Legalize it, Don’t Criticize it
Hundreds of years ago marijuana was legal and was no big deal at all. Everyone was acquainted with the plant. It was considered one of the hardiest and most versatile plants around. Many of our historical icons may very well have been users of marijuana. A key product of the plants was hemp, which was very practical and has useful fibers for rope, canvas, and even soap. 10,000 acres of marijuana plants could produce the same amount of hemp paper as 40,000 acres of timber. This booming hemp industry, however, created competition with timber companies that produced fabric and paper. The Hearst Paper Company and DuPont, the leaders of the timber industry, came out with new timber paper making products and the decorticator (used to cut down trees). This was in 1937, the same year that marijuana was declared illegal. Coincidence, I think not. Both these companies also had ties to the United States treasury and to top congressman. Had marijuana not been declared legal, Hearst and DuPont would have lost a large profit, and the plant would have saved an unfathomable number of trees and ecosystems (Illegalization).
This treacherous business scheme did more than cause marijuana to be declared illegal. It also led to the U.S. government creating ridiculous anti-marijuana propaganda which attempted to show pot causing users to do crazy things (Legal). Citizens were told that marijuana would make the smoker want to become violent and kill. The film Reefer Madness was created and is now seen as one of the government’s worst propaganda exploits by NORML. The movie depicts a man going insane from smoking a marijuana cigarette and then murdering his family with an ax. No matter how absurd these claims seem, this was a surprisingly effective film at the time it came out.
This lead to the question awaited by many; Is marijuana as bad as made out to be by Hearst, DuPont, Reefer Madness, and many of today’s U.S. citizens? No, absolutely not. There are many myths that people believe in, which cause them to think that way. One of the most popular of these myths is that marijuana causes brain damage (Myths). Many people base this claim on a study done by Doctor Robert Heath, which was sponsored by the Institute of Medicine. It supports the myth that marijuana causes brain damage, shown through a sample of monkeys given lethal doses of marijuana. This study is sharply criticized for the small sample size that Heath had used. Four monkeys is too small of a sample to actually prove this true. Not only was the sample size too small, the monkeys already had damaged brain structures before the experimentation. There are actual studies done on the on humans who smoke marijuana constantly, and they show no proof that marijuana causes brain damage (Myth).
In Toronto Hemp Company’s 1994 article of Marijuana Myths says “Two studies from 1977, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed no evidence of brain damage in heavy users of Marijuana” (2). That same year, the American Medical Association, one of the most highly respect medical associations in the U.S. supported the legalization of marijuana. Another myth is that marijuana causes damage to the reproductive system, which is not true (Myth). An experiment was done on animals in which they were given lethal amounts of cannabis (intoxicating part of marijuana) and it showed that the animals all survived the experiment, and all effects were completely worn off after 30 days (Myth). Several experiments were done on humans to see if it affected their immune system, and none of them showed any proof of reproductive damage (Zimmer 36). Many people view marijuana as being a gateway drug to harder drugs. This is not necessarily true either. In 1970s, Holland legalized marijuana, and since then hard drug usage such as cocaine and heroine has declined substantially (24). It has been said that marijuana is full of over a thousand volatile chemicals. This myth is true but very misleading. There are just as many volatile chemicals present in roasted coffee and cigarettes, which are still legal and still present in the sale community (Myths). There is also a much safer method of “getting high” that many users today participate in. A device called a vaporizer is used where 95% of the carcinogens in marijuana are cut out. This device heats up to the vaporizing point of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and only a vapor is inhaled. The only negative effect of this could be considered (depending on the individual) the high gained.
Cigarettes and alcohol both have more health risks associated with their use than marijuana, yet they’re both legal and marijuana is not. It is even denied to those who are ill and could safely obtain relief from its use. For a person to overdose on marijuana, one would need to smoke 40,000 times the amount of weed necessary to get you high, which is physically impossible (Zimmer 27). This evidence is highly supported by the fact that no one has died from overdosing on marijuana (27). When using alcohol, on the other hand, one can overdose and die due to alcohol poisoning. Severe alcohol use can cause very traumatic brain damage. Alcohol is associated with many illnesses and diseases such as malnutrition, B-vitamin deficiency, and Korsakoff’s disorder, and severe damage done to the liver. There are many deaths from car crashes in which the influence of alcohol was involved. Statistics show that the number of car-killing incidents that involved marijuana is relatively close to the amount of lethal drunk driving incidents. However, these statistics are very misleading; 85 percent of the lethal car crashes that showed that the drivers were intoxicated with marijuana, also showed they were intoxicated with alcohol at the same time (Myths)! In states that have less severe penalties on possession of marijuana, there is actually an increasbe in road safety. This is true; because less people buy alcohol, instead they buy marijuana. Less people buying alcohol means less people getting drunk which leads to less drunk drivers on the road. It is said that stoned drivers are more safe drivers. In Dana Larson’s article of Stoned Drivers are Safe Drivers, she said “A 1983 study by U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, concluded that the only significant affect of cannabis use was slower driver” (Zimmer 14). It’s also proven that stoned drivers are more cautious on the road. Yet this drug is illegal and alcohol is legal.
Similar to tobacco, marijuana is a natural plant put on this earth by its creator that is harvested and smoked. Which is actually worse for you? Marijuana can cause as much as four times the amount of tar in a cigarette to be deposited in one’s lungs. However, part of this fact that is often not considered is that a marijuana cigarette, or a joint, is not nearly as tightly packed with “smokable” substance as a tobacco cigarette and tobacco smokers generally consume many more cigarettes than do marijuana users. Cigarette smoking is the number one most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. and nicotine is the most addictive chemical that has been tested. Radioactivity in cigarettes, not tar, accounts for 90% of lung cancer for cigarette smokers. (keep in mind cigarettes are legal and marijuana is not)
If the government does see the light and finally legalizes marijuana, it can reap the benefits. Marijuana could be safely harvested, distributed and taxed. Not only could it be taxed, but it could be heavily taxed as a luxury product, similar to alcohol or cigarettes. Users would always buy it too, because the marijuana market is growing stronger faster than the police force itself (Drug). Another reason that the legal marijuana market is sure to be a success is because with the black market, middle men, and growers, marijuana prices soar. If legalized, it could come straight from the source and have a large luxury tax and it would still be much cheaper for the users. The amount of money to be earned from this concept is absurd. Our economy could be boosted and we could possibly get out of debt. In Jeffrey A. Miron’s report, The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition, he says “Replacing prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation-would save 7.7 billion dollars per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least 2.4 billion dollars annually if marijuana was taxed like most consumer goods. If, however, it was taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as 6.2 billion dollars annually” (prohibition). The black market in the U.S. would also be greatly reduced, as would violence, in turn be reduced. Jails, which are already overcrowded, (mainly with drug offenders) would become less crowded. With less crowded jails, parole would not be given as easily (simply to decrease jail population) to more serious crime offenders such as murderers. The U.S. government could then focus on crimes more important than marijuana usage. In the last decade, 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. The total number of marijuana arrests for 2000 far exceeded the combined number of arrests for violent crimes, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Another staggering figure is that the D.E.A. (Drug Enforcement Administration) has a budget of over $2 billion, while the entire department of education only receives $1.3 billion a year. The U.S. should spend more of its money on children, not on drugs. What is truly more important? Also it should get rid of more violent, serious criminals rather that marijuana users, most of whom are peaceful, responsible citizens similar to you or me.
Responsible marijuana smokers present no threat or danger to America or its children and there is no reason to treat them like criminals. Legalizing marijuana can boost the U.S economy and allow the U.S. to focus on pertinent, dangerous crimes. The government can use more money on education rather than the D.E.A. and decrease its marijuana black market and violence. An entire new hemp harvesting market could possibly be created. The repeal of prohibition in the 1920s was because of the increasing use of alcohol and its popularity. This stirred an uprise among the citizens. Marijuana and its use are heading in the same direction. According to a poll, at least half of the nation, 95 million, have at least tried marijuana and 25.8 percent use it regularly. Ben Harper: “If you don’t like my fire don’t come around, because I’m gonna burn one down. Don’t knock it, try it first. It’s god’s gift and not a curse.” – Ben Harper