. This means that Louisiana’s percentage of prisoners to residents is the highest of any state or country in the modern world. As one of the state’s with some of the strictest drug laws in the nation, Louisiana has some of the highest numbers when it comes to small time drug arrests. We are a state that helps to lead to war on drugs in this country.
The war on drugs is not actually a war on drugs. It is a war on the poor and disenfranchised. Marijuana arrests disproportionately affect communities of color. This is not because marijuana use is higher in these communities. The use of this herb is nearly constant amongst racial groups. The enforcement of draconian drug laws is used as a tool of the state to oppress, control and marginalize. The recent legislation concerning the expansion of legal uses for medical marijuana is a good step, but it is just a step.
For the sake of Louisiana to move towards a more just society, I hope that these drug laws not only continue to change, but that those who were most affected by the harsh enforcement and minimal sentencing related to these drug laws are given a fair shake. There is no true justice until every person locked up for a nonviolent marijuana arrest is no longer imprisoned by the state. Legalization, medical and recreational, must only be the beginning on our path to a more just society.
Nolan Storey (Editor in Chief)