As Americans, we value our liberty. Yet, in Kansas we allow unjust laws to tear apart families and restrict our liberties. Criminal convictions ruin lives. Over 15 million individuals have been arrested for cannabis-related crimes since the mid-1990s according to statics from the FBI, while other cannabis users have been elected to high political offices and have served on the Supreme Court. These injustices are not equally dispersed throughout the American population either. In fact, the ACLU reports that despite similar rates of use, African Americans are 3.5x more likely to be arrested for possession of cannabis.
Our police forces are dedicating resources to busting pot smokers when they could be fighting violent crime. The FBI reports that only 33% of rape investigations and only 14% of burglary investigations resulted in an arrest. According to Police Quarterly, a higher number of these crimes were solved following marijuana legalization in both Colorado and Washington.
By legalizing cannabis, we can restrict its use by minors. When cannabis is relegated to the black market, it is completely unregulated and unmonitored. Drug dealers do not check IDs, but dispensaries do. Only through regulation can we have any control over the marijuana market. Lack of regulated legalization means there is no assurance of purity or potency. There is no testing for dangerous pesticides, bacteria, or other contaminants. All of these issues can be eliminated by legalizing cannabis.
Maybe you don’t care about the purity of cannabis or the social justice issues. Maybe you are not concerned about safe access for marijuana users. I can understand that position, it just isn’t your fight. But think about this, the Congressional Research Service estimates that replacing cannabis prohibition with taxation and regulation could generate $6.8 billion in excise taxes alone. Compare that to the amount taxpayers are paying to incarcerate these non-violent offenders. That is only touching on the economics behind legalization, that’s just the tax revenue! Let’s not overlook the money and jobs that would be generated by the cannabis industry. So, the question in Kansas remains, why NOT legalize cannabis?
We don’t want to live in a nanny state. So why is Kansas dragging so far behind on this issue of liberty and social justice? Why are our conservative leaders so resistant to change when it has proven successful in so many other states? What makes our leaders want to continue down a path of injustice and mass incarceration? Why are they turning a blind eye to this revenue that can be used to improve the lives of Kansans? It has never made sense to me.
In order to understand all sides of an issue, it is important that we consider the concerns and fears of those on the other side of the issue. Decades of Reefer Madness-type propaganda convinced many Americans of certain untruths about this plant. A plant that has been used for centuries by humankind. We need to get past those untruths. The truth is that rather than reducing crime, this prohibition has diverted our crimefighters and wasted our criminal justice resources. This prohibition continues to deepen a painful racial divide in our country and our state. This prohibition is costing Kansas a lot of money. Money that can be used to improve the lives of Kansans. Fixing unjust laws is a real and tangible step toward social justice.
Fine, so Kansas leaders didn’t want to be trailblazers on this once controversial issue 20 years ago. That ship has sailed. 36 states have passed legislation allowing for the medicinal use of cannabis. Another 18 states have legalized recreational use for adults, and an additional 13 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized its use. We are not upholding traditional values. We are falling behind the times. We are wasting resources and we are denying our people liberty. That is not the Kansas that I know and love.
I was raised in a Kansas that valued the people in my community, not persecuted them. The people in the rural community where I was raised helped the sick in any way that they could, utilizing our country doctor and home remedies passed down from old farm ladies. I always knew Kansans to honor nature and respect the old ways of doing things. From our state’s very beginning we have been a community of revolutionaries who fought for the ideals of equality and justice for all. We are the Free State. It is in our blood. and it is who we are.
Polls say that a majority of Kansans agree with my position on this issue. That Kansas I spoke of, where I was born and raised, I was also taught that our elected officials were public servants who were in Topeka to carry out the wishes of their constituents, back home on the farms, the suburbs, the cities. It is past time that these leaders follow through on that promise and vote in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana during the 2022 legislative session.
I ask you to join in the campaign to call and write your elected representative and tell them to vote in favor of quality reform legislation!
By: Becki Waugh, Communications Director, Kansas NORML