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Smoke, grill and watch fireworks might be on most people’s agenda for July 4th weekend, but everything from high school history class to Schoolhouse Rock reminds us that this holiday has a much deeper meaning. Independence Day celebrates the 1776 Declaration of Independence when the Founding Fathers famously wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These unalienable rights are worth celebrating, and so we shall, but we should remember that these rights should also apply to cannabis. At least that’s what a Michigan Supreme Court judge seemed to think in a 1972 ruling.
Four years before America’s bicentennial, the Wolverine State court dismissed a 10-year prison sentence for poet-activist John Sinclair, who landed a decade behind bars for selling just two cannabis joints. In the written text for his decision to dismiss, Justice T.G. Kavanagh wrote, “I find that our [cannabis] statute violates the Federal and State Constitutions in that it is an impermissible intrusion on the fundamental rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and is an unwarranted interference with the right to possess and use private property.”
Think about it. Cannabis prohibition denies the inalienable right to Life by limiting or banning the medical use of cannabis to treat potentially fatal diseases like cancer and pediatric epilepsy. It denies the inalienable right to Liberty as it’s a driving force behind mass incarceration, especially for Americans of color. Finally, it denies the inalienable right to pursue happiness for the millions of Americans who enjoy cannabis.
A 2000 legal brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court for United States of America v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative put it this way: “This state-federal conflict implicates several individual liberties intertwined under our Constitution: The right of the ‘pursuit of happiness’ and liberty by the chronically and terminally ill; the right of citizens ‘to be let alone’ by government in personal decisions; and substantive due process when there is no comparable federal interest in prohibiting the conduct at issue.”
Independence Day is a celebration of freedom, and freedom is the foundation of American values. Over the years, activists like Sinclair and legal minds like Justice Kavanagh have had to remind people that these foundational freedoms should apply to cannabis as well, and more and more Americans are finally waking up to this self-evident truth.
While others light fireworks, light up a pre-roll this year, and remember ALL the inalienable rights we have reason to celebrate this Independence Day.