How fake THC cartridges are a symptom of America's need for marijuana decriminalization
People are being diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) from using bootleg THC cartridges containing hydrogen cyanide, and I can’t help but wonder how we got to this point. The tests on legal vaping carts did not contain hydrogen cyanide, so we can’t blame this on vape nation. However, the tainted THC carts show us symptoms of a larger problem in America. Cannabis is considered a schedule one narcotic federally in our country. This means that we do not recognize it as having any healthcare applications and believe that it is highly addictive. Another Schedule I narcotic is PCP. Even methamphetamine is considered a Schedule II narcotic, which is legal to prescribe in the US under the name Desoxyn. As research has shown us, cannabis has a myriad of health benefits from anti-inflammatory and pain relief to seizure and PTSD, and the scheduling of medications in the US is extremely political. Because of the extreme anti-marijuana propaganda from the 1930s, cannabis was thrown into Schedule I, and being caught selling or using it can send you to jail and cause hefty fines.
In recent years, however, some states have decriminalized cannabis, and it was extremely popular. States like Colorado have reaped the benefits of taxes collected from legal cannabis dispensaries in their schools and roads, and most people get their cannabis products from licensed cannabis dispensaries, which do not sell cyanide tainted THC carts. National cannabis decriminalization would eliminate the demand for these harmful cartridges. Why would you buy your carts from Jimmy the Flaky Neighborhood Drug Seller when you could go down to the convenience store and get a pack of greens? If you prefer vaping, vape shops could sell licensed, regulated THC carts. It’s probably cheaper than Jimmy too, and the sales associate probably doesn’t want to “just hang out.” So how will decriminalization help? Well, first you need to know the difference between legalization and decriminalization. When something is legalized, it means that it is still highly regulated by the government. You can only ingest cannabis in your home, you can’t grow your own flower, and you can only purchase it from licensed dispensaries. Why not choose legalization? Well, legalization in lieu of nothing would be preferred, but decriminalization would better serve most communities.
Decriminalization means cannabis would still be government regulated, but it’s not treated like prescription medication or available in dispensaries only. You could buy cannabis from the corner store. You can ingest it in public spaces that also allow smoking, like the park. You can have it in your car during a police stop and as long as you’re storing it and not using it, you won’t get charged with a DUI or have your stash seized. Decriminalization should also come with expunged prison and jail sentences for those charged with cannabis possession, selling, buying and growing. This would mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax money used to jail people for something now legal could instead be used for making roads better or paying teachers a higher salary. Our communities would literally improve from decriminalizing cannabis.
So why haven’t we? To answer that question, we have to look back at the history of cannabis in the US. In the early 1900s, more and more states adopted a policy of labeling marijuana as “poison.” Cannabis prohibition became popular in the 1920s with anti-marijuana propaganda making its way into American homes, and by the 30s, every state had some sort of marijuana regulation policy on the books. The US even passed a “marijuana tax.” The real linchpin that sealed cannabis’s fate in the US, however, was the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which classified cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic. This meant that not only were people not allowed to consume it, but medical studies weren’t allowed to use it for testing either. Only the FDA had the authority to test cannabis without coming into the sights of the DEA. In the Obama administration, regulations were made to allow for medical testing of cannabis and in the Trump administration, regulations were made to allow farms to grow hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC.
So now we’re up to speed on our history. States can legalize or decriminalize but federally, it’s still a Schedule I. If this were to change, plenty of people would benefit. However, decriminalization is fought heavily by private prison lobbies, who spend millions of dollars swaying the decisions of politicians. What can we do? Well, we can try to vote in politicians who aren’t bought by the prison industrial complex. We can support grassroots politicians who support cannabis decriminalization and see the benefits it will have, especially in communities of color, since white drug possession and selling is convicted much less than people of color who commit the same crimes. We can also seek to educate people about the benefits of cannabis, both medical and recreational, and also teach that prohibition doesn’t keep crime from happening, and in fact causes more crime to go unreported, such as robberies in which the person has money and cannabis stolen from them.
Decriminalization is a safer, better way for the government to regulate the consumption of cannabis. It keeps bootleg THC carts from becoming popular and ruining people’s lungs, which keeps healthcare costs down. It keeps police from wasting time and resources on marijuana crimes and gives them more time to help their communities or catch dangerous criminals. It keeps people from being afraid to report crimes because they were smoking when they were assaulted or raped. Write your representative and ask for decriminalization. Your community will be better for it, and you can enjoy that blunt worry free.