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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Marijuana stigma is unwarrented, but still very real

By Anthony Varriano

At MetraPark in Billings, Wednesday night, my Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, spoke to a crowd of thousands. Introducing him was Kari Boiter, candidate for House District 44 in the Heights. Both are pro-cannabis candidates.

The entirety of the words uttered regarding ending cannabis prohibition follow:

“Five years ago, if you would have said that the $7.25 federal minimum wage could be $15 per hour, you would have said, ‘What are you smokin’?’.”

This brought some of the loudest cheers from the Billings crowd, during which Sanders muttered under his breath, “Which should also be legal.” Most in attendance couldn’t even make it out, but I managed to read his lips while standing on a chair. 

These pro-cannabis candidates combined to utter a total of five words on ending marijuana prohibition — in the only place moving backwards on the subject in the entire world. All that despite knowing the now-obvious medical and fiscal benefits. The marijuana stigma is very real if these pro-cannabis candidates are unwilling to give it more attention than a joke in passing. 

Both candidates spoke of the problems with the for-profit prison industry, but didn’t bother to mention there are non-violent marijuana possessors still in prison. There are likely to be more now that the Montana Supreme Court has blatantly endorsed a black market by limiting the number of patients providers can serve to three.

Sanders and Boiter are still my candidates, but it’s worth noting the absence of cannabis reformation discussion, because it’s indicative of an unwarranted stigma. Candidates are still worried about associating with marijuana use too often or openly. 

The bottom line is marijuana prohibition has been the longest-standing, hypocritically draconian legislation on the books in this country for nearly a hundred years, and people are still afraid of something that’s never killed a single soul. 

With more than half the nation backing cannabis legalization, you’d think Sanders and Boiter would embrace the boost received from talking openly about ending marijuana prohibition, but their lack of attention paid to the issue should concern every drug warrior, and is exactly what instills the losing mentality prevalent in the Montana marijuana movement. If drug warriors submit to the stigma that marijuana is dangerous, they’ve already lost.

Anthony Varriano is the director of Cycling for Sensible Drug Policy.

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