Tusinski: Weed is winning the war on drugs. Good.

Dylan Tusinski

Graphic illustration depicting four figures, two boomers on the right (one resembling nixon) and two student/millenial figures on the right smoking joints
(Graphic Illustration by Bella Eckburg | The Collegian)

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Every 25 seconds, someone is arrested for drug possession. One in five incarcerated people are locked up for drug offenses. The amount of people in prison for drug offenses is in the tens of thousands.


Yet lawmakers are answering citizen initiatives and are legalizing those ever-so-scary drugs, namely cannabis. Good.

Let’s start with some background. The war on drugs is America’s longest war, starting 50 years ago under former President Richard Nixon. At the time, Nixon called drug abuse “public enemy number one.” In 1973, Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration, which federally enforces the war on drugs. The agency sees its funding bolstered with each passing year, putting more and more money into the war on drugs.

Presidents on both sides of the aisle continued the war, from Ronald Reagan reiterating that the war on drugs was one of America’s most pressing issues to Bill Clinton raising a very prominent anti-drug voice into his cabinet. Even Joe Biden’s administration fired staffers for recreational cannabis use just a few weeks ago, despite the fact that smoking marijuana is legal in Washington, D.C.

The biggest issue at hand is that the war on drugs is inherently rooted in racism, and we see that in its history.

The term “marijuana” holds racist roots. In the 1930s, with the depression looming and xenophobia rising, the United States government saw an opportunity. They rebranded cannabis as “marijuana” and criminalized it in order to stoke racist fears of Mexican immigrants.

One way or another, this darkness has got to give, and it seems like the time has come for us to finally end America’s longest and costliest war.”

Thankfully, politicians are starting to fix these deeply rooted issues. Policy is beginning to represent and portray the realities around weed, as 16 states and Washington, D.C., have fully legalized marijuana and even more have decriminalized it. That number is growing with each passing election cycle as more and more politicians see the benefits of legalization.

Consider our home state of Colorado, which was one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis use. Colorado’s 2012 vote on legalization seems to already be reversing many of the war on drugs’ detrimental effects. For example, marijuana offenses fell drastically after legalization, and have stayed low. Marijuana-related DUIs are also relatively low when compared to other intoxicants, disproving another claim that stoned drivers would be running amok on Colorado roads.

Economically, legalization has been great for Colorado. The state has routinely collected millions of dollars in marijuana tax revenue over the past few years, and much of that money is going to fund public schools, law enforcement and health care. On top of that, marijuana sales were one of the few pieces of Colorado’s economy that held steady through the pandemic’s economic downturn, providing the state with an important monetary lifeline.

Colorado isn’t alone. Alaska saw an added $17 million in cannabis tax revenue, and Nevada is projected to see billions of dollars worth of cannabis related revenue.

Imagine if these benefits went nationwide. With the tax revenue, we could bolster funding for schools, health care, infrastructure and other federal projects. We could make strides to ending mass incarceration, which particularly impacts people of color. We could finally end a chapter of our nation’s history that exists mainly to perpetuate structural racism within our country.

One way or another, this darkness has got to give, and it seems like the time has come for us to finally end America’s longest and costliest war. So light one up — if you’re of age — turn on a heady Grateful Dead show and tell your elected officials to end the war on drugs.

Dylan Tusinski can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.