Chances are high you probably know of at least one person who has smoked marijuana – maybe it’s yourself? However, what you may not know about are the ramifications that marijuana prohibition has on your life. The legalization debate has been a hot topic over the last few years, especially with Colorado and Washington enacting measures to legalize the sale and purchase of marijuana. Now whether you agree or disagree with legalization, it’s great we’re finally having more public debates on the subject, as for most of the last century, attempts to discuss the marijuana issue have been stalled and ignored.
Over the last decade there’s been increasing support for both decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. Proponents of legalization derive from a diverse demographic: from doctors, teachers and politicians to students. This article will outline the crucial arguments in favour of decriminalization.
11. Learning From Colorado and Washington
Since legalization, Colorado and Washington have seen tremendous benefits – and not just economical. In 2014, Washington received roughly $15 million in marijuana taxes and Colorado $40 million. Today, Colorado is now ranked as one of the fastest growing economies in America and their unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2008. Most importantly, using the revenue from marijuana taxes, Colorado has already begun investing in youth prevention programs and mental health treatment. Ultimately, Washington and Colorado have silenced the critics by proving the marijuana industry to be great for jobs: from construction, security and advertising, to insurance, transportation and gardening. Not only that, both states have proved that societies don’t collapse when marijuana has been decriminalized.
10. Drug Addiction is a Health Issue, Not a Criminal One
There’s no doubt that marijuana can be addictive, and indeed, I’m sure many people are addicted to marijuana. However, everyone in society is addicted to one thing or another: alcohol, tobacco, shopping, work, food, Facebook, or their phone. The key factor in understanding addiction is that it’s often not a person’s choice. For example, many tobacco addicts are desperate to give up smoking but find the psychological barriers overwhelming. Furthermore, it’s been proven that addictive proclivities are largely determined by arbitrary factors, in particular a person’s upbringing.
The primary point here is that the large majority of those who suffer from addiction are not bad people, rather they are sick. In conclusion, although some may perceive addiction to marijuana as immoral, the real immorality is fining and locking up individuals who have never committed a violent act and are likely suffering from deep psychological distress. To ethically and efficiently tackle drug addiction, communities could maybe consider investing in health care clinics and rehabilitation centers, as police tickets and jail cells only promise to exacerbate this issue – not resolve it.
9. Marijuana is Medicine
It’s been scientifically proven that marijuana can be used to help treat hundreds of illnesses, ranging from back pain and insomnia to anorexia and cancer. This news is not new, in fact it was discovered that medicinal marijuana was used in China as far back as 2700 B.C. to treat constipation, malaria, and gout. I won’t dwell into all the details of how marijuana is used as medicine as that would take a book to write, but there are countless websites which detail the specifics of the matter.
8. Failure of the War on Drugs
The failure of the war on drugs almost makes the Iraq war look like a success. Since its enactment, the prohibition of marijuana has had many damaging ramifications on society: sky-rocketing incarceration rates, higher taxes to pay for increased law enforcement and jails, and easier access to drugs than ever before. What’s most upsetting about the increased incarceration rates is that it’s largely made up of non-violent drug offenders who end up spending more time behind bars than rapists and murderers. However, the primary failure of this war is that instead of eradicating drugs, it’s increased the production and accessibility of drugs. In fact, it’s been reported that marijuana is now easier to access than alcohol, with people now able to obtain drugs in public schools and even prisons.
7. Stoners Aren’t a Danger to Society
The vast majority of people who are stoned are far less likely to go out and commit a violent crime and far more likely to slouch at home and have their minds blown watching the Discovery Channel. It may sound funny, but I’m not joking. I know of many people who use or have used marijuana – some of whom I’m fortunate enough to call my closest friends – and all of them I would testify to being relatively friendly and peaceful individuals. Furthermore, it could be argued that stoners are actually a benefit to society, as the total amount of money they spend on snacks and eye drops helps grow the economy. Overall, people who are high are far less likely to break the law – unless it’s smoking – and far more likely to spend time relaxing and minding their own business.
6. Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug
A common argument made against marijuana is that it’s a gateway drug and users will move on to experiment with more dangerous substances, however this has been proven on countless occasions to be false. It’s true that most drug users have tried marijuana and alcohol first, but that doesn’t mean marijuana was the reason for them going on to harder drugs. There are many factors that contribute to someone deciding to experiment with harder drugs, like friend groups or the neighborhood and household a person grew up in. To prove this point, a study conducted in Holland by RAND Corporation found there to be no causal relationship between marijuana and harder drugs. Furthermore, the study also revealed that legal marijuana was more likely to reduce rates of harder drug use. Overall, whether you’re pro legalization or pro prohibition, it’s erroneous to describe marijuana as a gateway drug.
5. The Government Can’t Protect People From Themselves
Another common argument is that marijuana is bad for you, and for that simple reason, it should be illegal. However, this argument is inconsistent, as there a lot of things that are bad for you – if not worse – but aren’t illegal: eating too much fast food, taking multiple prescription drugs, and listening to music on full blast every day to name a few. The point here is that there are many activities that aren’t exactly necessary or healthy, but we’re allowed to engage in them because we have a right to our own bodies and freedom of choice. Imagine the outcry if the government began to prohibit gambling and fast food restaurants, or began to enforce a limit on how loud you could listen to music or how close you could sit to watch the television. In summary, we can all agree that smoking marijuana isn’t healthy – just as it’s unhealthy to listen to music too loud or eat too much junk – but individuals, as long as they don’t harm others in the process, should be able to take their own risks and make their own choices.
4. Prohibition Creates and Maintains a Black Market
Another major ramification of the war on drugs is that it maintains a black market of criminal gangs which perpetuates violence and uncertainty. Prohibition was supposed to make drugs less accessible, but instead it’s made drugs more rampant and dangerous. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, prohibition of alcohol had much the same consequence and people quickly understood that there had to be a different solution. Following the failure of alcohol prohibition, the government made it legal to possess alcohol and took measures to ensure its production and processes were regulated. Every day it becomes more necessary for governments the Western world over to learn from history and adapt accordingly.
3. No One Has Died From Marijuana
Shockingly, there have been no recorded deaths as a direct result of marijuana usage. There have been recorded cases where people have died whilst being high on marijuana, but being high has not been the cause of death. Furthermore, according to the National Cancer Institute, it’s not even possible to overdose on marijuana as our cannabinoid receptors don’t affect our respiration. What’s important to note is that these facts raise an important question: how is it that drugs like Vicodin, Xanex and Adderall, which have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, are legally prescribed to patients, whilst marijuana, a drug which hasn’t directly resulted in any deaths but has been used to treat numerous illnesses, is prohibited?
2. Marijuana is Far Less Damaging Than Caffeine, Tobacco and Alcohol
In almost every category, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco have proved to be more damaging than marijuana. All three are considered highly addictive, lethal in large doses, and yet still socially acceptable in many parts of the world. Specifically looking at the facts, it’s reported by the World Health Organization that alcohol kills roughly 2.5 million people annually and tobacco kills nearly 6 million. Furthermore, according to Caffeine Informer, regular caffeine consumption may raise blood pressure, cause incontinence, insomnia, indigestion, headaches, and reduce fertility in women. Now, this point isn’t to put down alcohol, caffeine or tobacco – I love the occasional morning pint and evening coffee – but it is to highlight the lunacy of supporting prohibition of relatively harmless substances whilst ignoring the ramifications of harmful substances.
1. Majority of People Support Legalization
Overwhelmingly, the majority of people in the US, Canada and the UK support either decriminalization or legalization. In a 2013 Gallup poll, 58% of Americans voted in favour of legalization, whilst in the UK a MORI poll concluded that 53% support legalization. In Canada, a poll conducted by EKOS concluded that 68% of Canadians support decriminalization. Political reform is only achieved when the overwhelming majority of people demand it, and with the ever increasing support for legalization, it’s safe to say the day may not be far off when marijuana can be used legally.