My fellow libertarian and fellow NORML member Tristan Tucker gave this speech at a liberty-oriented event about a month ago. Tristan is a U.S. Navy veteran, BTW.
It's the best speech I've heard for marijuana legalization.
It won't work if we just de-criminalize it.
It won't work if the government artifically limits who can and can't grow and sell it.
We can only end the monopolies of the Afghan and Mexican Drug Lords if we legalize marijuana.
My name is Tristan Tucker. I’d like to start with this by a brief quote to segue into why I am here. Rand Paul recently filibustered the US Senate to address our crucial liberties. He started his historic filibuster by saying “ I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, and that your rights are precious…” I am here today to represent the students. I am here to represent the veterans of our latest immoral and illegal wars. I am here to represent the people and our right to choose what we do with our bodies.
I see marijuana criminality as a human rights issue. I do not believe that our continued support for incarcerating disproportionate numbers of our minority youth in a vain attempt to arrest our way out of our drug problem is an adequate solution. I do not believe that continuing to fund Mexican drug cartels via drug prohibition is a humanitarian approach to one of the West’s most deadly international incidents. Myself, NORML, and most of you would agree that a legal, taxed and regulated marijuana industry is the sole solution to ending epidemic in our nation. We must make strides toward addressing our drug prohibition problem as human rights infractions and health issues in order to actually progress in this nation. I am here to talk not only about the necessity for drug policy reform as it pertains to cannabis use but also drug prohibition as a whole.
Drug prohibition is by-and-large a modern set of Jim Crow laws. According to LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, 70% of the drugs used in the United States are consumed by whites whereas 70% of the people incarcerated for drug use and possession are African Americans. The areas most ravaged by the drug war have been low-poverty areas – specifically where larger concentrations of African Americans tend to live. According to the FBI, one in eleven blacks are currently serving prison sentences for drug related crimes. That is 9.2% of the total population of African Americans in our country.
Marijuana was originally made illegal in the 1930s and the racism involved with the legality of the plant has never ceased. The plant was made illegal, in part from Harry Anslinger and the government’s affiliation with the movie production, Reefer Madness, which blatantly said that smoking “the devil’s lettuce” caused “negroes” to fornicate and rape white women. What are the results of being incarcerated with a felony? You lose your political voice and your right to vote and effect legislation is taken away, effectively silencing a large group of Americans. There are no lobby organizations for convicted felons to interact with the congress, the courts or the president, so essentially, once the right to vote is taken, your real right to speech has been stripped. As time progressed and civil liberties were afforded to African Americans in the late 1960s, the drug war was officially launched.
The most commonly used argument by bureaucrats, in favor of the war on drugs is that using drugs will destroy your lives. I ask you, which does more harm? Smoking marijuana or the legal repercussions for smoking marijuana? The side effects of cannabis are far and inclusive, including, but not limited to repairing brain cells damaged by alcohol consumption and helping to heal the alveoli in your lungs after years of abuse from cigarettes. The side effects to being prosecuted for drug crimes includes never being eligible for financial aid to attend college, losing your children to the court system, never being able to find gainful employment and even, in most cases, being barred from joining the military. I must ask you…which is more dangerous? The drug? Or the drug law?
Since 1972, our incarceration rates for drug possession have gone through the roof. Our incarceration rates were fairly low through the remainder of the 1970s but really caught fire under Ronald Reagan, partially in response to his and Nancy’s nationwide DARE program coupled with the president’s incessant public service announcements, in regard, particularly, to cannabis. Programs like DARE and various other government subsidized rehabilitation programs were actually proven years later, in the early 2000’s, to provide the “real” gateway to hard drug use and provided “patients of the rehabilitation centers and programs with a host of mental disorders including anxiety, PTSD and, in the worst cases, suicide.
After George H. W. Bush’s short tenure in the white house, Bill Clinton vowed to drastically scale back the federal government’s involvement and efforts at curtailing drug use and the international drug trade. Contrary to Clinton’s campaign promises, he racked up the largest number of drug-related incarcerations EVER .
Until President Barack Obama, at least.
President George W. Bush continued the failed practices that Clinton used. Although Bush Jr. frequently catches a lot of flak for his involvement in drug-related incarcerations, the country saw fewer dispensary raids and less incarcerations for marijuana possession than the previous four presidents.
In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama campaigned on promises of leaving medical marijuana patients alone and legislating via facts based on science vice myth and propaganda. Since he took office in 2009, we have seen constant increases in our incarceration rates, 855,000 people in 2011 and just shy of 900,000 people in 2012 for marijuana related crimes. His administration is directly responsible for the most rapidly growing incarceration rates of LEGAL, REGULATED medical marijuana patients in states that have medical marijuana programs.
I am the elected executive director of the University of North Texas chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. I got started with NORML by volunteering and being appointed the Veteran Outreach Coordinator with DFWNORML. Since I have been involved with NORML, we have made great strides in Texas. Some of our accomplishments include hosting the Global Marijuana March on the front lawn of Dallas City Hall and changing dorm policies at UNT regarding paraphernalia in the dorms. Lately we have been working on lobbying our state legislature regarding two bills, HB184 and HB594, both of which directly relate to marijuana possession in the state of Texas.
HB184 is a bill related to the decriminalization of marijuana in the state up to one ounce. Essentially, marijuana possession would become a ticketable offense rather than a jailable offense. The other bill, HB594 relates to an affirmative defense. Essentially, HB594 helps strengthen Texas’ existed medical necessity defense law. 594 would also provide limited protections to doctors that recommend marijuana to their patients.
Recent news regarding marijuana, both recreationally and medicinally, has been overwhelming. On March 14, cable media networks released statements from the federal government that marijuana is proving successful in treating AIDS and cancer. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have both legalized marijuana, thanks to huge grassroots efforts in their respective states. Thanks to legalization in those states, new research can be conducted into the healing properties of this wonderful plant. Hemp will soon be planted again legally on American soil. Cannabis is helping this country heal – not only from it’s prescription medication addiction, but also it’s addiction to ignorance, propaganda and poor economic decisions. As our country continues to progress forward on important issues like cannabis legalization we will also progress forward on other human rights issues.
The times are changing. NORML has been successfully changing the climate and culture related to cannabis in Texas. We are no longer seen as stoners doing something immoral that actually damages society. Marijuana and marijuana advocates are becoming dinner table conversation, not just in Texas, but all across the country. The advent of mass communication via the internet has greatly furthered our agenda. The new wave of Ron Paul Republicans and young libertarians are also furthering our agenda.
So as I close out this speech, I’d like to ask all of you to do something – not for me, not for your neighbors, not for the troops, the veterans, students, teachers or anyone other than yourself. I want you all to be loud. I want you to be vocal. Live up to the responsibility bestowed upon you by 237 years of American excellence and tradition. Call your representatives. Send them letters and emails. Set and make appointments with them. None of the atrocities in our country will ever change if we do not make our voices heard. The status quo can only remain if we allow it to remain. The louder we are about the agendas that WE want to push, the more this great nation will progress into the twenty first century.
I’d like to leave you all with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Ayn Rand, whom even during the height of government propaganda, was able to see past the moral issue and realize that it’s your life and you should live it as you see fit.
"I do not approve of any government controls over consumption, so all restrictions on drugs should be removed (except, of course, on the sale to minors). The government has no right to tell an adult what to do with his own health and life. That places a much greater moral responsibility on the individual; but adults should be free to kill themselves in any way they want. I would fight for your legal right to use marijuana; I would fight you to the death that you morally should not do it, because it destroys the mind. What the government should do is protect citizens from the criminal consequences of those who take drugs. But drugs would be much cheaper if it weren't for government."
Well said, Tristan. Well said.