This week, the global wave of support for cannabis legalization reached a new peak when Uruguay became the first nation to legalize cannabis. Citizens rejoiced, and HIGH TIMES Editor-in-Chief Chris Simunek even dubbed Uruguay “The Coolest Country on Earth.” When the excitement around this monumental decision mellows, the world will learn just how effective a weed-legal nation can be. Uruguay’s Central and South American neighbors, plagued by the violence inherent in the rampant illegal drug trade, are watching closely to see if legalization is a feasible means to curb their woes. Then there are those who just want to see how much money there is to be made.
While an argument to battle the illegal drug trade goes a long way in Uruguay, constituencies in the US need a different kind of convincing, and this week New York State lawmakers set out to prove that there is, indeed, money in pot. Though a socially liberal environment, America’s largest city has been relatively slow to adapt to the nation’s easing of marijuana laws. The city’s revival in the '90s, credited to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, relied significantly on the enforcement of quality of life laws, and though the city has decriminalized cannabis possession, residents (particularly black and brown ones) may feel that the NYPD has not gotten the memo. The proposed legalization/regulation bill would not only generate $431 million in tax revenue, it would also alleviate $31 million in costs by eliminating needless prosecutions for cannabis charges. Coupled with an incoming mayor who opposes Stop And Frisk, this sounds like a great prospect. However, it was the stringent policing mantra of William Bratton, empowered by Giuliani, which carried New York City’s transition from crime to safety in the '90s. While the effect remains to be seen, we can expect to see a real change in the city’s atmosphere in the coming year.
And while change is affecting minds all over the country in favor of legal cannabis, we are constantly reminded of the stubborn, myopic mindsets that still thrive here. Conservative commentator and all-around taint Bill O’Reilly recently went on a rant against the Denver Post’s hiring of a marijuana editor. O’Reilly appeared incredulous that a legal and rather popular intoxicant could be the subject of journalistic appreciation and critique. When his colleague Juan Williams reminded him that wine criticism is a thing that exists, O’Reilly stubbornly insisted it was different, saying, “You can drink wine without getting inebriated.” Though his logic is confounding, O’Reilly reminds us that the same thinking behind opposition to gay marriage will be used to discredit cannabis. The phrase “To each his own” still means nothing to a lot of Americans. Apparently, the UN feels the same way.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which seems to purport a negative connotation of cannabis even in its title, stated that Uruguay’s legalization of cannabis is a regrettable decision, and the agency is not alone in its lameness. In agreement is the International Narcotics Control Board, stating that the decision “contravenes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, to which Uruguay is a party.” Said convention places cannabis on an alphabetized list of illegal drugs between Bezitramide, an analgesic which was illegalized in the Netherlands after killing a small child, and Clonitazene, an opiate three times more powerful than morphine. Again, the logic loses.
But overall… WE’RE WINNING