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The Question of the Legality of Marijuana
The United States federal government has taken it upon itself to ban the use of marijuana within its jurisdiction for the incorrect and popular belief that ingesting any purely herbal form of the cannabis plant will harm the using individual and any individual(s) in their vicinity. Empirical economical, personal, and other research provides the support necessary to take a stand in this case. It is possible to legalize marijuana and put an end to the negative stigma associated with it.
Red Ribbon Week is a nation-wide event that is celebrated in public schools. During this special-education week, students are taught about the harms of drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. Students are told to stay very far away from these drugs, and for emphasis, signs are put up in school zones, reminding the failures of generations past not to bring their drugs anywhere near the shining beacon of a new generation. Very few people actually take it upon themselves to ask “Why?” Alcohol causes drunken rages and destroys the liver; cigarettes kill the people that smoke them and any person in vicinity, but why isn’t marijuana legal? Why shouldn’t it be made legal? What if it wasn’t an illicit substance that the general public seems to find funny? What if marijuana was legal?
Most citizens of the United States of America have been reminded many times that they’re entitled to privacy as long as what they do in private harms no one, and that the federal government only serves the people, but keeps out of state affairs, since they are out of their jurisdiction. A general question then, remains unanswered: why aren’t their state laws determining whether or not smoking marijuana is legal? If a person is suspected of or caught in possession of marijuana, their property can be seized by the federal government. The Constitution also states that the government will have nothing to say about the religious affairs of its citizens. There are religions in which marijuana plays a part; the easiest example of it being used is by Rastafarians. Even today, however, marijuana is used in various Hindu and Buddhist ceremonies. Where are the rights of those groups?
If the general public would stop and listen, they would be opened up to the benefits of legalizing marijuana. An economic advantage would be the demise of the black market in this field. The government could place a tax on marijuana, just like all other products, and place similar restrictions on it as are on alcohol and cigarettes (i.e. age limit, physical containment, banned from schools and the workplace.) In addition to those taxes, the government could establish an entirely new industry in hemp, the non-psychoactive form of the cannabis plant. As former president George Washington once said: “Make the most of the hemp seed. Sow it everywhere.” Had the federal government not outlawed all forms of cannabis, this nation would also prosper, like 30 others, from the hemp industry. “Using modern processing techniques, hemp can be used in the place of petro-chemicals. Instead of synthetics made from oil, we can use natural fiber and processed bioplastic derivatives.” (E. Rosenthal, S. Kubby, & S. Newhart (2003) Why Marijuana Should Be Legal) The most obvious and best arguing point for establishing a native hemp industry would be the limited dependence on foreign oil. Unfortunately, as long as marijuana remains illegal, “self-serving bureaucrats” will continue to outlaw hemp as well.
Unfortunately, the stubborn ways of reality would demean all points in this document. Imagine that the government would consider the numerous benefits of legalizing cannabis and all its natural counterparts.
With this new system in place, the government could let go of the 57% of federal prison inmates that are imprisoned on marijuana-related charges (U.S. DOJ, BJS, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2000), 88% of which were arrested on simple possession charges. Once they’re set free, the taxes Americans are paying to keep them housed and comfortable (23,000 USD per inmate according to S.R. Donziger, 1996) could be used for education, which is currently at only 8,000 per child. (D.A. Olsen, May 4, 2000)
If we refuse, then the cycle continues; we spend a minimal amount on the Red-Ribbon children of the future, only to have them try to scrape up a living as a dealer or try to relax from the injustice of the world as an illegal consumer, which will land them in jail, where they’re more taken care of than when they were shining beacons on the horizon.
On the other hand, there must be a legitimate reason as to why marijuana is illegal. Surely, it being considered a “gateway drug”, that is, any substance that leads the used to advance to using “harder”, more destructive substances in the absence of the initial substance, should be evidence enough for its removal from society. Unfortunately, for advocates of this propaganda, studies have been conducted that show no physical dependence upon marijuana. It is a depressant, but any addiction to natural marijuana is solely psychological and cannabis is not at fault. Likewise, it does not make the user want to experiment with hard drugs. In young adults, it’s called peer pressure; in adults, it’s a personal issue.
From a historical perspective, marijuana was first made illegal by pharmaceutical companies (and lobbyists) that were interested in selling the new drugs that they engineered as opposed to selling natural relievers that would cure ailments without the technological side effects. Marijuana was also used commonly by entertainers, African- Americans, and Mexican-Americans, so the ban served as a legal way to harass them. In addition to that, alcohol prohibition had just ended, and most police officers would be out of a job and into the “bread line” of the Depression without any new laws to enforce or substances to prohibit. All of this empirical evidence brings us back to an earlier point: There are more arrests nationwide for marijuana use (723, 627) than there are for arson, manslaughter, rape, stolen property, vandalism, and sex offences combined (627, 132) according to the 2001 FBI Uniform Crime Reports. In October of 2002, prison populations went up as crime rates went down. And to bring it all full circle, 1 in 3 young black males 20-29 years old is under some type of correctional control, while 1 in 8 young Hispanic males are, and 1 in 15 young white males are.
From a purely emotional perspective, the laws prohibiting marijuana are horrendously unnecessary and will only widen the gap between the government and its people. Marijuana laws are akin to the Salem witch trials. At that point in time, there was mass hysteria spread over something that the common American now recognizes as false. The pandemonium associated with pot has lead to paranoia, ruined innocent lives, and in far too many cases, resulted in death. Will it take another 300 years to recognize the stupidity of the situation?