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.

 

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Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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Why We Need a New Political Party

The abyss created by America’s recent culture wars only grows deeper as it divides the far-right Republicans and those who are conservative, but socially liberal. My own father, for example, is a lifelong Republican, yet he doesn’t support the socially conservative agenda being pushed by his party’s vice presidential and presidential candidates. The disparity between the two groups of conservatives has only grown wider with this election, and now, cautious fiscal conservatives are no longer represented by the party that has instead adopted a slash-and-burn approach to economic policy (i.e. McCain’s proposed spending freeze). In much the same way, fiscal conservatives/social liberals no longer have a political party that truly represents them. They are now forced to choose between two candidates who they don’t feel strongly about one way or another. I would recommend that independents and fiscal conservatives/social liberals form their own political party. Hopefully, the extremist philosophy of social conservatism would fade away election after election, leaving the U.S. without the ideological dead weight that inhibits societal progress.

McCain proposes yet another continuation of the Bush administration. His target? The Supreme Court.

   John McCain uses the word “elitist” like the Spanish Inquisition used the word “heretic”- assuming that each mention of the Word will make everyday people quake in fear with each tri-syllabic utterance. He’s been proved right.

    Barack Obama, former Chicago community organizer and son of a single mom is now the “elitist” whilst Hillary Clinton, the woman who admittedly hasn’t pumped her own gas in years, becomes the blue-collar queen.

    The word “elitist” is being used by John McCain to describe the judges that Obama or Clinton would favor for a Supreme Court nomination. He warns us of “judicial activists”- the horror!- that “don’t seem to mind at all when fundamental questions of social policy are preemptively decided by judges instead of by the people and their elected representatives.”

    While a Cheney aide was subpoenaed to testify to the questionable interrogation practices of the Bush administration, it hardly seems like the time to, as McCain would guarantee, have an entirely conservative Court.

 McCain has, during his political career, pushed for a lifting of the law that bars the death penalty from being used for criminals under 18 years of age. He vows that, as President, he would also push to overturn Roe v. Wade, and would likely be successful with an all-conservative Court at his command.

    Americans must take much into consideration when deciding who they want to elect as President. A little-discussed but imperative question is that of the nomination of Supreme Court Justices. John McCain, seeking to shore up conservative support, vows to model his Supreme Court appointees after George W. Bush‘s.

    We can be certain that the advent of an all-conservative court would drastically affect our way of life. We can be certain that harsher interrogation techniques would be more easily approved. We can be certain that there will be a battle over Roe v. Wade- and that the effects of that battle will affect women across America.

    It is not responsible for democrats, who may be frustrated by the eventual choice of nominee, to suddenly transfer their votes to John McCain. To do so would equal waging war on liberal ideas from inside the party.

Calling out McCain

While the Democrats finish their ever-winding path to the Convention, I will take the opportunity to call out John McCain on his budget plan et al that he plans to enact as President.

John, I know you’re getting a free ride now, but don’t think that I don’t see what kind of crazy talk you’re propogating.

For those of you who don’t know, John McCain plans to borrow almost 2 trillion dollars, cut spending on frivolous things like medical research, and give 5 trillion dollars in tax cuts over eight years to the rich and to big corporations in an attempt to achieve a “trickle down” effect. While our rich and poor are more polarized than ever and as the middle class rapidly disintegrates, I don’t think giving the rich even more money and creating an even greater disparity between rich and poor will help. We need to fight for the middle class, and that is one fight in which John McCain can’t call himself a hero.

While the Democrats argue over whether or not Obama’s an America-hater (who, because he hates America so much, wants to be the President), or whether or not Hillary’s cold, hard ambition will force the hands of the Superdelegates, John McCain is advocating another four years of the Bush tax cuts. “President” Bush is the only president in America’s history to offer a tax cut during a war. Along with the trillions of dollars that McCain plans to spend, he plans on continuing to spend $12-$15 billion a month in the Iraq war. Where is the fiscal responsibility that we need in a President? My bet’s on the Democrats, but you’d never know for all the bickering they’re doing at the moment.

Little known by many is the fact that if we were to be attacked on our own soil, our troops are spread so thin already that we wouldn’t be able to effectively deal with it. The war in Afghanistan has been virtually ignored while we went gallivanting off to Baghdad and they don’t have enough troops to do the work that needs to be done there- the work that should have been done long ago. We still haven’t found Osama Bin Laden. We’re not safer than we were seven or eight years ago. What are we winning, then?

We’re not winning. Many a Republican has told me that there’s no way that we can possibly back out now, and that it’s just not going to happen.

Firstly, what kind of mindset is that? “Nothing will ever change” doesn’t ever facilitate positive change. Ever.

Secondly, the Democrats aren’t advocating a careless, immediate withdrawal of troops. They’re advocating a well-planned, strategic antiblunder that would bring the troops home over time. The Republicans love to caricature the Democrats as wimps who want to surrender just because most of the population is against the war. The thing is, it’s not a question of “winning” or “surrendering,” but a question of responsibility. Should we be responsible for the rebuilding of Iraq when their government is rolling in money and they seem completely unwilling to help themselves? No. Should we be fiscally responsible and not spend $12-$15 billion a month on a war that we won’t win? Yes. Should we allow the conservative tactic of dividing and polarizing us as a nation to make us bullheadedly continue this disgrace of a war? No.

John McCain and his pointless repetition of “we can’t just leave” complete the goal of dividing and polarizing us, because in reality, nobody is saying that we should “just leave.” I think, however, that we should “just be responsible” and get our collective intelligence back by ending the war. We are being hurt by this war in ways that he refuses to acknowledge. You’d think a war hero would understand the world a little better, just as you’d want a President who understands the economy. McCain is neither.

Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 5:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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The personification of hope

A month or two ago, as I was at Mock Trial State Championships in Springfield, IL. On a dreary Saturday afternoon my team and I went out to lunch at a restaurant called McCarthy’s. They have a few flat screen TV’s mounted on the walls near the bar, and one of them was turned to CNN. As the rest of my team gathered around our coaches and watched some sports game, I made my way over to the CNN TV. It must’ve been on mute, because no sound was coming out. However, Barack Obama was speaking. Though I couldn’t hear a word he said, I stood and watched. Obama’s charisma was visible even without words to convey it, and for some indefinable reason, I find watching him speak comforting.

As I stood there watching the silent TV in the otherwise empty part of the bar area, I saw an African-American man, probably in his early 30’s, sweeping the floor. I noticed that he kept looking up at the TV screen, and that he was likewise watching Obama speak. Gradually, he came closer to where I was standing, and for a moment, he stopped sweeping altogether to watch the silent screen. There we stood- a macchiato-sipping, white, female high school student and an African-American custodian in his 30’s. We stood together in silence and watched Obama speak.

Once Obama’s speech was finished and the screen showed a CNN news anchor instead, the man asked me, “Is there anything I can get you?” The spell had broken.

That moment reminds me of a conversation I later had with Senator Dick Durbin. He said that he has never seen a politician inspire people the way Barack Obama does.

In that moment, in that dark bar at McCarthy’s in Springfield, IL, I experienced that firsthand. The custodian and I were brought together for a brief moment in lives that would probably never again cross paths, yet that moment illustrates Obama’s effect on America. That effect is unification of people from all backgrounds, and it is an effect that we desperately need. Obama brings us back to what it truly means to be an American by bringing people back to the core values of our nation- the belief in the inherent goodness of man, the necessity of a government that truly represents the people, and the inalienable right of freedom.

I realize that hearing Obama’s words as he spoke wouldn’t have been necessary. His message of hope and unity was personified by we, his audience, and in that way he communicated on a level beyond words.

Published in: on April 16, 2008 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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