I once took a "personality" test during a job interview. Maybe you're familiar with it, lots of questions about morality and judgement, like "It's wrong to steal from your employer. Agree / Disagree." One of the questions was "Stereotypes are based on truths. Agree / Disagree." To this day, I'm not sure which answer they were looking for on that one. To agree reveals a type of prejudice, and to disagree is to deny a common repeating pattern.
There are a lot of stereotypes associated with marijuana users... like they're all unwashed dreadlocked unemployed hippies. Last night I saw CNN's "Marijuana Inc." where a couple who drove to Humboldt sought work as bud trimmers. They showed the guy smoking a bowl, and of course, he was unwashed, dreadlocked, and unemployed. But most marijuana users take umbrage at those stereotypes. It just so happens that all of the hippies I've known have smoked marijuana, but their unkempt appearance and minimal hygiene were not byproducts of extended drug use the way you would find with junkies and meth addicts, rather their disregard for the commonly accepted notion of possessions was incidental to their marijuana use. You could take away the marijuana, and they'd still be the same. It's a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg situation. Marijuana didn't turn them into hippies, but it probably facilitated the process.
I find that marijuana is a paradox. On the one hand it placates the basest desires - give a joint, a burrito, and a blanket to someone who has nothing and they're good for a few hours. But on the other hand it awakens a gnawing sense of discontent - give someone making $26,000 a joint, and they'll start thinking about advancing their position in life. Give someone making $100,000 a joint and they'll start thinking about all that is missing from their life. To me, weed clarifies my desires and lets my heart cry out for what it wants, but chronic use becomes the barrier to obtaining those desires.
While marijuana prohibition has been in effect for about 100 years, it only became classified as Schedule I in 1972, during the presidency of Richard Nixon. At the time, Nixon was battling two wars: One in Vietnam, and the other in the USA against the people protesting the war in Vietnam. As part of his strategy of domestic suppression, he put marijuana at the top of the forbidden list.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services owns a patent related to marijuana use. U.S. Patent # 6630507 specifies the use of cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. But the DEA, in conjunction with the FDA, who is in charge scheduling controlled substances and enforcing the law, claims that cannabinoids have no medical value. A lack of medical value is the deciding criteria in assigning a drug to the Schedule I list. So our government simultaneously claims marijuana has no medical value, meanwhile it holds a patent describing marijuana's medical value.
The other defining difference between Schedule I and Schedule II is that a Schedule I drug has no accepted safe use. Marijuana has a hundred compounds in it, but the physical and psychological effects are produced by cannabinoids (discussed above) and THC. Synthetic THC is called dronabinol, and accounted for less than 1% of Abbott Pharmaceuticals' 2012 revenues of $40 Billion. It is sold under the brand name Marinol which is a Schedule III (3) drug. For the record, the FDA claims 4 people have died from Marinol overdose. And yet in the history of mankind no person has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Therefore one has to interpret the FDA's stance on "safe use" to mean that any marijuana use, though nonfatal, is unsafe. How can the FDA claim marijuana exposure is unsafe, but cannabinoids and synthetic THC are?
I think this leads us to the crux of the issue: What, exactly, is "unsafe" about marijuana consumption? Given my experience that marijuana diminishes immediate need consumerism while amplifying big picture discontent, one can see how the status quo depends on keeping marijuana illegal. We are all slaves to capitalism, just as the people who live in The Matrix were merely a source of energy, we are all seen by the ruling class as providing fuel for the economic engine.
They say that ending marijuana prohibition would result in a $43 Billion economic shift. Monies spent on black market marijuana would no longer go to drug cartels and instead go to local businesses, employing local workers. Taxes would be collected. Law enforcement would be able to focus on violent crime. About 3/4 of a million arrests would stop clogging our courts, and with them the money wasted on attorneys and fines. Approximately 50,000 prisoners would be released, at an annual average cost of incarceration of $30,000. That would amount to $1.5 Billion taken away from the prisons. Many of those arrested are given a choice between incarceration and mandatory drug treatment, artificially increasing the drug treatment statistics. Often, the cost of drug treatment is placed on the offender. Arrests, court appearances, mandatory treatment and incarceration all decrease worker productivity, for both the offenders and their families.
But beyond the immediate, beneficial economic shift would be an underlying one more upsetting to the balance of the status quo. I believe the unsatiated desires that make consumers load up on plastic crap would be replaced by a minimalist frame of mind. The money saved would allow people to spend more on higher quality foods, forcing a trend towards organics and against GMO. Instead of drinking ourselves into oblivion on Friday night, Americans would spend time learning how to get high, and by that I don't mean the art of inhaling smoke, I mean directing your mind to become more receptive to being elevated. Instead of dogmatically following a religion, people might be inclined to seek and find their own definition of God.
It's no wonder why ending prohibition scares the crap out of the ruling class.