There are many legal activities we can partake in that aren’t exactly healthy decisions, but our government has no say in how frequently we do them or if we’re doing them to excess.
For instance, as Americans, we can buy and consume as much alcohol as we want, we can smoke as many cigarettes as we want, and we can eat as much fast food as we want. As an American citizen, you have the right to literally drink, smoke, and eat yourself to death, but when it comes to consuming marijuana, that’s off the table, even though it is impossible to die from smoking pot to excess.
Here’s the way I see cannabis legalization: Every person on the planet should be allowed the freedom to use his or her judgment when it comes to what’s best for his or her life and well-being, as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights. If you want to go into cardiac arrest from eating five Big Macs three times a day, then that’s your prerogative. If you want to use marijuana to alleviate a migraine headache, be my guest.
Today, there are a couple dozen states (+D.C.) that have legalized medical marijuana in some way. Ohio just joined that list last month. And on election day (which is Tuesday, Nov. 8), medical marijuana and recreational marijuana will be on the ballot in several states. However, even if your state has legalized medical and recreational marijuana, there are still huge restrictions on every aspect of “legalization.”
Take Colorado for instance. If you’re a Colorado resident, you can buy up to 1 ounce of marijuana at one time, but if you’re visiting from another state, you can only purchase up to ¼ ounce at a time. Name one other legal substance that is regulated in this manner. If I can buy as many cigarettes as I want, then why, in a state like Colorado where marijuana is legal, can I not empty my bank account in a retail marijuana shop if that’s what I want to do?
Think about alcohol for a minute. It’s completely legal to buy as much of it as you want. If you drink too much, it can cause liver damage, addiction, even death. According to the CDC, in 2014 alone, more Americans died from alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647). So, there were more alcohol related deaths in 2014 than heroin related deaths (and we keep hearing that there’s a national heroin epidemic in this country), yet I am not limited to the amount of alcohol I can purchase.
If it’s such a deadly substance, then shouldn’t it be regulated more? Could you imagine if the government did such a thing? Let’s limit the amount of beer to a six-pack per person per day and see how much rioting there’d be in the streets! Look, if a substance is legal to purchase, then I should be allowed to purchase as much of it as I so desire. To me, that’s the definition of a legal substance.
Ohio’s recent “legalization” of medical marijuana is by far the most pathetic I’ve seen thus far. Ohio’s House Bill 523 (which was passed on May 26), only legalizes non-smokeable marijuana. And, when it comes to drug tests at work, medical marijuana patients have no protection. They can be fired for violating a “drug-free workplace policy” if marijuana is found in their systems during a drug screening (which also would make them ineligible for unemployment benefits).
Hypothetically, as an approved medical marijuana patient in Ohio, I can take a medication that can drastically help my condition and then lose my job, or I can go on suffering and keep my job and therefore be able to support my family. See how House Bill 523 doesn’t actually legalize anything?
Lawmakers estimate it will take anywhere between two months and two years to set up and implement all the asinine rules associated with this bill. So when the media reported that Ohio legalized marijuana, that means Ohio residents won’t actually be able to get medical marijuana cards or legally ingest it until possibly two years from now!
I’d like to know what lawmakers are so afraid of when it comes to actually legalizing marijuana. What are the side effects of this medication? Patients feel better. It helps people manage chronic pain without addiction or death. We just lost Prince, one of the greatest musical icons of my home state of Minnesota, due to prescription pill overdose. If his doctor prescribed him marijuana, I believe he would still be with us today. And as a “recreational” substance, name me one person who smokes weed and then wakes up the next day not remembering committing violent or aggressive acts, which is so typically associated with alcohol use.
I’m a purist. If a substance is legal, it should be legal. Yes, let’s tax it, let’s make money off of it, but let’s not regulate it to the point where people live in fear of having too much of this “legal” substance on them at a given moment. When people buy cigarettes, they don’t worry if they have too many packs in the trunk of their car, yet there is not one medical benefit of smoking cigarettes. It’s common knowledge that cigarettes slowly kill you. So addictive substances that kill people: perfectly legal. A medical substance that has proven time and time again to have practically zero side effects and can actually help people: not fully legalized, and many Americans risk going to jail if they use it.
On Election Day, I’m voting for people who will actually legalize this incredible plant. We don’t know what’s in our future or what’s in our children’s futures. Our loved ones could be diagnosed with cancer, Huntington’s, ALS, epilepsy, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia or any number of illnesses that cannabis treats. It’s in all of our best interests to make cannabis legal for every American.
Commentary by Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota and the author of “Jesse Ventura’s Marijuana Manifesto” (Sept. 6 2016). He was a Navy SEAL and is a Vietnam veteran. He was also a professional wrestler from 1975 to 1986 under the ring name Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Follow him on Twitter @GovJVentura.