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Opinion: We've Finally Come to Our Senses on Legalized Pot; Let's Keep Going

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 10:26 AM

Marijuana (Federacion de Asociaciones Cannabicas/flickr)

I have never smoked marijuana. Not once in my life.  Nor have any of my family members, colleagues, friends or neighbors.

Once everyone is done laughing at that, let’s take a moment to consider what has happened in Colorado and Washington.  Cannabis is now legal for recreational use in these two states.

So now what? Will this cause an epidemic of immoral behavior? Will this cause our daughters to listen to jazz? Will everyone become jabbering leftists who burn the American flag and mock U.S. war dead? Will everyone take one hit off a legal joint and then immediately plunge through the gateway into heroin addiction?

These reasons were actually all used at one time or another to justify keeping pot illegal. In fact, when you look at the overall history of marijuana use and prohibition in the United States, hysterical conspiracy theories abound, and not just with the people who wanted to keep it illegal, but among marijuana users themselves.

“You see, pot is illegal because DuPont had this patent on turning wood pulp into paper, see, and they wanted to corner the paper market, you know, but since so much paper in America was made of hemp, right, DuPont stood to lose, like, billions, so they made this big push to make hemp illegal, etc. etc.”

I don’t know if this is true, and frankly, I don’t really care. What matters here is that we are finally coming to our senses regarding marijuana, and that’s good enough for me.

There is absolutely no real reason for marijuana being illegal. Nobody has ever overdosed and died from marijuana. Nobody has ever become physically addicted to marijuana and died due to withdrawal symptoms. You can’t say the same thing about alcohol, and I can buy as much of that as I want. 

If I were to march into the liquor store and buy a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka, and if I were to sit across a table from someone who had 1.75 ounces of weed, and we both finished what was in front of us, you would have two very different sets of consequences. If I were able to finish that bottle without passing out, there is a very good chance that I would end up dead, and the guy across the table would be just fine. 

Alcohol is perfectly capable of killing you. Every year or so a few fraternity pledges end up dead because of alcohol poisoning. Or for more evidence, just take a look at your iTunes. Amy Winehouse, Bon Scott from AC/DC, and Jani Lane from Warrant (which probably isn’t on your iTunes, but still,) all dead from alcohol poisoning.  Snoop Dogg seems to be doing just fine. Same with Willie Nelson.

If I were to drink a quart of bourbon every day for eight months and then suddenly stop, I would absolutely go through terrible withdrawal and have severe physical urges for more. If I were to smoke a joint every day for eight months and then suddenly stop, nothing seriously debilitating would happen to me. This isn’t theory. It’s fact.

If alcohol and cigarettes, both of which are absolutely dangerous and addictive, are freely available at the 7-11 on the corner, then we have no real excuse for not allowing marijuana to be sold in the exact same way.

Hardly any of the popular mythology about marijuana use holds up. The idea that it’s a “gateway drug” to the harder stuff is laughable. If that were the case, then surely we’d all be a nation of heroin addicts by now. The idea that it makes people shiftless and lazy might be true, but then again, my 22-year old neighbor doesn’t smoke pot, and as far as I can tell he hasn’t left his X-Box in about six months. The notion that marijuana is somehow “leftist” doesn’t make any sense either. I have ultra conservative friends who smoke all the time, and if anything marijuana just makes them laugh harder at the poor.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Colorado and Washington. The Obama administration might have a change of heart and send the DEA in to shut everything down. But more than likely they will give it a year or two and see what the overall effects are. Will there be new tax revenue? Will law enforcement be freed up to handle more pressing matters? Will the zoning be handled in the correct way? In other words, will pot dispensaries be kept in appropriate areas of cities, towns and neighborhoods, like liquor stores, or will it be a willy-nilly sort of debacle like it is in California, where you have “medical” weed shops within walking distance of elementary schools? Time will tell.

I don’t believe that legalizing marijuana is some sort of magical cure-all that will fix our economy, empty our jails and like, soak the country in positive vibes, man. But what I do know is that we have spent the past 70 years and billions upon billions of dollars locking up Americans for ingesting a substance that will not kill them or make them slaves to addiction. Marijuana prohibition is a pointless waste of resources, and that alone is reason enough to end it.

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Comments [8]

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Apr. 19 2013 10:37 PM
edoty0012 from KS

I agree with you 100%. While cigs and alcohol are being sold on a regular basis cannibis is illegal. It just doesn't seem right to me what so ever. If we want to smoke and feel good instead of getting way too drunk and passing out or coughing up our lungs from cigarette smoke, well then we should be able too. I believe you definitely hit the nail on the head with this one.

Dec. 06 2012 11:30 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

"I have never smoked marijuana. Not once in my life. Nor have any of my family members, colleagues, friends or neighbors."

You can speak for the habits of your family, colleagues, friends and neighbors, can you? I suggest you poll them to find out if your supposition is actually true.

I think we can all agree that marijuana is a case of 'malum prohibitum' - bad because we say so...not malum in se - bad it self. The harm we do by enforcing laws against marijuana are far worse than any harm caused by the drug. The fortunes that its prohibition generates (or more appropriately the war for access to these fortunes) is also worse than acceptance of the general availability of this drug. There's a word for that - bass-ackwards.

I DO NOT want to see marijuana produced and taxed like alcohol or cigarettes. I do not want to see it marketed like cigarettes or alcohol. I don't really want to see its use become much more widespread that it already is. I am completely for its decriminalization as just another get-high. Not good but certainly no worse than our other get highs.

Nov. 30 2012 10:45 AM
knowa from fl.

I look at overdose deaths rates from substances such as Aspirin there were estimated at 6,000 last year 2,000 from Heroin,Cocaine and Meth, Zero for Marijuana. Now if we take Marijuana out equation and use a harm reduction and maintenance program that number could be reduced substantially. at a fraction of the cost.
In last 25 years we have spent more than a Trillion Dollars 25 million arrest over 850,000 arrest last year 50 Billion. Granted Heroin is not a benign substance but after 45 years of Partaking I have never really ever had any real interest in any hard drugs so the gate way theory is BS so we spend all this money send all these people in prison for decades mostly for pot. To save the 2,000 overdoses we spend $50,000,000/2,000=$25,000,000 per overdose

Nov. 27 2012 11:39 AM
libertyandweed from seattle

I am over 50 and I voted for legalization in wa. This is a matter of states rights.
I believe obama will do nothing so the jerks at the dea can reserve the right to sweep in and arrest law abiding weed capitalists just like did this year.
Obama and his doj is afraid ofca scotus decision.

And on the matter of your enlightenment.. seriously, dude, not having gotten high ever in your life. You need to come west on vacation and lose that virginity..

Nov. 27 2012 12:51 AM
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Nov. 26 2012 01:15 PM
Wamo from Richmond, VA

Excellent piece. I used to live in Tacoma WA. About ten years ago the local jail was suffering severe overcrowding so the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build an expansion. A friend of mine worked there and when I asked him how it was when it was finished he told me it was already full because of "the potheads". Hundreds upon hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent to build a place to lock up pot users. What an insane waste of money!

We could provide free drug counseling and treatment to those who want it for a fraction of the cost of arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating drug users. The drug war was and is a total failure. If we are going to tackle this problem in needs to be viewed as a public health issue, not a law enforcement issue.

Nov. 26 2012 11:29 AM
joey

You hit the nail on the head. I'm a life long republican and I couldn't agree with you more. The idea that marijuana is illegal while cigarettes, beer, and fast food are legal is laughable.

Nov. 26 2012 11:22 AM

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