Legalizing marijuana can boost economy, save lives

By Jamie Santoro
December 3, 2009

Shannon Keough

The American Medical Association voted to change their 72-year stance on marijuana as a substance with no medical value. This is the first step to legalizing marijuana. The fact that it hasn’t been utilized for its medical benefits alone stumps me. The fact that this potential resource is still criminalized is perplexing, too.

The first evidence of smoking marijuana dates back to the third millennium B.C. at burial sites in present day Romania. Cannabis was utilized in religious ceremonies by the ancient Assyrians, ancient Chinese and some say even Christians and Jews. Even Shakespeare was thought to have been a user after pipes were found buried in his backyard at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The status of marijuana today is different wherever you go. In most cases, decades of misinformation from sources like “Reefer Madness,” a 1936 film about marijuana addicts and scared parents, has blurred the truth. Basically weed has been given a negative connotation.

The legalization of marijuana could help our country immensely. If regulated by the government and taxed like cigarettes, it could become a multi-billion dollar industry. It would mean job creation and economic stimulus, all of which we could afford to have more of.

Some worry about the explosion of drug users if weed were to be legalized. A similar case is that of Portugal, which completely decriminalized all drugs in 2001. While this shouldn’t be what our country does (as far as drugs other than marijuana), it is interesting to see the effect. For a period of about three years drug use was up, but it went down quickly after that. Portugal also believes that a prison sentence caused users to go underground and risk their lives for a high. Users can still be arrested but instead of prison they are offered therapy and rehab. The government saw a decline in users, addicts and deaths within six years.

I compare marijuana to alcohol and cigarettes. Like alcohol once was, marijuana is illegal. Most doctors actually believe that alcohol is more dangerous than weed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “What America needs now is a drink,” at the end of prohibition. Right now I think America needs a joint.

Again, as with alcohol cigarettes are more dangerous than weed. While weed does have a similar effect on the lungs, it is much less habit forming than nicotine. Also the regulation of cigarettes still makes millions of dollars for the government even after smoking has become less fashionable.

“The most dangerous thing about marijuana is jail time,” Judge Jim Gray, L.A. judge and former prosecutor, said. He’s right, the only thing you do under the influence of marijuana is eat and listen to techno music. If the government were to step in, they could regulate the quality and prevent deaths caused by dealers trying to make extra money by putting glass or cocaine in their product.

At the end of the day marijuana criminalization helps no one but pharmaceutical companies and nervous parents. When Americans start seeing weed as a resource not a loaded gun, we’ll all be better off.

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Jamie Santoro

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