Opinion: weed has taught me that freedom is a balance

weed freedom opinion

The definition of freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants to without restraint.” Many Americans celebrate freedom on the Fourth of July because a band of people escaped British rule in 1776. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and many white men believed true American freedom was born.

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In the modern-day world, this freedom looks like a veteran in one state consuming medical cannabis for combat-related PTSD, those in the next state over are barred from touching the stuff. People in California are passing joints talking about legal weed sales while a guy in Alabama is still sitting in prison for having a gram in his pocket in 1996. With stories like these being commonplace, one might question the quality of American freedom.

When the Declaration of Independence passed through the Continental Congress in 1776, the Americas were officially freed from the rule of Great Britain. The irony is that zero of the 46 people who signed the document were women or people of color. While the land was freed from British rule, the people were only beginning to understand what it meant for freedom to ring.

Declaring freedom for a land while actively oppressing many of its inhabitants is ironic, and the U.S. has continued this ironic reverence for generations. Cannabis activists are familiar with this two-faced approach to governance. Those who saw the value of weed decades ago despite Reefer Madness and prohibition were front and center for this brand of hypocrisy. This plant, which has shown no deadly impact, was persecuted for reasons beyond itself.

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Unlike many other drugs deemed Schedule I by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), weed has never proven itself dangerous. Many have speculated that the reasons cannabis has been regarded as dangerous are political rather than matters of public health. That theory becomes more insidious when contemplating the people incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes.

The new “solution” to issues is rescheduling, impending news permeates every conversation surrounding the plant. The move is labeled as monumental, but it doesn’t solve fundamental issues. Rescheduling won’t expunge cannabis-related criminal records or free people in jail for weed. It is as meaningful as the Declaration of Independence for Black people, who are over three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis compared to white counterparts despite equal consumption habits.

If Americans can be prosecuted for a non-toxic plant, is anyone truly free?

There is no silver lining to mass incarceration, especially for non-violent cannabis charges. However, the fight for legal cannabis reminds Americans about the true meaning of the Fourth of July. The country doesn’t function solely under the words of the Declaration of Independence; there is a Constitution with a bounty of amendments. On top of that, there are state rights and legislative bodies. Cannabis consumers are more than aware of this nuance.

The reality of American freedom isn’t that citizens are given their rights with an open hand. Freedom in the U.S. is an option to fight for a cause like cannabis legalization. It isn’t fair, but it does provide hope as many seek answers for constantly rising inflation, homelessness, and interest rates on American soil while government military spending only grows. However, the tides turning on weed show that change is possible; it might just take 60 years.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.