April 11, 2019
Essay: “Cannabis: a Civil Right and Economic Miracle”
NEED MONEY FOR WEED sign in Times Square, NYSource: NEED MONEY FOR WEED | Penelope Peru Photography P3
*This essay was written in Nov 2018 and has not been updated to reflect any changes that may have occurred between Nov 2018 and Apr 2019.
Despite our founding fathers cultivating fields upon fields of hemp during colonial America, the legalization of Marijuana use – recreational and medical – has been an uphill battle. Many, including myself, believe the use of Marijuana is an inalienable birthright. From our very Declaration of Independence, the framers sought to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Based upon our Declaration of Independence’s loose definition, the use Cannabis is a pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, we are committing self-sabotage as a country by inhibiting our national economy from reaping the benefits of taxing legal Cannabis sales in every state.
Although the National Constitution Center has long-since busted the commonly touted myth that our U.S. Constitution was printed on hemp paper – when it was in fact printed on parchment – Jefferson’s farm book documents his slaves’ cultivation of the hemp plant. In the book Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and his Slaves, author Henry Wiencek cites the account books of Martha, Jefferson’s wife. In these books, Martha details the varying quality of fabrics produced. While the fine linen cloth was reserved for her husband, their slaves bore “hemp linen” on their backs (36).
To this day, the cultivation of hemp is legal on a federal level. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), defines hemp as a Cannabis plant containing 0.3% or less THC (2). This bill allows states to regulate the cultivation of commercial hemp after submitting documentation to the USDA. Growing Cannabis containing higher levels of THC, however, is a whole other story.
Currently, only a handful of states allow the cultivation of Cannabis with levels of THC greater than 0.3%. The Department of Health states that in order to grow Cannabis in Pennsylvania, you must submit an application for a permit with a non-refundable initial fee of $10,000. While our national government has a long way to go before legalizing Cannabis cultivation on a federal level, legalizing the use of medical Marijuana is arguably far more tangible.
As of November 2018, the recreational use of Marijuana is currently legal in 10 states, while the medical use of Marijuana is permitted in 33 states, including Pennsylvania. In our home state, you must first register with the Department of Health and receive certification from a physician that you suffer from one of the 21 medical conditions that qualify for the treatment of medical Marijuana. If you are under 18, as I was when I received my patient card for medical Marijuana, you must apply with a “caregiver” – a parent or legal guardian – to oversee your treatment.
Many, including myself, retain that the medical and recreational use of Marijuana is a pursuit of happiness endowed by our very Creator. Although the pursuit of happiness is very loosely defined by our Declaration of Independence, the document retains that it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish forms of government that pose threat to our inalienable rights. This is further protected by the Freedom of Assembly clause as well as our right to petition, outlined in the First Amendment.
All over the United States, we see petitions and peaceful protests for the legalization of Marijuana use. Interest groups, such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) organize committees and events to advocate for this cause. Since 1970, NORML has served as a voice for Americans who oppose Cannabis prohibition. NORML lobbies to legislators on state and federal levels. The organization also prides itself for leading efforts that decriminalized Marijuana in 11 states, as well as efforts that reduced it’s criminal penalty in other parts of the United States.
The state of Colorado’s flourishing economy is another argument in favor of legalizing the substance. Since the Colorado Amendment 64, which outlined a statewide Cannabis policy, Colorado has collected hundreds of millions in tax revenue. Before this tax year has even drawn to a close, revenue from January to October 2018 has amounted to over $223 million in revenue from the sales tax and fees associated with Marijuana alone. Not accounting for populus or other factors, if every state were to reap $223 million in Marijuana tax revenue, our nation would collect $11,150 million annually from the taxation of Marijuana alone.
As far as I’m concerned, the use of Cannabis is a civil right and economic miracle. Although our founding fathers cultivated hemp, which remains federally legal in contemporary America, the legalization of recreational and medical Marijuana use has been an uphill battle. Currently, the recreational use of Cannabis is legal in 10 states, while 33 states permit the medical use of Cannabis. Before this tax year has even concluded, Colorado has already received $223 million in revenue from the taxation and fees associated with Marijuana. Many, including myself, proudly affirm that both the recreational and medical use of Marijuana is an inalienable civil right that would also benefit our nation’s economy.
- NCC Staff. “Busting Some Myths about the Founding Fathers and Marijuana.” National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.org, National Constitution Center, 9 Nov. 2012, constitutioncenter.org/blog/busting-some-myths-about-the-founding-fathers-and-marijuana/.
- Wiencek, Henry. Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.
- “The Declaration of Independence: Full Text.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.
- “The Hemp Farming Act of 2018.” Vote Hemp, 2018, www.votehemp.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/McConnell-Wyden-HempFarmingAct2018-FINAL.pdf.
- Wu, Jiachuan, and Daniella Silva. “MAP: See the States Where Marijuana Is Legal.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 20 Nov. 2018, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/map-see-if-marijuana-legal-your-state-n938426.
- The Department of Health. “Growers-Processors.” Resources for Growers and Processors,
- “NORML – Working to Reform Marijuana Laws.” The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, norml.org/.
- LII Staff. “First Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 10 Oct. 2017, www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment.
- “Amendment 64.” Amendment 64 Use and Regulation of Marijuana, 2014, www.fcgov.com/mmj/pdf/amendment64.pdf.
- “Marijuana Tax Data.” Gov. John Hickenlooper | The Official Site of Governor Hickenlooper, Colorado Department of Revenue, Nov. 2018, www.colorado.gov/pacific/revenue/colorado-marijuana-tax-data.
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