Living alongside legal marijuana

Katie Ward

Need to fully understand impacts of law changes


Over the past year or so, the once taboo experimental drug, marijuana, has transformed into a new, trendy, chic but dangerously cool lifestyle.

Across states to countries, media outlets have taken full grasp of acknowledging the world of marijuana, that for years was left to only a categorized group of individuals, normally “stoners.”

From Magazines like “Broccoli,” television shows, publications such as VICE’s seasonal cooking/documentary “Bong Appetit,” movies that are no longer centered around Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill making gag comments and new specialized shops popping up in almost every neighborhood or districts of large cities, marijuana is beginning to become a mainstream part of our culture.

In 2018, it’s becoming more normalized to hear the word marijuana rolling off someone’s tongue, as it is for their tongue to be helping roll up a joint. There has been an explosion of stylish brands and businesses that are catering to this once stigmatized substance and now fully embracing it into almost every household.

Who would have ever thought they’d see the day of mainstream marijuana?
But then again, that’s the whole shift of legalizing, said Anja Charbonneau, the creator of “Broccoli,” a magazine that solely appreciates and delves into the culture and world of weed.

“People want weed to look like something that fits into their life. And as soon they don’t have to hide it anymore, they want it to look natural and beautiful,” Charbonneau said.

It’s true. With high marketing strategies and large, influential cities like Seattle, Portland and recently California legalizing the drug on a recreational level, the market for legal marijuana is heating up.

In 2017, legal marijuana sales estimated at $9.7 billion in the U.S. with a prediction that sales will reach $24.5 billion in 2021. That is unless Session’s hasty act of prosecuting state-legal businesses takes action.

While marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in seven states around the U.S. and people are flocking to it like it was never that drug your parents said “fried your brain” or made you into a lazy “stoner,” the plant itself is still considered a Section 1 illegal substance, right alongside cocaine, heroin and LSD.

Crazy, right?

Now there is no need nor want, really, to argue or digress over the incompetence of Session’s argument that weed has any correlation to an opiod addiction or that it leads to a corrupt society of violence.

No, the bigger topic to discuss is what is going to happen to those who, for many years, have been victimized and imprisoned by this “highly addictive” drug?

For most of my life, marijuana was talked about in whispers during middle and high school lunches, as it felt like an act of rebellion to even be saying the word.

In the eighth grade, my entire group of girlfriends got busted by their parents after finding on their text messages this secret word of “pudding.” Just like our parents always say, they’re a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

The bust took months of being grounded, no out of school activities and counseling — yes, even I was scheduled for this group sessions since, as they also say, you are who you hang out with.

I smoked weed for the first time my junior year of high school with my two best friends, and let me tell you, it was an extremely underwhelming experience. After so much hype had been created around this flower of feeling lightness to the body, heightened humor, basically “tripping,” I laid low for a few years.

Being vigilant of how I approach this subject and in my own personal use of the plant, this conversation isn’t to say the booming success of legalizing marijuana is one to be frowned upon or taken away.

The drug has not only allowed those who may medically need this drug without the help of a prescription or made acceptance for individuals to simply try it without feeling the automatic shame of peers.

Marijuana has upheld, for many decades, this notion of leading into and being a part of a low-motivation, slacker lifestyle, if one decides to smoke it. People have spent so much energy on saying what they don’t like about the drug, rather than investigating more of what it offers, can do, or even the basis of what it entails.

Or rather, they hear it, but choose to ignore it while boasting their prideful opinion.
From 1965 to 1969, cannabis evolved into the profound catalyst for cultural and political change.

The President of the time, Richard Nixon, aimed to end and criminalize those influenced and participating in the selling or consuming of marijuana through the War on Drugs act in hopes to federally prohibit it for good.

The cannabis industry, while successfully migrating its way into normal-day society, has overlooked and excluded minorities, especially the black community.

For decades, the drug laws in America have visibly and disproportionately targeted minorities, who are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though marijuana is seen being used equally among both.

So, as the so-called “green rush” of marijuana sales and business rise around cities every day, those who have held criminal records for this now welcomed drug are not only feeling shut out but also limited in their own participation whether for consumption or to legally operate a business.

Last week, Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle and City Attorney Pete Holmes have made a clear message to go back and vacate those who have endured misdemeanor marijuana-possession convictions that were prosecuted by the state before legalization.

Since Washington legalized weed in 2012, it has been nothing but a success story for the eclectic city, but while we bask in the new found freedom of smoking pot, we have overlooked those who have been “disproportionately affected,” Durkan stated last Thursday at a press conference.

“The war on drugs ended up being a war on people who needed help, who needed opportunity and who needed treatment,” she said in the news conference at Rainier Community Center in South Seattle.

This necessary step towards breaking away the barrier of those crimilized could result in around 500 to 600 people who have been convicted in the Seattle area since 1997, Holmes said.

Seattle is just one of the few cities aiming to break the system and help those who have been incarcerated since 1986 to 2010, where more than 4,000 to 11,000 a year have been arrested for some sort of possession, stated by the mayor’s office when citing the Drug Policy Alliance.

Welcome to the beginning of dope year zero, to the year of rising legal shops and marijuana brand-names, and to the interregnum between criminal and customer.

Welcome to the year of ending the sociopolitical dynamics of a culture and industry that has, for decades, been plagued by a systematic racial injustice.