Over 11% of all federal penitentiary inmates are there merely because they wanted to have some fun. What crime could be so benign and yet so prolific? Possession, selling, or trafficking Marijuana (Thomas 1). You might think that it is fine that they’re there: Marijuana use is a horrible social disease, because it has adverse health effects and leads to use of ‘harder’ drugs and crime. It should therefore be stamped out immediately with lots of explosions. But that stance is in error. Recreational marijuana use should be made as legal as alcohol.
Does marijuana lead to crime? Generally, no. The ‘crime’ is usually just possession of small amounts, for personal use. Violent crimes, such as murder or theft, are caused either by users trying to steal enough to support their addiction, or by drug dealers battling over the lucrative underground drug market, neither of which are nearly as prevalent with Marijuana as with Cocaine and Heroin. Very little violence is associated directly with marijuana use (since the high generally brings calmness). What if this logic was applied to, say, poaching? Owning a gun would be illegal. Or jaywalking? Walking near intersections would be banned. If someone commits a crime that injures another person, punish them for that. There is no reason to punish anyone who don’t hurt anyone else.
Does marijuana lead to harder drugs? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it is, but only because of fuzzy math. They derive that marijuana leads to cocaine through use of the statistic that 17% of marijuana users have used cocaine. But what they do not point out is that 83% of marijuana users have never tried cocaine (Connelly 62). “(Marijuana) does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association” (Common Questions…2). People who use marijuana might use other drugs, but marijuana does not cause them to. So, no: marijuana is not a gateway.
Another misconception is that marijuana has horribly lethal and unavoidable health effects. Marijuana’s health effects are roughly on par with alcohol’s and tobacco’s (Connelly 42-57). Marijuana cigarettes, or joints, are slightly more dangerous than tobacco cigarettes (NIDH) but this would be reduced if industries were allowed to refine the product. Legalization would allow government regulation and joints would be less damaging. In any case, vaporizing the marijuana (with a specially made appliance}carries almost no health risk.
If alcohol and tobacco remain legal, why is marijuana, which is no worse, illegal? Marijuana is by far less addictive than either alcohol or tobacco: Reefer has a 9% addiction rate, compared to 15% for alcohol and 32% for tobacco (Common Questions…1). The loss of motor control and inhibitions is similar to inebriation caused by alcohol, but less likely to result in violence (Connelly 42). Of course operation of a vehicle while high is dangerous (as stated by propagandic government anti-drug commercials), but no more dangerous than driving drunk. Smoking marijuana could fairly remain illegal in public, so second-hand smoke is not an issue.
There is thusly no foundation for those who want to continue to criminalize marijuana. To continue to include marijuana in the war on drugs would be foolish, for many reasons. Primarily, it is costing too much money. Our short-sighted policy of total prohibition of all drugs costs the government $75 billion each year (Drug Legalization Why Legalize), plus crime, plus health costs from poorly refined drugs, plus lost revenue by legitimate industry and taxation- that could add up to over $200 billion per year! So how effective is this $75 billion, anyway? Mostly it’s not doing any good. Drugs are easily accessible (NIDH Extent of Use). Jail is not an effective deterrent to drug use. This money could be much better spent on treating addicts, like for alcohol (Connelly 65). All that the drug war is doing is making drug trafficking more rewarding by causing inflation of drug prices. Thus the dealers fight each other for turf, just like during Alcohol prohibition of the 1920’s. Legalizing marijuana would not solve that problem, but it might help alleviate it by moving some cocaine and heroin addicts to marijuana. To see this dream world in action, merely look to the Netherlands, where marijuana has been legal since the 70’s. Drug use there is a fraction of use here in the U.S. (Connelly 62) (which admittedly is probably only correlation, but we should seek to emulate a successful system). Government regulation and taxation has lead to a higher standard of life for the average Dutch.
Finally, marijuana legalization is an issue of freedom. Marijuana use is a victimless ‘crime’. The users enjoys themselves- who are they hurting? Laws are designed to protect us from others, not from ourselves. The government can recommend that we do or don’t do certain things to ourselves, but to ban it in unconscionable. People must be allowed to do stupid things and make bad decisions- it our right.
In summation, marijuana is no worse than alcohol and tobacco in terms of health effects and banning it is costing us too much futilely and results in unjust imprisonment. Kucinich 2004!
“Common Questions about Marijuana” excerpted from a report by the NIS. Marijuana Policy Project. 1999. http://www.mpp.org/common_q.html.
Connelly, Elizabeth Russell, et al. Through a Glass Darkly: The Psychological Effects of Marijuana and Hashish. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.
“Drug Legalization”. Issues and Controversies. September 27, 2002. http://www.2facts.com/ICOF/temp/70100tempi0702080.asp
Macintosh, Sara. “Marijuana: Health Effects”. Oct. 2001. Do It Now foundation online. http://www.doitnow.org/pages/126.html
United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “NIDA Infofacts: Marijuana”. June 25, 2003. http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofax/marijuana.html
Thomas, Chuck. “Marijuana Arrests and Incarceration in the United States” excerpted from the “FAS Drug Policy Analysis Bulletin” (June 1999). Marijuana Policy Project. http://www.mpp.org/arrests/fas61699.html
Achong, Andre. “Legalize it, don’t Demonize it”. Yellowtimes.org. March 8, 2002. http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=159
“By the Numbers: Drug Legalization”. Issues and Controversies online. Sept. 27, 2002. http://www.2facts.com/ICOF/temp/70879tempin071801.asp
Jeffrey, Scott. Legalize.com Platform. 1996-2001. http://www.legalize.com/platform/.
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