Gabrielle Friedman: Speaking out against the war on youth

Throughout history the youth of this nation have rarely shied away from the opportunity to lead progressive cultural movements. Ten years after D.C. voters approved the use of medical marijuana by a substantial 69 percent, the District has finally seen movement on the legislation. This makes it the perfect time for the youth to go one step further and take action once again.

Now you may be thinking one of two things: “Dude, that is some exciting stuff,” or “This is going to lead to a slippery slope of legalization for recreational use.” Wherever you may fall on the issue, the fact of the matter is that for our generation, there are simply more pros than cons for complete legalization.

Of the 800,000 American busted for possession of marijuana each year, 74 percent are under the age of 30; actually, one out of every four of these people are 18 or under, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (better known as NORML). It seems that the war on drugs is becoming a war on youth, tainting the futures of thousands of people our age by branding their files with drug charges that will remain on their records for the rest of their lives.

With prisons becoming increasingly crowded, it is best that we leave whatever space is available to actual criminals, not young, harmless marijuana users who have committed a crime with absolutely no victims and no violence. No matter how you feel about the drug itself, I think it is fair to conclude that marijuana arrests are adversely affecting our generation. In a 2007 study, around 14.4 million Americans admitted to using marijuana at least once in the month before they were surveyed, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is time we face the music and see that society is naturally progressing toward legalization.

So what are we going to do about it? Some will try to fight the trend, but we need to realize is that this is a petty crime not worth the punishment. In the words of Gandhi, we should demand that those who are oppressed be a part of their own liberation. Our generation needs to step up to the plate and lead the movement to full legalization, rather than continue with the norm that is locking up our fellow students.

Hardly a week goes by without The Hatchet reporting in the Crime Log a marijuana-related offense, many of which are referred to the Metropolitan Police Department. This, on top of the two major drug busts that occurred this past semester involving several GW students, makes me think that at some point we need to stop and ask ourselves a crucial question: why are we trying to prohibit a widely common practice that has heavily influenced parts of our culture?

We need to start talking. Talk to others about how prohibition disproportionately and adversely impacts our generation. Or talk about how the policy limits our opportunities at economic and academic success and has repercussions that will affect people for the rest of their lives. Or talk about how prohibition causes users of marijuana to interact and befriend pushers of other illegal, actually dangerous drugs.

Essentially, it is up to us to get the message out. It is time we take on the role of leading progressive movements and fight for what is in our best interest.

The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.

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