George Washington, William Shakespeare and Carl Sagan may be some of history’s greatest minds and most celebrated figures, but they’d all probably be in prison today if they were still alive.

What would make these unlikely cell mates so dangerous that they’d have to be kept off the streets? Was Shakespeare a serial arsonist? Did Carl Sagan fly into a homicidal rage whenever somebody claimed to have invented a perpetual motion machine? No, the threat these historical icons posed to the public is much worse: They all smoked marijuana.

The idea that cannabis is a dangerous substance that should be avoided at all cost is a relatively modern invention. In fact, historians now believe that Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II regularly used marijuana, possibly to relieve eye pain. But if cannabis has indeed been in use for millennia, why has there has never been a single recorded instance of a person dying of a marijuana overdose? Think about that for a moment: In thousands of years of recorded history, not one person has ever died of THC poisoning, yet the federal government maintains that marijuana is among the most dangerous substances in existence. People die each year from overdosing on prescription pain killers, alcohol, tobacco and even water. Nevertheless, a plant that has never directly killed anyone is far more dangerous than all those things, according to the feds.

Just how dangerous is it? In order to die of a marijuana overdose, a person would have to consume at least 1,500 pounds of cannabis within 15 minutes. Newer studies suggest it’d take even more than that. Unfortunately, the alcohol, drug, and tobacco industries are spending millions of dollars to make sure Congress continues to treat marijuana as the world’s deadliest poison so they don’t have to compete with a new industry.

Let’s examine how your member of Congress is holding up in the face of all this dirty money flying around. Congressman Greg Walden has taken more than $215,000 in campaign contributions from these companies, more than most members of Congress. Walden has accepted more money from the drug companies and more contributions even from the slimy tobacco companies than any other member of the Oregon congressional delegation.

Seeing as how these special interests are determined to use the power of government to prevent legitimate competition from cannabis from cutting into their profits, it stands to reason that all the money they’ve lavished upon your member of Congress came with the expectation that they were purchasing his vote against any legalization bill.

Not since prohibition has the federal government pursued a policy so rooted in deliberate misinformation and outright hypocrisy. It is truly embarrassing that we, as a society, have for so long allowed ourselves to be manipulated into conflating the consumption of a relatively harmless plant with a lack of morality.

It’s time to end the stupidity and stop wasting taxpayer money on filling our prisons with people who have absolutely no business being there. That’s why I urge you to call Congressman Walden at 202-225-6730 and tell him to either legalize cannabis federally or make room for someone who will.

Kris Craig is a writer. He lives in College Place.

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