Famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has made a very public comment about the legal status of cannabis in America today. While being interviewed by Chuck Nice, Tyson was sent a question from Marijuana Policy Project director Tom Angell asking for Tyson’s view on the legal status of marijuana. Angell was asking to see if the popular scientist’s views were similar to Carl Sagan, whose popularity increased with the initial broadcast of the TV series Cosmos. Sagan was a lifelong marijuana user who had secretly discussed the plant’s medicinal value in an essay he anonymously wrote for the book Marijuana Reconsidered. He called it “outrageous” that marijuana was outlawed and Angell was curious to know if Tyson’s views also reflected this.
Tyson’s Rationale for Supporting Legalization of Cannabis
Tyson, who rebooted Sagan’s Cosmos and has followed in his footsteps as a promoter of space science agrees that marijuana should not be illegal. “If you really analyze it, relative to other things that are legal, there’s no reason for it to ever have been made illegal in the system of laws,” says Tyson. “Alcohol is legal, and it can mess you up way more than smoking a few J’s,” he added. Tyson has made it clear that he, himself, prefers not to consume marijuana but he deems it far less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes and does not believe it should have been made illegal.
The Controversy of an Ill-Fitting Classification
Much controversy exists on the topic right now as marijuana does not fit the requirements for the classification it currently holds under federal law. It is categorized as a Schedule I substance which means it is considered to have a high risk of abuse with no medicinal benefits and is further regarded as unfit to test on humans. Health experts have already made it clear that it is less habit forming, healthier and less hazardous for drivers than alcohol. It is legal for medical use in 29 states and countless cannabis related tests on humans have been conducted over the years.
Classifying Against Logic and Reason
The DEA and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are currently facing a lawsuit that aims to legalize marijuana and reduce and repair some of the devastating damage inflicted on minorities and low income residents from it being made illegal. In 1972, when the Controlled Substance Act was being created, President Richard Nixon’s own drug task force recommended that marijuana not be included in the list of illegal substances. Nixon made it illegal to the highest degree, nonetheless, placing it side by side with heroin and LSD. Its illegal status made it easy for police to disproportionately target minority groups and war protesters.
Several bipartisan bills exist that seek to legalize marijuana and repair some of the damage done to communities with high arrest rates as well as allowing prisoners to undergo new trials and have their records expunged. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 61 percent of Americans want to legalize marijuana, 94 percent believe medical marijuana should be legal and 3/4 of the country believe that the federal government should not interfere with state law regarding marijuana. All in all, public consensus seems to be clear. It seems just a matter of the federal government catching up.