In the past five years we have seen several states in the US legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults. Today, most of us live in a society where pot is treated like alcohol and tobacco; however this was not always the case. As a millennial I grew up in the era of the D.A.R.E. (drug abuse resistance education) movement. I remember pledging with my peers to stay drug free by tying red ribbons on a fence. These ribbons represented our promise and we had everyone that drove by as a witness. Although I grew up during the D.A.R.E. movement I remember seeing movies and TV shows that portrayed drugs, specifically marijuana, as something the “cool” teens did. So what happened? How did marijuana go from being a hippie’s best friend to being the devil's lettuce to being medicine?
Between 1973-1978, a dozen states decriminalized marijuana. You were allowed to legally carry up to an ounce of pot. There were many pro-pot activists, many of them arguing that marijuana was not as harmful as the government stated, and that the laws and restrictions against it were unreasonable. This change led to a multi-million dollar paraphernalia industry. There was little to no regulation in this industry. People started to see colorful pipes, flavored rolling papers, cartoon shaped bongs, and drug oriented magazines. All of these products were seen in music shops and corner stores which worried parents. Parents felt like their children were in danger because the products on the market were too pleasing to the child’s eye. They believed that the availability and marketing of these products would increase the use of marijuana in adolescents. This lead to the “Parent Movement”, a group of concerned parents that wanted to take down the paraphernalia market and change society's perspective on marijuana. This was more effective than predicted, by 1981 they successfully convinced many states to overturn their decriminalization laws. Their concerns were so extreme that they went after the first lady at the time, Nancy Reagan. They were able to convince her to make adolescent drug-abuse prevention her focus. Parent activists and Reagan treated the situation as a “national emergency”. Pro-pot activists pleaded that it was part of their human rights to be free to smoke marijuana, but children's safety got more attention. Once adolescent drug use rates increased and shops started to sell paraphernalia to kids, society’s thoughts on marijuana changed, and was soon criminalized. The attempt to decriminalize marijuana in the 1970’s was a failure due to the lack of regulations.
In the 1990’s we saw the rebirth of marijuana, but this time it was different. It was not seen as a hippie’s accessory but instead as medicine. Extensive research of the effects of marijuana has proven that it can provide palliative treatment to illnesses such as seizures, PTSD, anxiety, and inflammation. The goal is to focuses on improving quality of life-not just in the body, but also in the mind and spirit. After educating the public about its benefits, today 60% of Americans support legalization and many are crying out for social justice. Organizations like ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) believe that many non-Americans have been unfairly incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana crimes. The US is taking a second attempt to decriminalize marijuana but will it be effective or will history repeat itself? Today we live in a different time, US states are making sure to regulate the industry and are steering away from anything that could accidently market to children. We are seeing childproof packaging, caps on edible dosages, and the end of medicated candy that looks identical to children's candy. This time we are doing it right, instead of history repeating itself we are rewriting it.