One area of policy which appears to have transmuted the pronounced polarization in this country has been marijuana.
It was a year ago that the people of Colorado and Washington united to vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use, answering the question of 'if' in historic fashion.
The unified spirit surrounding marijuana legalization continues to mount. The release of the November issues of right-leaning Reason magazine and left-leaning The Nation magazine, feature pot legalization and the ending of prohibition. In a country that is so divided on almost everything else, this unified spirit gracing marijuana legalization appears to be shaping up to be a harmonious sanctuary in an ocean of polarization.
Because of all the areas and issues that prohibition negatively impacts there is an issue for everyone to grab onto.
In Reason's "Pot Goes Legit," Jacob Sullum quotes former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo: "I am endorsing Amendment 64 not despite my conservative beliefs, but because of them."
I was surprised myself recently when my very conservative cousin, who doesn't share my worldview on much of anything, told me he was right there with me with ending the war on drugs. Thinking on that, I realized how much there is for conservatives to latch onto with legalization. It lends a blow to big government, thereby affirming state sovereignty, and it also adds to the free market. "The initiative will succeed," says Sullum, "to the extent that it transforms a countercultural symbol into a capitalist commodity."
The Nation's "Marijuana Wars" include multiple stories that touch on issues across marijuana culture. High Times has a great profile in there. Racial justice is talked about by Dr. Carl Hart, and the solution to racist marijuana possession arrests is evaluated by sociologist Harry Levine. In "The Drug War Touched My Life: Why I'm Fighting Back," one will hear personal stories from a variety of people such as retired Baltimore police officer, Neil Franklin, and activist's such as Amir Varick who spent almost twenty years in jail for a drug crime he didn't commit. These are powerful experiences from people who are coming at this issue from the other side of the spectrum, where it's more a question of freedom and liberty, racial equality, and human rights. For a list of all the stories, seeMarijuana Wars.
Whether marijuana intersects with someone getting stopped and frisked because of their color, or being harmed from adulterated drugs, or suffering a traumatic childhood because of a parent incarcerated, or if one simply believes in the freedom of choice of what one puts in his own body, this issue touches the lives of all.
In the largest sense, we're all united on this issue because we all do drugs, whether legal or not, and even if you completely abstain from everything, we all know individuals that do and we care about those people.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization, according to the most recent Gallup poll and as these above magazines illustrate, people continue to rally around pot. The descent of the government edifice that marijuana has no redeeming qualities is well underway. Still, this is only the beginning and the widespread cooperation we are seeing with people from all walks of life and affiliations makes one wonder what can be accomplished in the years to come.
Chris Soda is an intern with the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)
This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog http://www.drugpolicy.org/