Every year without fail, millions of people in North America light up and smoke marijuana. Correspondingly, every year, billions of tax dollars are wasted on fighting a futile war against an inevitable activity that is much less detrimental to our society than the war itself. The legalization and careful government regulation of marijuana would be beneficial to our society, saving taxpayers money and eliminating the few risks that accompany marijuana use. This is because the health and social dangers to society are very minimal, and the economic advantages of legalization would reach into the billions of dollars given proper government regulation. Marijuana is very different from harder drugs. That is, marijuana use comes largely without the ill effects of such drugs as cocaine, heroin, and to an extent, tobacco. Unlike tobacco, heroin, and cocaine, marijuana is not physically addictive, and there is no possibility of an overdose.
The primary effects of marijuana are an increased sense of well-being, relaxation, and euphoria. Contrary to common belief, marijuana does not kill brain cells and the study that originally indicated this has since been discredited by numerous and more wide-ranging studies. British, Canadian, and American commissions have all concluded that the individual and social risks associated with marijuana use are small. It is true, however, that marijuana smoke inhaled through a ‘joint’ or marijuana cigarette contains as much as four times more ‘tar’ than smoke from a regular cigarette. Some may argue that this fact alone should be enough to sustain the laws as they are. On the contrary, the vast majority of the estimated twenty million Americans who smoke marijuana every year smoke less than once a week. (According to www.norml.org) In addition to this, all of the ‘tar’ in marijuana smoke can be removed if it is smoked in a hookah or vaporized as it is in many of the coffee shops or hash bars in Amsterdam.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $12
The research of S. Szara author of The Pharmacology of Marijuana concludes, “[occasional use] does not lead to detectable physical or mental health consequences.” Those opposed to legalization may also argue that allowing what they deem as a ‘step up drug’ will only cause the numbers of heavy drug users to skyrocket. However, research has failed to show that marijuana is any more of a ‘step up drug’ than alcohol. Moreover, if marijuana and alcohol were non-existent, critics would likely regard ecstasy or LSD as ‘step up drugs’ to heroin. A long-term study done by Kaiser Permanente, a large American health insurance company, indicated that marijuana prohibition itself poses the only significant health hazard to the user. This health hazard consists of the small chance that marijuana bought on the street might be mixed or ‘laced’ with other much more harmful drugs or chemicals; a danger that would be effectively eliminated by legalization and government regulation.
The various levels of American government will spend forty billion dollars this year on drug enforcement, and billions of dollars on marijuana enforcement alone. (According to www.norml.org) Inevitably, next year, even more money will be spent on enforcing marijuana laws that even more people will break. It is said that the government has not applied the lesson they learned from the failure of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and ’30s when the ban on alcohol only created a huge illegal market. The well-known author and sociologist Daniel Quinn wrote: “The twenty-first amendment to the U.S. constitution merely permitted what fourteen years of prohibition had been able to stop.” If the prohibition of an essentially harmless substance didn’t work then why would the government think it would work now? Daniel Quinn later goes on to write: “New minds think: If it didn’t work last year, let’s do something else this year.”
Marijuana laws, like prohibition, have failed and will keep failing to prevent people from smoking pot. If our tax money spent on enforcing marijuana laws is, for the most part, thrown down the bureaucratic drain every year; it would be crazy not to want to try something new. Instead of fighting a battle that can not be won, governments should regulate marijuana in the same way that they regulate alcohol. The economic benefits alone would be staggering; saving an estimated 7.5 billion dollars on enforcement, and by taxing marijuana as a legitimate product, governments would gain billions of dollars in revenue. Legalization in America alone would save taxpayers between 8 and 16 billion dollars every year. The best way for governments to regulate marijuana is to simply implement a system much like that of Amsterdam. Business owners would have to apply for a license to sell marijuana in small amounts for use by those of the legal age, within a designated marijuana smoking area.
Furthermore, in order to maintain their license, establishments would have to pass random inspections as is the case with liquor and tobacco licenses. The potency and quality of the marijuana sold to customers would be regulated in the same manner that the potency and quality of alcohol and cigarettes are regulated, hence making marijuana a much safer and consistent product. Marijuana could also be sold in small amounts by licensed vendors for home use. Amsterdam has proven that the legalization of marijuana brings the cost for consumers down in spite of a government tax that ranges between fifty cents to a dollar per ‘joint’. Just think of the sheer demand that twenty million American customers would put on legitimate producers, it would easily be enough to lower the price and drive illegitimate dealers off of the street.
In 1994, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care stated: “Australia experiences more harm, we conclude, from maintaining the cannabis prohibition policy than it experiences from the use of the drug.” Now is as good of a time as any for a change in marijuana laws; we need to learn from the past and knock down the wall of ignorance that confines a harmless activity to the status of a criminal offense. It is absurd to waste billions of dollars to vainly enforce laws that are based on misconceptions and function only to prove an unenlightened point by wasting taxpayer’s money on producing more and more ‘innocent’ criminals. Through examination of the facts, the evidence clearly agrees that marijuana should be legalized. This year millions will continue to light up, but it is up to us to remove the shroud of misinformed opinion that surrounds this safe and inevitable activity.