Reefer Madness

Picture this: It’s been a long day at work, and you walk in to the corner coffee house to relax and get your mind off of everyday problems. The people at the table next to you are laughing and…wait…what is that in his hand? It’s a marijuana joint. No, you’re not in Holland; you’re in New York. Even though the laws were passed a short while ago, you still can’t believe it’s true.

This is a subject that would be on many Americans’ minds if marijuana were legalized in the United States. Some cancer victims already use it as treatment, but should the use of marijuana be legal for the rest of us? Yes, it should.

If marijuana were legalized, countless convicts whose time in prison has been costly to the taxpayer could be released. Think of all the money that could be put to use in other needy areas of government. Marijuana could be taxed and those who sell it would be forced to obtain a license similar to those required for alcohol.

Some ask how a dangerous drug like marijuana could be legalized. First things first, marijuana is not a dangerous drug. According to Dale Gieringer Ph.D of the Cannabis News Network, “there have been numerous official reports and studies, every one of which has concluded that marijuana poses no great risk to society and should not be criminalized.”

These studies include the National Academy of Sciences: “Analysis of Marijuana Policy” (1982) and the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (The Shafer Report 1973).

However, marijuana is not totally harmless. Experts agree that moderate and occasional use of marijuana is innocent, but the excessive use of it can cause respiratory disease due to smoking and accidental injuries due to impaired senses.

Others consider marijuana to be a gateway drug that leads to harder substances. This is a myth. According to Paul Hager of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union Drug Task Force, a ready example of the effects of legalization can be found in Holland.

The Dutch partially legalized marijuana in the 1970s. Since then, hard drug use has declined substantially. If marijuana really were a gateway drug, hard drug use would have gone up, not down. Studies have shown a negative correlation between the use of marijuana and the use of alcohol.

“Science actually tells us that marijuana tends to substitute for the more dangerous hard drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin,” said Hager.

When comparing cigarettes and tobacco, smoked marijuana contains about the same amount of carcinogens as the equivalent amount of tobacco, though a heavy cigarette smoker consumes more tobacco than a heavy marijuana smoker per day. And while tobacco has an addiction rate of around 90%, marijuana is less addictive than caffeine.

Current laws that prohibit smoking pot are intended to reduce the harm caused by it. However, they are only making matters worse. Certain paraphernalia laws have hindered the development and marketing of water pipes and other, more advanced technologies that could significantly reduce the harmfulness of marijuana smoke.

Also, keeping marijuana illegal encourages the sale of products contaminated with insecticides, Parquat, or laced with other drugs such as PCP, crack and heroin.

There is no reason that marijuana should not be legalized. Alcohol is legal, and so are cigarettes. Cigarettes cause lung cancer, emphysema and other diseases. Not only that, but studies show that they contain rat poison and ammonia.

And if it is acceptable for the public to drink alcohol, which causes 5000 deaths from overdoes each year not including fatalities from accidents, why is there an issue with marijuana? No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Animal tests have revealed that high doses of cannabinoids are needed to have lethal effect. To overdose, a smoker would have to consume 40,000 times as much marijuana as is needed to get stoned.

What makes it ok for someone to be able to purchase tobacco at the age of 18, and alcohol at the age of 21? There is no statistical or medical proof that marijuana should not be purchased by an adult of sound mind.

Smoking pot is not morally wrong. How many cancer patients are looked down upon for using it as treatment? It is a matter of choice. Since when has holding opinions and making harmless choices been criminal behavior?