Is the US exporting its marijuana legalization agenda to Jordan?

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Before she became vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris (the senator) was one of the main voices calling for the nationwide legalization of marijuana, under the pretext of “social justice”.اضافة اعلان

In several interviews in 2019, she pushed for the idea of new federal laws and policies to rectify racial disparities in the US criminal justice system, in a country suffering from steep and systematic racism against African Americans in particular.

In her pro-cannabis campaign, Harris and other lawmakers in the progressive camp, substantiated their legalization argument with a 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that noted that African Americans were nearly four times more likely than White Americans to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010.

Those are very specific American problems in a country built on the backs of slaves. Slaves who toiled in plantations belonging to white settlers, and whose descendants went through the grueling humiliation of dehumanization and segregation, up until the civil rights movement helped lift some of those injustices.

Although many Jordanians have great compassion for the cause of the African American community in light of police brutality and other forms of systematic oppression, the fact remains those are not Jordanian problems, nor are they Jordanian narratives that are part of our history or our local context.

Yet, the policy lines of the current US Administration have somehow reached us, as if we have the same racial injustice issues or the same social structures, which we certainly do not. I am referring to the recent controversial amendments to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law of 2021, which now includes the much-debated measure of not charging first-time offenders with criminal intent.

Those recent changes are completely aligned with the broad policy lines of the US Democratic Party and the current administration, in relation to legalizing marijuana at the federal level (a step yet to be taken). In fact, the new Jordanian law is even more lax than the marijuana law in Washington, DC, where first-time offenders caught with less than one third of a kilogram of cannabis, can face up to $1,000 in fines and 6 months in prison.

For background, the recreational use of cannabis is currently legalized in 18 out of 50 states, while 35 states have implemented medical marijuana programs for patients. The remaining states adhere to the federal law, under which marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use."

This is the federal law that has been in the crosshairs of then-senator Kamala Harris.

I personally think that looking at marijuana from a narrow social justice lens is somewhat short-sighted and lacking a multi-disciplinary broad view. American lawmakers need to factor in so many other angles to prevent normalizing marijuana use in ways that are hard to reverse, in order to protect society from forming a dependency on a harmful substance that affects mental health.

What Harris hasn’t accounted for in her campaign is the multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry that has already taken shape, almost overnight, to market everything from marijuana-laced chewing gum to CBD drinks and massage oils.

This not only commercializes cannabis beyond the “social justice” argument, but also makes marijuana an over-the-counter drug that is easily accessible by tweens and teens in states were cannabis has been legalized.

Legalizing cannabis on the federal level all across America, would mean making marijuana products readily available for consumption by children and minors, because anyone can grab a packet of CBD chewing gum and give it to a child. There are no laws designed to prevent this from happening.

There are actually no laws at the present time to regulate the booming medical and recreational cannabis market, in the commercial sense. No bills tabled in the legislature to say where cannabis can be sold, or what food and drink products can have cannabis in them. At the moment, the marijuana industry has free rein to shape its own rules and to impose what it comes up with on Americans, with little scrutiny and oversight.

This is why I believe that when Harris pushed for her “social justice” agenda, she totally failed to see the commercial side of the issue, or the new social and mental health problems that were starting to take shape.

Interestingly enough, just a day ago, Bloomberg reported on a newly released study that said nearly half of America’s college-age students used marijuana last year. To be more specific, “44 percent of college students reported using marijuana in 2020, an increase from 38 percent in 2015.”

I wonder how many more months, or years would we have to wait to read a headline that says, “half the number of school students have started using cannabis products,” just because they have easy access to it in the form of canned drinks and gummy bears!

This failure to see the full picture is not new to the US Congress. It took almost 20 years for US lawmakers to realize Big Tech companies, like Facebook and Google, were destroying democracy and society with their tech surveillance practices and privacy-violating terms of service. US lawmakers started introducing privacy and antitrust bills right after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, but before that no one cared to regulate tech companies.

Only yesterday did President Biden tweet about taxing the wealthy, including tech companies who have benefited from tax exemptions for two decades, thanks to the relentless efforts of their lobbyists who managed to keep tax laws at bay.

The cannabis industry has lobbyists, too. With this in mind, it is not too far-fetched to imagine a scenario where US lawmakers would take 10-15 years before “seeing” the real problems of marijuana legalization. Maybe then, they would start putting in place robust safeguards to protect American kids (and therefore our kids) from the over commercialization of cannabis, and the over normalization of a substance that turns people into slackers, and pollutes their worlds with all types of moral and mental health problems.

On July 26, and contrary to every lobbying effort to make marijuana seem harmless and tame, CNN ran a story titled, “Schizophrenia Linked to Marijuana Use Disorder is on the Rise, Study Finds.” The network said according to a new study from Denmark, the percentage of schizophrenia cases stemming from the problematic use of marijuana has increased over the past 25 years, rising from two percent in 1995 and 8 percent since 2010.

Those risks are not even mentioned in the ongoing drive by US lawmakers campaigning for the legalization of marijuana. The risks to children and teenagers are not even discussed in a public platform in America, because everyone’s sole focus is on “social justice,” the hottest topic of the hour!

Seeing how flawed the US approach is to cannabis legalization, why should Jordan, or any country for that matter, follow in the footsteps of such a poorly though-out policy? American and Jordanian children and teenagers deserve better! Our societies deserve better! We owe it to ourselves to take a step back and reexamine marijuana legalization in a way that allows us to measure every possible repercussion and every possible scenario, before it is too late!

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