By Melanie Turkowitch
Rick Steves does not promote the use of marijuana rather he promotes the idea that the nation should enforce less punishable laws for users.
“If your advocating for the change of law you’re not advocating the breaking of laws,” said Steves.
Over the past decade marijuana has become increasingly more popular and recognized. Due to the large amount of marijuana users in America more people have been punished. Since there is so much money spent on criminalizing marijuana drug users, its starting to affect the nation’s society.
Steves, an internationalist, famous for his travel guide books and involvement for legalization believes America should be a replica of the way Europeans handle marijuana laws. He came to speak at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to talk about America’s issues on marijuana laws. Because a large amount of Americans are being locked up each year for marijuana, its Steve’s initiative to inform people on a different approach to marijuana laws.
There are different ways to approach marijuana users without criminalizing them. The pragmatic harm reduction process is where many European countries take crime out of the equation and recognize that like tobacco marijuana is addictive.
“People who are addicted aren’t criminals, their sick and they need counselors and nurses,” said Steves.
Instead of spending large amounts of money locking up marijuana users, the money could be spent on helping the users who abuse the drug. There are many crossroads in the nation but drug policy reform groups are working hard to have smarter laws on an individual’s civil liberty to smoke marijuana.
Yes, laws can become problematic when legalizing marijuana but Steve’s isn’t saying that everyone should have the privilege to use marijuana only those appropriate. Marijuana should be used by people who are over 21, where their bodies are fully developed. Using marijuana is a privilege, like drinking, the idea is that you should not be recklessly driving while using but use it at home safe where there is no harm.
“Were sending the wrong message if kids can’t and adults can,” said by many in regard to Steves.
Many adults have more privileges than kids. Adults can drink alcohol, gamble, and drive so would it be different if adults can smoke marijuana and kids can’t.
“Kids have more access to marijuana than alcohol,” Steve’s said.
Steve’s focus is that The United States needs to start looking at European policies on drugs. In particular, the Netherlands is an ideal replica of how to handle marijuana use. The Netherlands have less strict laws on marijuana but they also don’t promote marijuana to their youth. The country has coffee shops where adults have access to an alternate menu where they can purchase marijuana.
Yes, the punishment of those using marijuana is a nationwide issue but the first step to making change is in the hands of the state legislators through the initiative process. State by state individuals can inform state legislators about the laws and spread the word. If each state one by one starts enforcing less rules, then it will soon become a federal law to produce less punishments for marijuana users much like the prohibition.
Steve’s had a large turnout of people in the auditorium, 450 were sold before and during the event. “What I found most interesting is the global influence the United States has on other countries,” said Jeff DeGrave professor of the geography department at UW-Eau Claire. “Our policies really effect other countries issues on drugs like Mexico.”
“We have spent one trillion dollars to the war on drugs,” Steve’s said.
He believes it’s a national issue that needs more recognition. Steve’s isn’t promoting the idea that it’s okay for an adult to smoke marijuana and drive with their kids, but that adults should be allowed the privilege to sit down and enjoy a joint after a long day of work. Marijuana is already here so what can America do to make it harmless and less problematic.