Monday, April 28, 2014

Should marijuana be allowed in Mountain State?

By: Jacob Bailes

   For decades, cannabis use has been the center of debate across the country. Misled beliefs and perceptions have created a negative atmosphere around marijuana and its possibilities.
   In the early 70s, states began to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana. Many cities have also have moved forward to decriminalizing pot. Even though restriction has decreased over the years, arrests have gone up from 188,682 in 1970 to 755,000 in 2003 (via NORML.org). The U.S. Department of Justice says that alcohol abuse leads to around five million violent crimes per year. Marijuana abuse isn’t even tracked because it is not associated with violence other than what becomes of prohibition. If you ask me, a non-violent person engaging in non-violent behavior doesn’t make a criminal. Initiating force and throwing them in prison does.
   Opinions aside, let’s look at the facts: decriminalizing marijuana will save a ton of money that the government wastes daily enforcing this battle in the war on drugs. For instance, states spend millions of dollars each year enforcing drug laws. However, since there’s no link between marijuana use and criminal behavior, legalization would have no increasing impact on the crime rate. Since Colorado legalized marijuana on January 1, statistics show that crime has actually gone down. Also, if it were taxed as a commodity, revenues would increase by the tens of millions. It is projected to bring in around 184 million dollars within the first year and a half. This money could be used to benefit our nation and the world.
   One worry is that if marijuana were decriminalized or legalized, it would lead to an increase of crime. Due to the fact that most criminals have used drugs one time or another, the correlation is made that it must be the cause of the crime. There is no evidence proving this claim. Marijuana is neither a gateway drug nor an enabler of violence by itself. The only exception to this is possession and distribution of it, which would correct itself upon legalization. The argument that drugs cause crime because criminals use drugs is no more valid than saying that drinking water causes crime because at some point in their lives criminals have ingested it.
   The only way that marijuana could lead to additional drug use by users is because of its criminalization. If dispensaries could sell it as they do coffee, for example, customers could come in, buy a product they know was regulated safely, and leave it at that. Where as with it being illegal, most users must obtain it from questionable sources. This raises the possibility of it being contaminated or a number of other dangers. Also, being around that criminal atmosphere could lead to further criminal activity that the person would have never been around if it were legal. Pot smokers are not threatening anyone’s safety.
   There are many benefits to having marijuana around and a lot of myths surrounding it. In comparison, alcohol overdose leads to thousands of deaths per year, but it’s still legal. For example, marijuana provides a number of natural medical fixes without the harmful side effects that pharmaceuticals do. It kills cancer cells, treats seizures, and prevents the deposits in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s. It has been used all throughout history and there’s a lot of information about it. The drugs that the FDA approves regularly are not nearly as known about and cause a plethora of health issues and even death.

   Maybe there’s a corrupt economic reason criminalization exists. Legalization would knock many pills off the market. Hemp and its many uses would surely put plastic and fuel companies down. We have to come together as a nation and agree that freedom is unconditional. We’re not truly free until we all have the right to do with our lives as we wish. It doesn’t matter if your beliefs align with others’ or not, as long as they’re not endangering you. It’s time to step away from misconceptions and stand for what this country was built on.

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