Ever since marijuana’s first recorded use five-thousand years ago, it never had much popularity until the last century with prohibition and anti-war movements. The legalization of marijuana has recently been a rather controversial issue, although there should be no issue at all. Marijuana should be legalized. Prohibition was once tried with alcohol and it was a proven failure, and it should be soon proven again with marijuana. Marijuana is a relatively safe drug, especially when compared to other illegal drugs and even some legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco. There are many reasons marijuana is illegal and frowned upon today; most of which are irrational or ill-informed, while the rest are underlying reasons and irrelevant to the actual safety of marijuana and its users.
There are many obvious benefits to society if marijuana were to be legalized. This includes the elimination of a large portion of underground drug dealers and their consumers. Financially, the common taxpayer would also be positively impacted. More than 300 economists, three of them well known, have estimated that the US government could save as much as $13.7 billion per year; $7.7 billion saved by not having to enforce the current prohibition, and $6 billion if the government taxed marijuana similarly to alcohol and tobacco (1). Not to mention the many jobs that would be created for American citizens in order to actually produce and market the marijuana. Medicinal reasons should also be accounted for, which include the need of medical marijuana for patients to live without pain.
To put it simply; ill and ailing people are denied life-altering medicine because marijuana is illegal. Marijuana is a proven, effective, medicine. The Institute of Medicine’s report on marijuana, published in 1999, states, “In conclusion, the available evidence from animal and human studies indicates that cannabinoids can have a substantial analgesic effect.”(2). Included in this report is evidence supporting, to a lesser extent, marijuana relieving clinical depression, and was also shown to suppress nausea and vomitting commonly associated with chemotherapy. Marijuana can also be especially effective in improving the appetite of AIDS and cancer patients. It is completely irrational to have such a potentially beneficial drug illegal, while thousands of American’s die each year from legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.
Marijuana is, in every way possible, safer than alcohol. Alcohol is toxic to healthy cells and organs, a side effect that results directly in about thirty-five thousand deaths in the US annually from resulting illnesses. Heavy alcohol consumption can depress the central nervous system, inducing unconsciousness, coma and death. Worldwide, alcohol consumption causes a staggering four percent of all deaths worldwide; more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence (3). By contrast, the active compounds in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, are relatively nontoxic to humans. Unlike alcohol, marijuana is incapable of causing a fatal overdose, and its use it inversely associated with aggression and injury. The difference between marijuana and tobacco is even more evident. There is a common myth floating around claiming that one marijuana joint is equal to five cigarettes.
This false conclusion is originally derived from a study by Dr. Donald Tashkin in which the researcher examined airflow resistance in the lungs of tobacco smokers compared to that in the lungs of marijuana smokers (4). He did find that daily pot smokers experience a “mild but significant” increase in airflow resistance in the large airways, greater than that seen in people smoking sixteen cigarettes per day. But what is not usually told is that, ironically, Dr. Tashkin also found, in the largest study ever of its kind, other, more important markers of lung health, in which marijuana smokers did much better than tobacco smokers. It is also rarely mentioned that the researcher’s study unexpectedly found that smoking marijuana, even regularly, does not lead to lung cancer. Zero people have died from the use of marijuana, nor has there been a case of marijuana causing any form of cancer.
The fact that marijuana is illegal today is sufficiently caused by the amount of money, jobs, and pride invested in the war on drugs. The government simply cannot turn back. They make a concerted effort to inform American citizens that marijuana is bad for the taxpayers. Billions of dollars have gone towards fighting the war on drugs – marijuana specifically -, which would seem wasted if all this money was spent on something that was legalized anyway. The US government, as an investor, is in a relatively unique situation. It just wouldn’t be logical for the government to throw away their money, jobs, and pride without extreme pressure from an outside force. They would never abandon such a huge investment, unless they had to politically.
Of course, there are many voices to be heard when concerning counter-arguments to the legalization of marijuana. Unfortunately, many can be disproven logically. For example, a common argument is ‘It is morally wrong to get high.’ The people who say this are usually theists of some sort, and don’t fully realize that morals vary from person to person, or religion to religion. Without a set standard of morals, the government or anyone else for that matter should have no right enforcing one set of morals onto another, especially if no one but themselves are affected. Then there is the classic, ‘Marijuana is addictive.’ This is true, but not in the way implied. Marijuana is not physically addictive in any way as are cigarettes; you can get addicted to marijuana just as you would get addicted to food, sex or anything else in life, for it is only psychologically addictive. There are those that claim that marijuana is a gateway drug, and therefore, should not be legalized. Well, if marijuana was a gateway drug, it would be far less effective as such if it were legalized; being forced into an underground market to buy an illegal drug would unavoidably serve as a ‘gateway’ to more illegal drugs, and can only be prevented by either getting rid of the entire market of illegal drugs, or simply legalizing marijuana.
The use of marijuana is not as harmful as the government wants its people to believe, but nevertheless the government sponsors scare tactics on TV, using misleading or wrong information. Renowned scientists around the world have agreed that marijuana’s ability to play a significant role in medicine is more evident now than ever. Marijuana causes absolutely no long term health issues and can improve the quality of life of millions of sick, ailing people. Harmless and innocent people will continue to be harrassed, arrested, and forced to suffer until this ‘horrible’ drug is legalized.