Written by Christopher Meyer | 1:35 pm on November 16, 2011
If you will allow me, I would like coin a term for systemic prejudice that is both governmental and popular among many citizens. This particular phenomenon, while it is often painted as justice, is in fact a form of discrimination unbefitting a country that presumes to call itself free.
Cannabisism – A belief or doctrine that cannabis and its users are inherently inferior to those who do not choose to use cannabis and that cannabis and its users should not have the same rights other drugs (alcohol, tobacco, Vicodin) and their users have.
Discrimination can take many forms. The common element is an antagonistic feeling towards a particular group or category of people. Such antagonism has been fostered in America for decades towards those who use cannabis, be it for medical reasons or as part of their lifestyle. The result is a systemic prejudice against cannabis and its users that now encroaches on the most basic civil rights.
This sort of prejudice isn’t new in the USA. A group of citizens are systematically stripped of their rights and powers because a trait is perceived as undesirable. It would certainly be a grievous mis-judgement of scale to compare the criminal prosecution and cultural persecution of cannabis users to genocide or slavery, yet some startling comparisons may be made.
Basic Freedoms Violated
Nearly half of drug possession arrests in the United States last year were for marijuana possession charges. For decades statistics show a disproportionate number of these arrests are among the poor and minority groups. Poverty has come to be characterized as criminal through the media. Attempts at white washing what is a social issue by putting the ‘trouble’ in prisons is not only inhumane, but more costly than many would imagine.
Those that have the misfortune of being churned through the penal system for a drug possession charge likely view themselves as criminal which is the biggest victory that cannabisists can achieve. That stigma stays with them internally as they try to reassemble their life, patching ties with their family and looking for work. It is a mark by which they may be defined for the rest of their life.
The Right to Housing
It is at the discretion of the owner of a property to not allow smoking indoors of any kind, but some lawmakers would require drug tests in order to receive welfare and housing assistance. Luckily such a law was stopped in Florida but other legislators are seeking similar laws in other states such as Georgia.
Many rely on such benefits for food and housing including the elderly or ill who may depend upon medical marijuana as part of their treatment yet could be denied social security benefits because of an alternative medical treatment.
Addressing the social situations that lead people into the cycle of drug-addiction would be much more effective than screening innocent citizens in a witch hunt. Without due cause such drug tests are considered to fall within the realm of unreasonable search and seizure.
The Right to Bear Arms
Recently the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) made a decision to limit the constitutional rights of cannabis users based solely on the fact that they use cannabis.
Should a medical marijuana patient fill out the federal form required to purchase a gun, even one used for hunting, they must either lie about their marijuana use or be denied. One could be a chronic alcoholic who frequently goes on mind-destroying benders and could purchase a gun, but somehow people still think that cannabis drives its users crazy without any supporting evidence whatsoever.
The Right to Work
A Coors employee who was fired after testing positive for cannabis and was denied unemployment benefits by the State of Colorado even though he was using marijuana legally under state law appealed the decision and was eventually granted unemployment benefits because the cause of his termination ‘was no fault of his own’. A rare victory.
A Denver City employee, a street sweeper, who was also a medical marijuana patient and also tested positive though he wasn’t impaired at work was fired without benefits in 2010. After an appeal he was granted benefits briefly, but his employer Service Group, Inc, a contractor for the city, appealed again and eventually won.
Any employee who undergoes drug screening and fails, no matter if the marijuana use was medical, will likely be harshly punished or fired. Imagine if we screened employees for caffeine, alcohol, or prescriptions like Zoloft; Would there not be outrage? Yet due to cannabisism, even casual users must limit their job search to private employers who don’t test for marijuana even if they only use it after work or on the weekend.
It is the silence of our public servants on these matters that is the most shocking. The taboo of marijuana has scared every politician away from dealing with the consequences of these policies.
Very few have spoken up. If the White House response to the ‘We the People’ petition to reschedule marijuana is any indication, politicians won’t be talking plainly about marijuana any time soon.
It is the taboo of marijuana making those we have elected to guide our country remain silent about cannabisism. Only the courage to admit such discrimination exists will restore dignity and reaffirm the value of equality under the law.