I will attempt to outline why the regulation and legalized recreational use of marijuana can only be a good thing for the United States of America. These arguments will not address my personal opinion of the drug or any benefits or drawbacks of the use of the drug I have personally witnessed. Though, living in Canada, I could tell you a story or two…
If legalized, accurate information concerning marijuana and its effects on the body and brain would become more mainstream, and eventually common knowledge. As of right now, clear factual evidence of marijuana’s harder-to-find and longer-term effects are not well-known outside of the scientific community (who alone have special research permission and are therefore granted legal access to these substances). We do know that marijuana is a natural and effective pain killer and anti-depressant, and many with speech impediments, sleeping problems, incontinence, brain disorders like cerebral palsy and ADD, and anxiety issues rely heavily on it to function normally in society. Surprisingly, it also contains chemicals that fight cancer. As far as we know, no lasting damage is done by marijuana, according to the results we have from the studies that have been conducted – and that includes damage to the body as well as the brain. This is contrary to most popular assumptions, like those which stipulate that marijuana kills brain cells and causes cancer. (And even those arguments aren’t as farfetched as the ones that claim marijuana contains more tar than cigarettes. Tar is heavy in nitrogen, while marijuana is not. Marijuana is simply a plant that is dried and cut, whereas cigarettes are highly processed; you do the math.) The inhalation of burning plant matter should never be considered a healthier alternative to abstaining, but the smoke itself does not cause cancer – an argument that cannot be made for cigarettes. In all of history, the total number of deaths caused directly by the use of marijuana that have been recorded is zero. No one has ever died of marijuana use. People have died because of marijuana-trafficking gang wars, yes, but that’s quite a different thing. That too comes down to the legal status of marijuana, or else gangs would not be trafficking it in the first place. This brings me to my next point.
CRIME (in Mexico):
MEXICANS ARE DYING. By the thousands. In the streets. In their homes. Pretty much everywhere, and at all times, they are living in fear. And often, they’re doing it about 5 miles from the safety of the American side of the border. Because drug cartels have more power and influence in Mexico than the actual Mexican government, which is too busy playing by America’s rules, our “can’t-let-the-bad-guys-win” strategy, which is only pissing the cartels off, and making them retaliate with greater force. To make matters worse, our sentimental attachment to our firearms means that we are supplying guns to those same cartels. Owning guns is not legal in Mexico, so they buy the guns in America (or pay Americans to buy them) and take them back to Mexico. If you don’t believe this is happening, you are just being silly and naïve. Almost all of the guns in the gangs’ possessions come from the United States of America. Legalizing marijuana will not take away their guns, but it will take away their power.
So, to recap, our demand for drugs (we are the top consumer, worldwide, and that demand is not going anywhere) coupled with our ban on drugs is why there are cartels. In essence, by making a popular commodity illegal, we have necessitated its purchase from black market suppliers. Those cartels then terrorize Mexican citizens with guns we sold them, then we pay taxes for our military to try to defeat the same cartels we have both created and armed. Oh, and then on top of that suck salad, our immigration laws are keeping people from coming here for safety! Disregarding the economic benefits (taxation/regulation of the drug, the reduced cost of enforcing the law and imprisoning dealers/users, the industry of paraphernalia) potential health benefits, and any other argument I may make here, legalizing marijuana would effectively save Mexico from the mess we have made there – since lobbying to change our gun and immigration laws is too much to ask.
CRIME (in USA):
An alarmingly high number of Americans are in prison. In fact, we’re #1 for prisoners! (Now, there’s something to be proud of, all you flag-wavers and foam finger-wearers who somehow have this delusion that we’re still ahead in any of the good categories.) These prisoners, however, are not to be painted all with the same brush. Some are incarcerated for murder, some for rape, others for theft, many for assault, a few more for child molestation… and entirely too many for the possession of illegal substances. Now, even here, we have some for possession of cocaine, some for heroin, some for ecstasy, for meth, for morphine, valium, vicodin… and marijuana, just to name a few. Now, do you think that those guilty of the most common of drug possession crimes (possession of marijuana) should be made to share the same penal vicinity as those guilty of murder and rape, as though the magnitude of their crimes were equivalent? It just doesn’t seem like the appropriate punishment. A $100 fine and an anti-drug course is even slightly outrageous, given that the course will not do any good for any other users (and the money will just go to paying for the drug war/the incarceration of other marijuana possessors). If we legalized marijuana, the number of people in prison would decrease dramatically, which would make most Americans feel a lot safer.
It is true, however, that operating machinery, working, and driving while intoxicated, under the influence of marijuana, are all intolerable offenses and perfect definitions of reckless endangerment of public safety. But the same can be said of the use of alcohol, which is as much a drug as marijuana. Therefore the rules for both should be the same. However, the difference is that alcohol is highly regulated and there are specific laws regarding its consumption, both public and private – the way it should be with marijuana. Public consumption of alcohol is prohibited, unless in a licensed establishment. You can’t pop open a beer and drink it walking down the sidewalk. It’s simply not allowed. You are more than welcome to enjoy it recreationally, in your own home or on your own property, so long as you are “drinking responsibly;” why is it the government believes us capable of responsibility when it comes to drinking, but not smoking? The same rules should apply to marijuana. No one should have the right to invade the space of others in any way while using their substance of choice. That’s why you can’t smoke outside Starbucks anymore, but you can still smoke in your own home or outdoors where it’s allowed. Imposing such rules on pot smokers would only be fair, and I highly doubt many would object. This skewed perception does bring me to another point, though: marijuana v. tobacco.
The amount of cigars and cigarettes sold worldwide is absolutely staggering. What’s even more staggering is that “Cannabis is an important crop in some areas, making up 5% of British Columbia’s GDP”. A huge portion of the economy of an entire province is based on an illegal market. The correlation here is that many view marijuana as a replacement for cigarettes, and vice versa. The reason we smoke so much tobacco and think that marijuana makes you stupid is because of propaganda from the 50s and 60s that pounded it into the minds of our grandparents and parents, who spoon fed it to us like perfectly obedient caretakers. This is because the tobacco industry (big, strong American companies from the East coast that inspired images of patriotic Americana and the brilliance of capitalism and good ol’ Yankee ingenuity,) had very strong ties to the government, and the American people as a whole were addicted to cigarettes. Veterans tell how, in the army, every morning you got a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee. They were comforting, familiar, convenient, and readily available. A nation in distress turned to tobacco and got close to it. So for decades, cigarettes were the norm and marijuana (which was largely in use, even then) was demonized and made taboo. This strengthened the tobacco companies, and it also strengthened the United States economy.
Then, the news hit that cigarettes were directly tied to cancer, and though they fought it, (watch Mad Men for further details,) the tobacco industries took a huge hit. And they took marijuana down with it. They marketed cancer as the risk you take when you inhale smoke, thus making all smoke-related substances universally harmful. And so it has been perceived for the last five decades.
Finally, there is convincing evidence that the money that is lost from the sales of cigarettes, (which will not have been replaced, as many people are still addicted to them — an affliction from which marijuana users are delightfully free,) will hardly be noticed from the tidal wave of revenue hitting the market from the legalization of marijuana, which brings me to the economic benefits of legalization.
Thousands of products, from pipes and bongs to papers to flavors and brand-name edibles, will be introduced to shelves. This is in addition to the already aboveboard, but not widely distributed hemp-based products like paper, textiles, and cosmetics/hygiene products like shampoo. Hemp farming could be a huge cash crop the likes of which American agriculture hasn’t seen since soy beans got popular, and it may well break the United States’ dependency on corn. With less corn obsession comes less corn subsidies, so we stop putting high fructose corn syrup in everything, and maybe eventually solve the obesity epidemic (although, with the rise in munchies, this could be counterproductive – but the inflow of capital is still nice!).
Our founding documents, (that would be the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution,) were written on hemp paper. That’s because hemp is one of the most unreasonably strong plant fibers on the planet, and one of the most useful as well. Allowing farmers to plant hemp would not only boost the economy because drug users would finally be taking money OUT of the black market and putting it INTO the economy, but with uses for hemp ranging from paper to shampoo to fabric, etc. in addition to the active pharmaceutical properties of the cannabis bud itself, there is almost no perceivable end to the money it could bring in or the purposes it could serve. Plus, it would satisfy an ages-old request of the Founding Fathers: “Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere!” – George Washington.
This country is plagued by a deep and troubling pathology. The truth is, those resentful of the availability of cheap labor and those whose old-fashioned notions of patriotism impair their more human sensibilities, have taken to equating the drug war and high crime rates with the number of illegal immigrants in certain relevant areas. Furthermore, we assume that Mexicans (and I guess black people, too) are the ones smoking the most weed. You know, because they’re dirty, violent, lazy troublemakers, right? [SARCASM.] The numbers correlate, it’s true. But not because of ethnicity; it all comes back to economics. And perhaps it wouldn’t be an issue of illegal immigration if naturalization were an easier process. Thousands of committed, dedicated, and patriotic immigrants have pledged allegiance to our flag, and yet we make them wait outrageous amounts of time for citizenship. Why are we trying so hard to keep people out? Nevertheless, this is not an issue of immigration, though it seems to be one in the eyes of many people. In truth, marijuana is used in high numbers by nearly all demographics.
Plus, if we legalized it, we would need someone to tend to the crops. And this isn’t a racist statement – American farmers NEED these immigrants. They admit it themselves… And then they vote for Republicans who enforce stricter anti-immigration laws. (Yes, it baffles me, too.)
You should be able to make your own choices when they only effect you. This is a case of the government and advertisers stepping in and basically telling the American people that they cannot be trusted to make the right decisions on their own. They believe that marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to worse obsessions. (We’ve given them their pot, but now what will they demand?? COCAINE?!!) And while you may look at our cigarette and alcohol dependency as proof of this, remember that the consumption of both of those things have long been touted and celebrated as patriotic traditions, as if refusing to partake in them was somehow Un-American. And also, remember that Americans abuse pretty much every other substance as well anyway, just not legally, which would seem to defeat the purpose of the laws. In fact, it would seem to defeat the very concept of a “gateway drug.” There’s nothing else to get addicted to; we’re already addicted to it. (And we can always get into the plethora of differences between the highly processed substances with few health benefits that constitute the category of “harder drugs” vs. the innocent, arguably beneficial plant that is marijuana, if it comes to that.)
Now, I’m not a Libertarian – see: any other post for confirmation – but that doesn’t mean I think the government should control every aspect of our lives! There are certain things (like what we choose to spend our money on, to ingest, who we choose to have sex with, etc.) that should be our choice alone — provided we use reason; no one is advocating the purchase of assault weapons, rat poison, or pornography, (all of which are legal,) but we should be free to discern for ourselves what right and wrong are. Those of us that miss the mark can then be punished, just as they are when those assault rifles turn against the innocent, or when that pornography exploits a child.
That’s what the criminal justice system is for – bringing justice to criminals – not bringing criminal justice to everyone else…
That’s what George Zimmerman is for.
– THE DUEL CITIZEN
Additional References of Note:
A) The Union: The Business Behind Getting High (2007). Documentary.
B) I encourage everyone to read this page in particular. The author brings up alternatives to smoking marijuana and dispels a lot of myths surrounding marijuana in general, including one of my many theses – that no one has died from marijuana use – and although I considered his argument, I do not believe it to be sufficient to disprove mine.