Ethnobotanist Terence McKenna points to two significant paradoxes inherent in criminalizing cannabis in the United States. First, hemp was legal when the Declaration of Independence was written–to the degree that the document was written on hemp. Yet, due to longstanding stigmatization of marijuana specifically, hemp remains an underutilized resource we could be using for a vast array of products, including paper, clothing, and food.
Our Declaration of Independence states that American citizens have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but we have a ways to go to achieve this with cannabis. The words “liberty” and “freedom” are often thrown around by Americans of all political leanings, and yet adults in forty-five states are restricted from the freedom to choose to put cannabis in their bodies. So again, “liberty” itself is also limited, and in the case of cannabis, for reasons that don’t make sense and are based solely on stigma.
It’s high time we consider the ways in which we’re willing to have our freedom and happiness limited, and by whom and why. Does cannabis’ federally illegal status restrict your freedom? Your happiness? Does keeping it illegal go against the very document on which our country is based?