Drug war on our doorstep: Why marijuana should be legalized

Personally, I will never smoke marijuana, nor do I think it is necessarily a good thing that others do so. However, my opinion about the morality of personal marijuana use is irrelevant in the face of strong evidence that it must be legalized.

There is no reason why marijuana should be treated differently than alcohol and tobacco in terms of its legality. All of them are bad for you, and all of them are worse for you the more you use. Nearly 100 million Americans acknowledge having used marijuana during their lives. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals for their use of a substance that does not have drastically different  health risks than alcohol or tobacco—especially because it costs so much to prosecute all marijuana related arrests. A better and more sensible solution would be to tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.

This measure would accomplish several things: First, it would address the health issue of marijuana use. Dealers often add more ingredients to their particular stash of marijuana so they can sell more, and therefore profit more. These additives are mostly worse for you than the actual marijuana, and can be lethal. If the government regulated marijuana like it does tobacco and alcohol, it would also have the power to regulate what goes into it, thereby making it much safer and getting rid of lethal additives. Legalization would reduce health care costs by reducing the probability of overdoses and accidental ingestion of an unintended drug—situations that will remain prevalent without government implemented product safety standards.

Legalizing marijuana would greatly impact the covert nature of the marijuana trade itself. Dealers are the ones in power now, what with their ability to, in large-scale cases, greatly threaten the safety of the general public. One example is the drug war in Mexico (in which 10,000 people have already been killed), another is drug related violence we hear about every day on local news. Dealers are the source of the danger, and if the government stepped in and legalized marijuana, there would be much less need for dealers.

Economically, it makes sense to legalize and regulate marijuana. Prohibition entails direct enforcement costs, and prohibition prevents taxation of marijuana production and sale. First, legalization eliminates arrests for trafficking in addition to eliminating arrests for possession. Second, legalization saves prosecutorial, judicial and incarceration expenses.

   Harvard University Professor Jeffrey A. Miron created a report endorsed by over 500 economists titled The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition. The report shows that taxing and regulating marijuana  in the same way as alcohol or tobacco might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually for a state’s individual budget, and upwards of $300 billion nationally.

Many are concerned that, with legalization, suddenly there will be an increase in marijuana use. What they don’t realize is that people who want to smoke a joint can obtain marijuana very easily anyway. Those who want to use it already can- its legality or lack thereof wouldn’t change that.

To put one’s faith in the anti-drug movement is to ignore the fact that it just isn’t working. We are now in the same position we were in during Prohibition. Everyone who wanted alcohol could already obtain it, and eventually, the country was forced to acknowledge that their efforts to put an end to alcohol consumption had failed.

I am by no means suggesting that we just “give in”—I am suggesting that we assess the situation without a cloud of cultural stigma impeding our ability to see reality. In order to accomplish this, marijuana must be legalized, and in doing that, we can protect the health of a significant portion of our population, eliminate middlemen from the marijuana industry and profit economically.

 

Advertisements
Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,