Cannaconvictions can be harsh – but can we say that they are unfair in states where the plant is explicitly illegal? This week Cannadid Questions explores this heated topic, and explains why the laws that are currently in place can sometimes exceed what is ‘fair and just.’
Dear Cannabis Magazine,
I know that there is a lot of controversy over marijuana convictions in states where cannabis isn’t legal. Most people I know who get upset about it just say that pot isn’t really a drug so people shouldn’t be put in jail for it, but the other day I heard that marijuana sentences are more extreme than other drug sentences. I’ve always thought our government was pretty fair, but is it possible that this is right?
All my best,
Dear Confused Cannaesuer,
Unfortunately, it is true that the government can be very harsh with their ‘cannaconvictions.’ There have been countless people who have had their lives sidetracked by the uncompromising response given to them by the government. The prison sentences given to people convicted of cannabis related crimes vary by state, but there have been plenty of non-violent offenders who have been given life sentences for possessing, attempting to buy, or selling marijuana. In contrast, most convicted heroin dealers receive a 10-15 year sentence.
However, the government’s intolerance of cannabis extends beyond plant consumption. They also target individuals who benefit from using synthetic cannabis products like MARINOL. An elderly patient with terminal cancer was arrested for driving under the influence of cannabis in Kansas. The problem? She wasn’t using cannabis. She was using MARINOL – a pharmaceutical equivalent to THC used to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. This prescription drug has been legal nationwide since 1985 – but that didn’t change the minds of officers. She served the full 48 hours and was forced to miss her chemotherapy treatment and doctors appointment because of it.
There is definitely a prejudice towards cannabis and cannabis users in our country and the legal measures taken against them can extend beyond justice at times. Thanks to some really passionate advocates and organizations, things have been changing and continue to progress.
All the Highest!
Dear Cannabis Magazine,
I know that a lot of people are divided about whether people should be thrown in jail for using or selling marijuana, but is it really that big of a deal? I think most people who go to jail for marijuana possession are likely drug dealers who have done a lot of other bad things. And besides that, a lot of states are working to legalize cannabis. I also know from an article I read on your site that the government has made exceptions for people with extreme medical conditions to use cannabis even when it was completely outlawed. Why can’t people just wait for it to become legal before using it? After all, they are knowingly breaking the law…
Dear Dutiful Citizen,
You make a lot of valid points in your question. However, the answer remains that yes, the issue of cannabis possession being a reason for imprisonment is a very big deal.
To answer your question fully I’ll start at the beginning. I’m assuming from your question that you read the first Cannadid Questions article, which talked about the government making an exception to their anti-cannabis stance by sending Irvin Rosenfeld 300 pre-rolled joints each month. This was only possible because he had a rare bone disease called multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses.
Sounds painful? Let me assure you – it is. This disease is characterized by the growth of benign cartilage tumors that grow outward from the bones of the afflicted individuals. Because his condition was so rare – and painful – he was allowed admission into the FDA’s Investigational New Drug program (IND).
So what was this program?
The IND program was run with help from the University of Mississippi. They gained a contract with the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1974 to grow cannabis for research purposes. For a long time, this was the only source of legal cannabis in the United States. They gave cannabis to seven patients. It was deemed as ‘compassionate use’ and they were monitored so research on cannabis could be gathered.
At first glance this may seem okay – after all, at least those seven people got help, right? But you need to know several things before forming an opinion.
The first is that before a drug can be tested in human subjects, it must first be tested on animals. This is done to discover how the drug works and to measure how safe use in human subjects would be. This testing is very rigorous – no one wants to chance a human subject being hurt by a product. For NIDA to be able to launch IND, they would have had to have known with almost absolute certainty that the drug wouldn’t be harmful to a human subject.
So, if they were able to establish that human subjects were at a low or non-existent risk of being harmfully affected by cannabis (remember the Controlled Substance Act was passed in 1970 and this program was created in 1974), why didn’t they remove it from the war on drugs?
The second thing you should know is that the U.S. government had from 1974 until present day to learn that not only is cannabis not harmful to humans – it is beneficial medically. However, they supposedly never came to this conclusion based on the studies they released. So maybe they just ran the wrong tests and never discovered the amazing benefits that cannabis has. Right?
Big Pharma released MARINOL (also known as dronabinol) in 1985 and it was approved nationwide. [Cannabis Magazine Note: MARINOL is a synthetic form of delta-9-THC that is used to treat the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients.] California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996, and until then the University of Mississippi was the only place in the United States that had the ability to grow cannabis legally. So where did research that was so convincing of cannabis’ benefits come from before then? Most likely from the IND.
From this point, it’s pretty easy to make several conclusions.
- The government knew that cannabis had medical benefits long before the research ban against cannabis was lifted.
- Those beneficial findings were given to pharmaceutical companies in order to create synthetic versions of cannabis instead of allowing people suffering from debilitating health conditions use natural forms of the plant.
- The arguments that they give us for denying medical cannabis as a right at a federal level has no substance – they already know that it has the potential to treat, and perhaps cure our most deadly and debilitating diseases.
This is why people are so frustrated with the slow march to legalization. Many people recognize that the government already knows how beneficial cannabis can be. This is why so many people are wildly frustrated every time Jeff Sessions says outlandish things about cannabis essentially being an equivalent health threat to heroin.
Now, does that mean citizens should knowingly break the law? Absolutely not. Our country needs order, and respect for the law, if it is to thrive.
However, this respect needs to be mutual, our laws should not hold citizens back from life enhancing substances (or possibly from any consumables at all, but that’s for another discussion). Citizens have the right to demand answers from their government in regards to the ban on marijuana – and they should continue to demand answers until every person in need (and those age appropriate and in want) has access to cannabis.
All the Highest,