“What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.” — Thomas Sowell

Since 1937, the United States federal government has overreached into the liberties of sovereign individuals who wish to consume marijuana via the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, as introduced by Democrat US Congressman Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina. 

In 1971, Congress took it a step further by declaring a “War on Drugs” campaign, as launched by Duke graduate Richard M. Nixon. 

Drug-war laws and policies have cost American taxpayers well over a trillion dollars, destroyed the lives of millions, built up a tyrannical paternalistic system, and broken the confidence in protected liberties by the United States government. 

However, many states are finally loosening their stances on enforcing marijuana laws, including an increasing number of states that are outright legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. In fact, marijuana is now legal in 23 states, including our neighbor Virginia. 

On Sept. 7, 2023, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will vote whether to sell recreational marijuana on their sovereign land. If passed, this will likely bring new business, such as restaurants, gaming, museums, live entertainment, and more, to the areas surrounding Cherokee, North Carolina.

In his op-ed, published in Carolina Journal and elsewhere, US Congressman Chuck Edwards, who represents the area, worried that western North Carolina could see more drug use and negative impacts from this move by the Cherokee. The mountains of our state, including places like Asheville, is already known as a region where the hippies roam. So, it makes sense that there will be high demand for marijuana in that region. 

Contrary to the Reefer Madness fears held by Edwards, it is not weed that WNC struggles with — it is affordable housing, mental health issues, and mass opioid abuse. Each of these categories is impacted by government intervention, such as through bureaucratic zoning and building codes, healthcare license and practice restrictions, and a coercive monopoly over medications and anything arbitrarily deemed a “drug.”    

Much like those politicians who know nothing about guns but write or pass gun restriction laws, it seems to be the same for politicians pushing for marijuana restriction laws. They tend to use the same rhetoric of fear-mongering and protectionism while they encroach on the liberty of their own citizens as well as those of other nations.

After getting word of the EBCI’s upcoming vote on marijuana legalization, Edwards wrote his op-ed announcing, at the federal level, the Stop Pot Act. He claims if the Stop Pot Act passes, it would limit certain federal funding from getting to states that do not comply with the federal laws against marijuana use. Thus, if the Cherokee were selling pot to North Carolinians, the government of NC would have to enforce the anti-marijuana laws or risk losing funding. What will “pot” be defined as? What level of THC will or will not be allowed? Will this change the 2018 Farm Bill?

Since he does not yet specify what those restricted federal funds would be, it is just a vague threat. What he should work on instead is demilitarizing the police and releasing prisoners held for non-violent drug-related offenses.

Sadly, he is also using his political power to intimidate those trying to operate under free-market principles and imposing his wishes on the sovereign Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Edwards cites scientific studies from the CDC as evidence for his concerns, but they are dubious at best.

Overall, it seems implied throughout Edwards’ recent Puritanesque op-ed that he believes there is a lot of free market demand for cannabis around Cherokee, throughout his 11th Congressional District, and around the state of North Carolina. He believes there is so much demand that people will flock from all over just to buy some of the devil’s lettuce. This demand may be evidence that it is futile to try to keep a lid on the pot.

The vast majority of unaffiliated voters in North Carolina, comprised of Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z, agree that the War on Drugs has been a failed policy and that marijuana is not the boogie man it was once made out to be by fear-mongering politicians. It is very likely that marijuana legalization or decriminalization is an issue that is prompting so many North Carolinians to leave the two main parties, with now more registered unaffiliated voters than others.

If the people of the EBCI want to legalize marijuana, and the people in the surrounding areas want to go buy some, there is very little that can be done, nor should there be. North Carolinians already travel across the border to Virginia to buy pot in this exact way. Eventually, marijuana is going to be federally legalized, and this period of prohibition and government overreach will come to an end.