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Legalize Pot: A Plan to Revive America's Manufacturing States

Marijuana legalization is no longer a libertarian or progressive issue. We need this new, legal industry to replace the depleted economies of the rural South and Midwest.

Marijuana activists attend a political rally. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


This piece is part of a larger series examining what big ideas a Trump administration could use to achieve its most ambitious goals. Read more entries in our "The Art of the Bill" series here.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the weeks since the 2016 presidential election not as a human being, but as a sentient ball of white-hot rage. You’ve said things to lifelong friends you later had to apologize for. You briefly considered not going home for the holidays. Your Facebook posting frequency has tripled, and all of it is about politics.

You have — maybe — gone off the deep end. A little bit. A tad.

But in the spirit of empathy and understanding for those who disagree with you, you’ve also been trying to hold the door open to their viewpoints, metaphorically speaking. It may have, in retrospect, only been a sliver of an opening, but the fact that you still kept it open at all speaks to your genuine desire to find some common ground. After all, you could have slammed it shut, opened it, and slammed it shut again before bolting the lock, welding more bolt locks onto the door, building another door behind that door — but forgetting to make it a “door” and actually just making it “a wall” — then building a panic room behind that wall and sealing yourself inside it with enough food and water for the next four years so you don’t have to talk to anyone about anything instead. 

 Metaphorically speaking.

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It’s time we legalize the hell out of marijuana.

A lot of things led to this election. The DNC refused to hear the people when they passionately cried out for change (some may say their passion was so hot, it berned), Hillary Clinton wasn’t appealing enough, James Comey and the FBI dropped a big sticky mess all over America two days before the election, the Russians played us like a fiddle, Nazis aren't afraid to openly call themselves "Nazis" anymore, and on and on and on.

Many people in this country felt economically disadvantaged and systemically left behind (right and left alike), and a slimey, snakeoil charlatan came along and promised they could save themselves if they pushed down their fellow citizens. So they did. It's terrible and incredibly disheartening, but that's what happened here.

Before we all start saying, “They’ve just been lied to and had their fear stoked by a crazy Republican party!” (which … you might not be wrong) let’s take a beat to actually examine their problems.

The Opportunity Index is "an annual composite measure at the state and county levels of economic, educational, and civic factors that expand opportunity." In short, they gather data on unemployment, education, early childcare, and poverty levels and translate those metrics into an "opportunity score" for every county and state in the nation.

They also break out their information by data point. Below, find their map detailing median household income across the country, per county.

via OpportunityIndex.org

Compare it with the 2016 electoral map, by county.

via The New York Times

Notice any correlations?

It's money. It's always about money. The areas of this country that were making more money (besides the area around Wyoming, which has voted Republican in the past ten Presidential elections), voted for Hillary Clinton.

The rest of the county (and Wyoming) voted for Donald Trump. 

Trump won because he told people who were clinging to normalcy with their fingernails that he could help them gain some kind of control over their lives again. 

In their eyes, they saw Hillary Clinton giving private speeches to big bankers and gladhanding her way through the global elite (which, for all her many strengths, she is a member of). Then they saw this guy who talked like them show up in their hometowns with huge, fun rallies where everyone could get together and openly scream about the anger and hatred that had been boiling inside them for nearly a decade but they felt they weren’t allowed to think, let alone say. Every night they served their kids hot dogs and baked beans again, every time they swallowed their pride and applied for unemployment, every news story of some rich celebrity getting away with — and even celebrated for — being a pampered brat while their kids could barely hold onto a part-time job at Walmart got screamed out at those rallies.

Meanwhile, Hillary threw a Beyoncé concert.

Was Hillary the eminently more qualified candidate for the job? Absolutely. Is Trump a liar? Undoubtedly.

But Trump’s voice was the only voice they heard, and he was saying, “Aren’t you sick of putting everyone else first?”

It might be a fundamental flaw in human nature, but the fact remains that it is much easier to consider the plight of others on a full stomach.

It stands to reason that if the economically disenfranchised regions of our country had some kind of way to earn their lives back, they'd be less prone to fear-mongering madmen and more open to empathy. But their coal mines and steel mills are gone, and they’re not coming back. Trucking, the last labor job that still offers a portion of this group a shot at the middle class, is well on its way to being replaced by automation.

They're desperate because they live in desperation. Their jobs and healthcare are gone. All they have left are opioids and unemployment checks.

It's time to legalize marijuana for personal use, and sale.

The momentum is already clearly there. More people supported legalization than those who opposed it for the first time in 2013, and the trend lines are very clear about which direction the country is going.

via Pew Research Center

While marijuana federally remains a Schedule 1 drug per the Controlled Substances Act, 8 states have completely legalized the possession, purchase, sale, transportation, and cultivation of marijuana. A further 12 states have decriminalized it with some restrictions, 14 have legalized it for medicinal use, and the remaining 16 have reduced the possession of it to a misdemeanor charge.

America has spoken, is speaking, and will continue to speak. While one group of disenfranchised voters made their voices heard this election, another group of voters in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and that liberal bastion of communism, Arkansas, spoke up very loudly in favor of the loosening, if not the abandoning, of marijuana restrictions for American adults.

Which brings me to my point. This article isn’t about speaking up for marijuana reform; this article is a free landslide victory to the first politician that claims it.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this gimme is only for progressives or liberals. The issue isn’t a partisan one, it’s generational. 68% of Millennials favor marijuana legalization, and the number goes down as people get older, not as they move rightwards on the political spectrum. More Republican Millennials support legalization than Democrats in Gen X, the next oldest generation.

via Pew Research Center

via Pew Research Center

The support is there, it is growing while the opposition is literally dying, and the need is greater than ever before. Marijuana legalization is no longer a libertarian or progressive issue — hell, it’s not even a political one. We need this new, legal industry to replace the depleted economies of the rural South and Midwest and stop short the waves of desperation flooding our heartland, and we need it to happen before our next national election. If not, the terrifying wave of racial resentment that’s currently sweeping our country will only be Act One. We saw what Act Two looked like in the 1940s, and things like the United Nations were put in place specifically to prevent Act Three.

So the nation — maybe even the world — needs marijuana legalization right damn now, in order to heal our divide and help us finally hear each other again (as I said earlier, the plights of others are more readily heard on a full stomach). The future of the world may be at stake, but if you, the politician reading this, need me to explain this even more selfishly, allow me to break down why you want to make this your cause.

The first politician at the national level that makes the federal legalization of marijuana to individually grow and sell their issue and pitches it as hard as they can to the impoverished South and Midwest as an economic recovery plan will receive a tidal wave of support. It will easily get passed by the entire country, it will bring truckloads of cash to local economies that desperately need it, and they will have support through whatever else they want to do politically for the next decade.

Besides, the GOP doesn't have anything to rebel against anymore, so this could be a right wing or left wing issue. The left could approach it from a "personal freedom" angle, or the right could attack the "good business sense" side. The only important thing is that it's messaged directly at the poor in the South and Midwest.

Denver doesn’t need marijuana. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco don’t need marijuana. The cities are fine, and they don’t have fields to grow the stuff anyway. Give this industry to the South and the Midwest, heal their economic wounds, and make it much harder for the next despot to convince them to vote against their fellow citizens’ rights.

Legalize pot, and save the world.

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Live today! Unfiltered lessons of a female entrepreneur

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT today.

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

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Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Two-thirds of parents say technology makes parenting harder

Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.

Sex & Relationships
  • Today's parents believe parenting is harder now than 20 years ago.
  • A Pew Research Center survey found this belief stems from the new challenges and worries brought by technology.
  • With some schools going remote next year, many parents will need to adjust expectations and re-learn that measured screen usage won't harm their children.

Parents and guardians have always endured a tough road. They are the providers of an entire human being's subsistence. They keep that person feed, clothed, and bathe; They help them learn and invest in their enrichment and experiences; They also help them navigate social life in their early years, and they do all this with limited time and resources, while simultaneously balancing their own lives and careers.

Add to that a barrage of advice and reminders that they can always spend more money, dedicate more time, or flat-out do better, and it's no wonder that psychologists worry about parental burnout.

But is parenting harder today than it was, say, 20 years ago? The Pew Research Center asked more than 3,600 parents this question, and a majority (66 percent) believe the answer is yes. While some classic complaints made the list—a lack of discipline, a disrespectful generation, and the changing moral landscape—the most common reason cited was the impact of digital technology and social media.

A mixed response to technology

children using desktop computer

Parents worry that their children spend too much time in front of screens while also recognizing technologies educational benefits.

(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

This parental concern stems not only from the ubiquity of screens in children's lives, but the well-publicized relationship between screen time and child development. Headlines abound citing the pernicious effects screen time has on cognitive and language development. Professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, issue warnings that too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, lower grades, weight problems, mood problems, poor self-image, and the fear of missing out—to name a few!

According to Pew's research, parents—which Pew defines as an adult or guardian with at least one child under their care, though they may also have adult children—have taken these warnings to heart. While 84 percent of those surveyed are confident they know how much screen time is appropriate, 71 percent worry their child spends too much time in front of screens.

To counter this worry, most parents take the measured approach of setting limits on the length of time children can access screens. Others limit which technologies children have access to. A majority of parents (71 percent) view smartphones as potentially harmful to children. They believe the devices impair learning effective social skills, developing healthy friendships, or being creative. As a result, about the same percentage of parents believe children should be at least 12 years old before owning a smartphone or using social media.

But a deeper concern than screen time seems to be what content those screens can access. An overwhelming 98 percent of those surveyed say parents and guardians shouldered the responsibility of protecting children from inappropriate online content. Far less put the responsibility on tech companies (78 percent) or the government (65 percent).

Parents of young children say they check the websites and apps their children use and set parental controls to restrict access. A minority of parents admit to looking at call and text records, tracking their child's location with GPS, or following their child on social media.

Yet, parents also recognize the value of digital technology or, at least, have acquiesced to its omnipresence. The poster child for this dichotomy is YouTube, with its one billion hours played daily, many before children's eyes. Seventy-three percent of parents with young children are concerned that their child will encounter inappropriate content on the platform, and 46 percent say they already have. Yet, 80 percent still let their children watch videos, many letting them do so daily. Some reasons cited are that they can learn new things or be exposed to different cultures. The number one cited reason, however, is to keep children entertained.

For the Pew Research Center's complete report, check out "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens."

Screens, parents, and pandemics

Perhaps most troubling, Pew's survey was conducted in early March. That's before novel coronavirus spread wildly across the United States. Before shelter-in-place laws. Before schools shuttered their doors. Before desperate parents, who suddenly found themselves their child's only social and educational outlet, needed a digital lifeline to help them cope.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many parents to rely on e-learning platforms and YouTube to supplement their children's education—or just let the kids enjoy their umpteenth viewing of "Moana" so they can eke out a bit more work. With that increase in screen time comes a corresponding increase in guilt, anxiety, and frustration.

But are these concerns overblown?

As Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and the media at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told the New York Times, parents don't always need to view screen time as a negative. "Even the phrase 'screen time' itself is problematic. It reduces the debate to a black and white issue, when the reality is much more nuanced," Radesky said.

Radesky helped the American Academy of Pediatrics craft its statement about screen time use during the pandemic. While the AAP urges parents to preserve offline experiences and maintain limits, the organization acknowledges that children's media use will, by necessity, increase. To make it a supportive experience, the statement recommends parents make a plan with their children, be selective of the quality of media, and use social media to maintain connections together. It also encourages parents to adjust their expectations and notice their own technology use.

"We are trying to prevent parents from feeling like they are not meeting some sort of standard," Radesky said. "There is no science behind this right now. If you are looking for specific time limits, then I would say: Don't be on it all day."

This is good advice for parents, now and after the pandemic. While studies show that excessive screen time is deleterious, others show no harm from measured, metered use. For every fear that screens make our kids stupid, there's a study showing the kids are all right. If we maintain realistic standards and learn to weigh quality and quantity within those standards, maybe parenting in the digital age won't seem so darn difficult.

How meditation can change your life and mind

Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.

Videos
  • There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
  • "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
  • "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
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