I sat on my couch for more than 30 minutes, trying to come up with a great introduction to segue into my actual argument for this column, but I really have no other way to start this than to just come out and say what I think: the federal government needs to legalize pot.
There. Now that I can officially be branded a stoner, a hippie, young liberal trash or a drug advocate — none of which I actually am — I can present a few reasonable, mature points as to why marijuana should be made legal for the good will and sake of American society, not because it just sounds like a fun thing to do.
Medical marijuana use is currently legal in 15 states, including Washington, D.C., since Arizona voters approved the drug last month, according to a Nov. 14 Associated Press article. The benefits of using THC to combat pain caused by disease have been documented numerous times in recent decades.
A study conducted in February 2009 by the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology called “Smoked Medicinal Cannabis for Neuropathic Pain in HIV” found that 46 percent of patients suffering with pain due to HIV experienced at least a 30-percent reduction in their physical pain after being treated with cannabis.
The fact that marijuana has a bad reputation for being a recreational street drug is overshadowing the actual scientific evidence that marijuana can easily and safely attach to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and effectively reduce pain to those who are suffering.
We as a nation use opiates like those found in heroin to treat pain; we give our children Ritalin, which is practically a mild dose of cocaine, to treat attention deficit disorder; we expose ourselves to radiation to treat cancer; and we will willingly inject all number of things into our bodies simply for cosmetic purposes.
And that is OK. These products work and are effective for millions of people. Where would we be without hydrocodone pills after an injury or surgery? I am glad these drugs are available in this great country of ours. But when looking at the chemicals and active ingredients in many of the most popular pain relievers, how are they any better or worse for you than a hit of pot?
In fact, studies have shown that marijuana use is actually less damaging to the body than either alcohol or tobacco. There are almost no cases of lung cancer being caused by marijuana, whereas tobacco accounts for the majority of lung cancer cases, according to the May 12, 2009, CBS News column “Make Marijuana Legal” by Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
In addition, marijuana has not been found to be addictive, it is not associated with violent behavior and people who smoke weed have not been shown to be sexually reckless. It is difficult to say this for other substances, especially alcohol, which is not even remotely close to being taboo anymore. In 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s administrative law judge, Francis Young, went as far as to make the statement, “Marijuana may well be the safest psychoactive substance commonly used in human history.” Just because it is illegal does not mean that it is a bad idea to reverse marijuana’s status at a federal level.
Some critics might argue that legalizing cannabis would just encourage more drug use and make Americans into lazy potheads. Here’s the cold fact: people smoke weed anyway.
The July 11, 2008, online Time Magazine article, “Smoking Pot: An American Pastime” by Sarah N. Lynch, states that 42 percent of people in America have smoked pot at least once in their lifetime. That’s nearly half of the entire population. According to an April 20 CBS News article by Stephanie Condon, 44 percent of Americans think that marijuana should be taxed and regulated, just like alcohol or cigarettes.
If marijuana were legal, there would be less danger with people sneaking it around and selling it; more people who are in need of pain management would have a new, more natural option; and the economy would benefit from the extra tax revenue.
The biggest issue with marijuana in America right now is the fact that is isn’t legal, and therefore, it automatically gets grouped into an unwholesome category without even being given a second thought. It is time to face the facts and realize that legalizing pot is not just an incentive to get stoned and throw a Woodstock revival every weekend. There are many benefits that the United States as a nation could reap from putting aside our speculations and preconceived notions about weed and treat it like we do so many other substances available to the public.