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Why we don’t reach marijuana prohibition supporters

People who want to end drug prohibition often miss the boat when trying to change minds on the matter.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about cannabis, cocaine, heroin or anything else. We can throw out facts all day long, we can bring out charts and statistics and historical evidence, but as long as we fail to answer to and soothe people’s deep-seated notions and concerns about drugs, whether legitimate or not, we will do nothing but spin our wheels.

Taking a recent news item as an example, there was a segment on the local news today about a three year old child found wandering around by himself near a busy intersection. When police found him, his clothes and diaper were filthy. They ended up taking him in, feeding and clothing him.

Police found his mother passed out near a local convenience store. When they woke her, she told them that she had left the child in a van so that she could go find and do drugs. They never said what kind of drugs.

While this easily could have happened with alcohol and prescription drugs, which quite possibly could have been involved, most people are going to think she was probably smoking marijuana, doing meth, taking heroin and who knows what else.

This is going to be the picture in everyone’s mind, and as long as people believe that the drugs are the cause of all this, regardless of what was involved, even if the bulk of the problem involved the use of legal drugs, these people are always going to support prohibition out of fear for the safety of society.

Why would they support prohibition when there’s all sorts of evidence to the contrary that it doesn’t work? Even though the government can’t keep drugs out of some of its supposedly most secure places, primarily prisons, people understand that we’re not going to stop drug use completely but believe that everything we currently do for drug prohibition is well worth it because it holds the flood gates closed.

Using an example once given by an ardent supporter of prohibition, before pornography was acceptable enough to hit store shelves and the internet was born, people consumed a lot less of it. It was less acceptable to view porn and most people would not go far out of their way to obtain it. Once it became easy to get though, all sorts of people began to view porn because they didn’t have to sneak around to get it. This prohibitionist argued that the same was true for drugs.

There very well could be some truth to that. Many people who don’t currently consume illegal drugs don’t do so because they don’t want to mess with the shady dealer or deal with the drug tests. If we were to put drugs in stores and get rid of most drug testing, it is conceivable that more people would at the very least experiment with drugs. Of course there is data that shows once nations such as Portugal and Holland relaxed their drug laws, they saw a decrease in use over time.

People believe that if drugs were easily accessible we would be seeing cases like the one with this child happening several times a day all around town. They don’t see the problem getting better, they only see it getting worse with more children suffering while their welfare parents lay about and get stoned all day, which will lead to their kids doing the same.

They simply view drugs as the problem and not bad parenting, and many will tell you first hand that they know someone who is completely different, and not in a good way, when they’re on drugs.

It doesn’t matter that when sold in stores the drugs will be safer to consume, that more information will be available in order to make better choices, that seeking rehab will be a lot easier, and that the violence fueled by some of the participants in the black market will drastically decrease.

All these people know in their minds is that once we as a society legalize drugs, that we’re essentially saying to people, this is entirely acceptable, just like it is acceptable to now consume porn. Which will in turn see people trying drugs who would have never done so before because the comfort level would now exist to try them.

They believe this will lead to more addiction, more death, more neglect and more destruction, even as prescription pills make up the bulk of all drug deaths. They believe that those who try drugs will be a menace. The current stereotypes in Hollywood and the news ensure that the image of the near worthless stoner or worse who is of little use to society is imprinted in people’s mind.

They fear their own children not having greater access to drugs, given that it has often been easier for kids to obtain illegal drugs than legal ones, but thinking that it is acceptable to do them.

The very same ardent prohibition supporter as mentioned before also asked “what am I supposed to do when some celebrity gets on TV smoking a joint and my kid is watching? What if they do a line of coke? That sends the message that it is entirely acceptable to do that sort of stuff.”

When speaking to others about why ending drug prohibition is a good thing, why cannabis is safer than alcohol, how bringing things out into the open will slow the spread of disease through needle exchanges and encourage more accurate knowledge, that bringing these things out of the black market will not only save money from enforcement but also save the lives of police and those caught up in gang and terrorist related drug activity, especially children, we have to remember that it’s not just about stating the facts, but about speaking to people’s fears and emotions on the subject.

In order to move forward we must openly and honestly address people’s concerns and notions about drugs, their use, and their impact on society. We have to speak to them about their individual fears and answer their questions rather than just state that ending prohibition is good, or that all of these positive things will happen if we legalize cannabis. If we don’t touch on that, we’ll never change their minds.

Winning the debate doesn’t bring prohibition to an end, winning the minds does.

When it comes to cannabis, I recommend Russ Belville’s recent lecture of Debating Effectively for Marijuana Reform.

By: Stephen Carter
Contact Stephen via email at TXCann@gmail.com

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas and serves as Deputy Director for NORML of Waco. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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