Only Marijuana Legalization Fulfills the Promise of Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp

Photo by Justin Cannabis

I’m an adult who likes to smoke marijuana for fun. There is nothing shameful about that.

But there are some people in America who do think smoking marijuana to get high is somehow an unseemly act.

What’s worse is that some of them are supposedly on our side.

Some of the supporters of medical cannabis, for instance, are fond of saying that they are “Patients, Not Criminals” or “Patients, Not Potheads.” They’ll explain how what they’re fighting for are sick and disabled people’s access to medical cannabis, which they’ll assure the listener “isn’t about some stoners just trying to get high.” Those fighting for access to cannabidiol make sure to stress that it’s “not going to get anybody high.”

Oh, no, God forbid somebody uses marijuana to get high!

Healthy people who use marijuana aren’t criminals and don’t deserve to be slandered as potheads or stoners. But consistently framing medical cannabis as something that’s socially acceptable in opposition to smoking marijuana “just to get high” only reinforces our true opponents’ messaging that it’s unacceptable.

Other medical cannabis supporters try to frame it as “health before happy hour.” But that still emphasizes that patients have a morally acceptable justification for marijuana use and everybody else using marijuana is engaged in a frivolity that it’s acceptable to punish.

There’s a similar arm’s-length distancing from adult marijuana use espoused by the supporters of industrial hemp. “It’s Rope and Soap, Not Dope” is the slogan heard most often, along with the usual assurance that “stoners couldn’t get high on hemp if they tried.” Again, hemp is promoted as something morally superior and implications abound that using marijuana is indecorous.

It’s not as if the individuals supporting medical cannabis or industrial hemp mean to be reinforcing our opponents’ messaging. Many of them consume marijuana for non-medical purposes themselves. Most, if not all of them, are with us on the need to end adult marijuana prohibition.

They just won’t say so publicly, lest they lose mainstream empathy for sick people and curiosity about hemp products through association with the reviled potheads.

The irony of it all is that it is the mainstream’s revulsion for potheads that hamstrings their efforts to fully utilize medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp.

Why must people in every medical marijuana state but California have some qualifying condition established by law and not medical judgment? Because without specific, objective, verifiable conditions listed, some potheads will access medical marijuana to get high!

Why are western medical marijuana states curtailing the possession and plant limits set for patients prior to adult-use legalization? Because with greater limits, some potheads will divert that medical marijuana to potheads who want to get high!

Why are eastern medical marijuana states prohibiting home cultivation and smoking altogether, in favor of non-smoked cannabinoid preparations available only through dispensaries? Because with home cultivation, some potheads will divert medical marijuana to potheads who want to get high, and because only potheads smoke marijuana!

Why do southern medical marijuana states ban any form of cannabis oil with more than a scant amount of THC in it? Because if it had THC in it, potheads would use it to get high!

Why is hemp cultivation banned to all American farmers, except a lucky few involved in some limited state hemp research programs at universities and ag departments? Because if we let farmers grow hemp, some potheads will find a way to conceal the marijuana they grow to smoke and get high!

Why are the few farmers who get to grow industrial hemp limited to cultivars of less than 0.3 percent THC? Because if the hemp had more THC in it, the potheads would extract and concentrate it to smoke it and get high!

So long as potheads who smoke marijuana to get high must be prevented from doing so at all costs, there will always be a deserving patient who gets stuck on the wrong side of the “Patients, Not Criminals” line and industrial hemp will continue to be the minuscule-THC cultivars that belie the true potential of plant’s uses.

This is not to say there shouldn’t be niche cannabis advocacy groups fighting specifically for medical or industrial use. It is to say that there are ways of framing the debate that don’t involve throwing under the bus we stoners who like to get high.

After all, we’re the only ones fighting to end the prohibition of the cannabis plant for all people and all uses.

Winning our fight automatically wins all the others, but fighting only for medical or hemp helps only a minority of us and sets artificial limits and restrictions that will never be exceeded until the bigger war on the majority of us—the potheads, the stoners—is over.

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