Friday, December 24, 2010

Why South Carolina Should Legalize Marijuana

By Angie Theycall Mehippie
In South Carolina we are an agricultural state. We were one of the largest textile and agricultural producers in the world. Tragedy hit some years ago when all of our textile mills closed down displacing thousands of workers who had known no other trade. Some went back to school and upon perhaps bad advice from incorrect outlooks upon the job market’s future capabilities plus not including any thoughts of a recession/depression on its way chose to major in business management. This would not have been a bad choice and was the latest thing to do successfully to make a living in the country had the recession of 2008 not come. The generations that could make the change did so with pride and a heart for hard work just as they had worked in and some managed the textile industry. Those of the older generations, when cotton grew thick and far across the state to supply a large part of the country with the means to make the textiles, were forced into retirement or jobs such as cashier or “bag boy” at grocery store chains and such jobs of the like. When the recession of 2008 hit and those hopes and dreams of the baby boomers who had worked so hard for their new degrees in business management were mostly crushed yet again. To spite the great work records and experience already built in managing and working at the textile mills they were still very hard pressed to find any job much less in their field of experience and study. Today if they are lucky enough to work at all they are still hard pressed by threats of lay-offs and unemployment around the corner almost on a daily basis and they live in fear of that when there are options available to us to enact to get this state’s economy back on track but yet we have not done so. Why? 

How could we help them both as citizens and as government officials? What industry could South Carolina flourish in? The “green” choices of industrial and agricultural jobs and business pops into my head such as electric car factories, farms for industrial hemp and cannabis, clothing mills and other textile industry for hemp fiber among other products of tens of thousands of choices with just one product: industrial hemp. This is not taking into account cannabis for recreational use and medical alternative uses. We were a state that made a living and put food on the table though industry after all. That’s all that half of South Carolinians who have worked for many years knew. What else? Agriculture. Sadly I have watched small farmers, who were at one time the “big farm owners” in the business until “Big Agra” came in with all these new rules and regulations for “safety” that we never had a need for until they told us we did. For a very long time we have housed one of the Nation’s leading agricultural schools and also research facility, Clemson University. To spite all of this hard work, production, ingenuity, and history those “big farm owners” are barely small time farmers now and are not making very much money, if any at all, on their crops. The little farmer’s market stands are few nowadays. They used to be plentiful on the sides of the road and fresh produce is now a farce on a grocery store shelf, a symbol of what it is supposed to be yet isn’t. Many fields lay fallow today and have been for years. Others grow only hay for the few cows that are left in the fields. I haven’t seen a live hog in many years. This is not the South Carolina that I grew up in. I fear it has become a shell of its former self. 

Here are some facts that I hope will, in the near future (I can dream can’t I?), help these industries take root and grow again. Let’s start with Industrial Hemp. It is the most durable fiber known to man. What can be made? Clothes, sheets (bring textile back!), anything that can be used that is made of cotton, rope, and yes even cars and fuel have been made from industrial hemp. No it is not the hemp plant that gets you high. This is a cousin plant in the same plant family but along with legalization of cannabis comes legalization of this other very large producing cash crop called industrial hemp. Industrial hemp can also be legalized to grow and produce from as a stand-alone legislation if that is the wish of the people of South Carolina but we would be missing out on a lot more opportunities that the cannabis plant as a whole would bring to us. It is inexpensive to grow, easy to maintain, and thousands upon thousands of products can come from it. It is also a great rotational crop and replenishes the fields every so many years if the plant is harvested of seeds (food source and holds the most nutrients of any food in the world) then plowed back into the soil as the crops rotate. Use that for the fields to lay fallow in for the next crop which results may surprise you! It makes for wonderful soil and beautiful nutrient rich vegetables or other kind of crop the next growing season. Its seeds are known for the highest protein content food in the world. Its oil has many uses from fuel to alternative medicinal purposes and food. The oil can be added to anything you eat or drink. Seeds can be crushed into powder for a great full meal shake. You can survive well on hemp seed products alone. Feed it to animals and watch them get muscular, strong and healthy. That’s only scratching the surface of what this one kind of hemp can do. It can revitalize both the textile and agricultural industry that this state has stood firm upon for many years and also add more industry to those. It will not disappoint in job creation or opportunities for both workers and the state in tax revenue nor will it ever disappoint the consumer. I have personally worn, eaten, and drank products made from industrial hemp and they are the best products I’ve purchased yet in my own opinion but they are so very expensive as an imported commodity because growing industrial hemp is illegal in the United States and has to be imported from other countries such as China or Canada. It is rare that someone on an average budget can afford such luxury. Why is industrial hemp illegal to spite the fact that it is NOT the plant known as marijuana (cannabis) that gets you high? It was lumped into the category of the marijuana plant by a controlling government for no good reason at all. Don’t believe me, please check facts for yourself. 

Almost half of the American population agrees with legalizing all hemp/cannabis plants for both medicinal and recreational use. Almost 1 in 2 agrees to legalize the plant we call marijuana (cannabis). Over half, around 60%, of Americans agree that marijuana should be legalized medical use. With all this agreement why are we still fighting the federal criminalization of both plants? Maybe that is because the federal government has turned a deaf ear to the will of the American people. The votes have come and gone without notice as have the government’s own panels recommending full legalization of all hemp plants including marijuana. Bill after bill has been approved yet not acted upon by the top dogs in the federal government. There are a few instances where our Congress was ignored, also. Why do we allow this to happen? Is not our government “of, by, and FOR the People”? Indeed! It’s time for a redress of past issues ignored and new issues to come forth on a state level as well as federal. 

Why should we legalize both plants? The answer could take a book worth (or several) of reading for you to do in order to give a complete answer. Perhaps a library is in order. That is what I am attempting to do with the “Educational Pages” section of this blog on the right column. Keep checking it for new fact pages and updates to older ones often. I will add more to it as time progresses and time allows me to do so. I will give you a few quick facts to chew upon in your mind: 

1. There have been no recorded deaths due to marijuana use alone in the tens of thousands of years that history shows it has been in use world-wide. Not one death, ever! 

2. We want to keep our children safe always. Most children, if completely honest with adults, will tell you that it is much easier to get marijuana or other illegal drugs from the local street dealer than to get a controlled legal substance such as tobacco and alcohol. 

3. The street dealers have an agenda and it is not “costumer safety” even if their customer is a kid, much less an adult and that is to make money. Show them the money and they will supply. The more drugs they sell the more money is in their pockets. This is how marijuana can be a "gateway drug” because the street dealer has a keen interest in getting the customer to buy as much as possible and introduces our kids to something “better” or “stronger”. 

4. The street dealer is the one that currently holds the medical marijuana patients business because of a lack of or very restrictive medical marijuana laws. This puts the patients in a dangerous environment and also at risk for “bad weed”, i.e. it may be laced with something harder to get them addicted so the dealer can make more money or otherwise harm them for their own reasons. This scenario kills more often than not. 

5. The large bundles of cash confiscated from drug busts of street dealers could be legal cash put into the state’s tax revenue and into the hands of the legal workers of the grow-ops or cannabis farms if it were made legal to responsible adults for responsible use. 

6. Marijuana is the safest drug out there according to all the sources that have done legitimate studies on the drug and its patients and/or users. This statement includes most existing pharmaceutical drugs that kill more people each year than any of us would care to think about much less condone. 

7. Marijuana has legitimate medical uses and has been studied by doctors and scientists in valid studies beginning in the 70s with the most recent studies lasting over a period of 10 years and including patients of all types. It was found very safe and effective. These studies can be found documented online. Good sources for these are and among others. 

8. To most people studied marijuana is not largely addictive. Most of the people who claim any type of addiction to it are said to have addictive personality types according to some studies. That single fact is largely unverified but still remains the fact that most do not become addicted to it even after long periods of use. When stopping the use of the drug most do not experience any significant side effects or withdrawal symptoms. 

9. There are no dangerous or largely unwanted side effects of responsible use of marijuana. The people who experience unwanted side effects are a small number and use other alternatives for medication or if recreational they will simply not use it at all. 

10. There have been no violent crimes associated with use of marijuana. 

11. There are no good reasons to restrict responsible use of marijuana if regulated like alcohol. Responsible use does not include driving while under the influence of any substance. If this happens then I personally advocate the person have “the book” thrown at them by law because that does not constitute responsible use.

12. If regulated like alcohol we will never see the legal sale of marijuana to underage people. It will keep our kids safer than having it illegal and available. 

13. If it is legalized fully it would then constitute the harm reduction strategy of dealing with any type of drug use which I strongly advocate. 

14. Having only medical marijuana laws (a process that the state of South Carolina has not yet gotten around to doing) has shown in the states that do have them they are simply not good enough to protect the patient, supply for the patient, and keep the patient safe out of harm’s way well enough to be a humane way to deal with the medical issues and needs of the patients. These existing laws are very flawed and hard pressed to be reformed, mostly too restrictive to have a real impact for the total benefit of the patient and still expose them to arrests by both the states and the federal government. While state law cannot change federal law it can protect the patients more by full legalization. This way the horrid restrictions from a scared state government, federal government, and unknowing population of voters will not be in place and the patient can get full medical benefit from the whole plant as is the only way the patient is helped by marijuana. Whole plant use is shown most effective. 

15. The federal government has lied to you, the public, and the states to scare everyone out of thinking along such lines as legalization. It is currently classified as a “Schedule 1 Drug” which means it has absolutely no medical value at all, yet the same government holds at least two patents on parts of the plant for medicinal purposes. Not only did they lie about it being that dangerous to deserve the classification it got but they are hypocritical in their anti-medicine double speak as well. If it really is a schedule 1 drug then why do they hold the patents? Why do synthetic drugs exist through the pharmaceutical industry that emulate parts of the plant yet are not close to the effectiveness of the whole natural plant? Drugs such as heroin and cocaine are schedule 2 which means they have at least some medical value. 

16. The only harm marijuana has been found to do in all these years of study at least since the 70s is smoking it under the age of 16 (check age reference) which causes prohibited brain growth and function. The second harm it can cause is if a person drives under its influence but that, too, is being debated by doctors and scientists. I personally never advocate driving under the influence of any substance that alters mind function at all. I also never would agree to anyone under the age of 21 using marijuana. Those two things are not up for debate in my opinion. 

I have given you 16 off-the-top-of-my-head reasons to consider full legalization and regulation of marijuana and I have just gotten started. Soon I will begin a list of “facts” that I have researched and discovered since I’ve been a marijuana law reform activist beginning in the mid-90s. Keep checking back for that page in the “Educational Pages” link list. 

I stand for freedom. Where do you stand? 


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