With California’s recent attempt to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for adults, many people have been asking, “Should marijuana be legal?” In actuality, the question should be “Would we, as a society, benefit from the legalization of marijuana?” The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Not only would legalizing marijuana benefit our country medically, which is currently legal in the State of California, but economically and ecologically, as well.
Every smart businessman knows that increasing profits while reducing costs means financial growth and financial growth is just what the United States needs right now. The government could “substitute a tax on marijuana cigarettes equal to the difference between the local production cost ($1.70 for 0.5 grams) and the street price people currently pay ($8.60 for 0.5 grams)”(Moffatt). That is a 500% profit on the investment which could be used to help reduce our deficit and help to balance the budget. This would also give the authorities a chance to regulate its use and production and, therefore, more control over who, what, when, where, and how marijuana is used. This includes the import and export of marijuana which is now controlled by foreign drug lords. As more and more marijuana is illegally imported, bypassing customs, more and more, unaccounted for, U.S. dollars leave the country further damaging our already fragile economy. Not only would legalizing marijuana increase government revenue, it would also reduce government spending. “The war on drugs is an expensive battle” (Moffatt). By decriminalizing the use of marijuana, and thereby the marijuana user, the government could put its resources to better use. Police would be able to concentrate their time and attention on more important crimes against victims. The savings could then trickle down through the justice system. There would be fewer ‘criminals’ and ‘drug addicts’ in the court system, and therefore, fewer inmates and, subsequently fewer prisons needed. From a business point of view, legalizing marijuana would be a win/win for our country financially. By taxing marijuana buyers, the government could increase its revenue with money that would otherwise, in many cases, be spent outside of the United States, thereby strengthening our economy.
While the smart businessman argues that legalizing marijuana for those who wish to partake of it personally would be profitable, the smarter businessman has found an even better reason for legalizing marijuana. Legalizing marijuana is not the real issue for him; the real issue lies in re-legalizing Cannabis Sativa L., a member of the mulberry family that includes both marijuana and its cousin, hemp, which “has thousands of industrial uses” (Matthews). Hemp is strong and durable and many things can be made from it. In fact, “anything made from cotton, timber, petroleum and plastic can be made by hemp. (In most cases hemp can make them better.)” (Matthews). It was grown commercially in the United States, at times even mandated, until the 1950s when the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (predecessor of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) made all Cannabis Sativa L. illegal. Because hemp grows more quickly than trees and needs less space, it is a better source for products currently made from wood like paper. This would help protect our forests from being destroyed. Fewer animals would be displaced by the logging industry. With our National Parks disappearing at an alarming rate, growing hemp would be better ecologically. Legalizing marijuana would help our environment because it could save more trees which are currently used to make paper and rope and many other things. Hemp is environmentally friendly.
Most of the opposition against the legalization of marijuana seems to come either directly or indirectly from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is the successor to the same Federal Bureau of Narcotics who originally outlawed Cannabis Sativa L. just one half of a century ago. It is also the same U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration who has spent billions of dollars of taxpayer money on their ‘war on drugs’ to justify their position. One of their main justifications against the use of marijuana is their claim that it is a ‘gateway drug’; that marijuana use leads to the use of harder drugs. However, information presented by them on their website does not even support their claim. According to them, marijuana use is widespread. Proponents for the legalization support this claim. This is one of the reasons they feel it should be legalized, not outlawed. The DEA attempts to substantiate this by using data collected by ADAM (Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring). According to ADAM, they collected data from almost 45,000 arrestees and found that “marijuana use was more than six times higher than cocaine use” (DEA). They claim this supports the fact that marijuana use and criminal behavior go hand-in-hand. However, since the study only includes those who have been arrested, it does not support this claim at all. For all anyone knows, data collected on 45,000 people who had never been arrested may have found that marijuana use was more than ten times higher than cocaine use. Of course, this could also mean that only 1% of those never arrested had ever tried cocaine and then even ten times that would be only 4,500 who had ever used marijuana. As you can see, statistics can be manipulated to alter the public’s perception. The DEA follows these results with a statistic that does not support their claim that marijuana use leads to harder drugs, “20% of ADAM participants who tested positive for marijuana drug use, also tested positive for multi-drugs.” (DEA). If marijuana use ultimately leads to the use of harder drugs, shouldn’t that percentage be much higher? “There are more people in jail for alcohol related crimes that are more dangerous than marijuana” (Moffatt). However, these statistics are not presented by the DEA.
The final argument usually presented by those against the legalization of marijuana is for health reasons. Even medical studies showing the benefits of smoking marijuana can’t convince them it isn’t bad for their health. The general consensus is that marijuana must contribute to lung disease. After all, look what cigarette smoke does. It causes lung cancer and marijuana burns almost twice as hot as cigarettes do, therefore, it must do greater damage to the lungs. However, the results released on December 5, 2010 by researchers at Harvard University do not substantiate this. In fact, these studies found just the opposite to be true. “The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread”(Drug War Facts). Recreational users who smoke marijuana may be doing so for their health without them even knowing it. The so-called drug has probably saved lives without the user even realizing it.
When presented with the true facts about marijuana and what its legalization would really do for the economy, the energy problems, the environmental problems, and the health problems we face, most rational people would agree that it should be legal. What right does the American government have to misrepresent the facts to the American people in order to justify their multi-billion dollar ‘war on drugs’? Perhaps the politicians are more interested in the rights of the petroleum companies and the pharmaceutical companies that fund their campaigns than the interests of the American people they are sworn to represent.
“DEA Speaks Out Against Legalization.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (2010). 1 December
“Hemp Facts”. North American Industrial Hemp Council, Inc. (October 1997). 10 December 2010. http://www.naihc.org/hemp_information/hemp_facts.html>
“Marijuana Cuts Tumor Growth By 50%.” Drug War Facts (5 December 2010)
Matthews, Jason. “Legalize Hemp While You’re At It”. Technorati, Inc. (12 October 2010). Accessed 12 December 2010. http://technorati.com/blogging/article/legalize-hemp-while-youre-at-it/
Mofatt, Mike. “Should Governments Legalize and Tax Marijuana?.” About.com: Economics (2010). 18 November 2010. http://economics.about.com/od/incometaxestaxcuts/a/marijuana.htm?p=1