By Andrew Gardewine, Contributive Writer
The United States houses over 20% of the world’s prisoners. According to the FBI, there are an estimated 1,488,707 people imprisoned for drug related crimes annually. And of those arrests, 52% are marijuana related. Of this 750,000, 38% are based on possession of small amounts of marijuana (usually under an ounce) rather than the actual usage or trafficking. In contrast, there were an estimated 1,089,171 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, something that is demonstrably dangerous, yet the possession and consumption of alcohol is not illegal.
In 2015 over 10,000 people died due to people driving over the legal limit of alcohol consumption and there were approximately 88,000 deaths caused by alcohol in general. On the other hand, there are no documented deaths caused by marijuana’s immediate effects. Unfortunately, there are not any statistics on accidents caused by the use of marijuana so
we can’t entirely determine whether or not it is as bad as alcohol when it comes to driving under its influence. However, based on these statistics I believe the United States should legalize marijuana on the federal
level so that the government doesn’t waste valuable money and time to prevent something that isn’t nearly as harmful as many things like alcohol that are widely accepted.
If you look at the statistics it makes sense. In most cases alcohol is much worse for you both short term and long term. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking large amounts of alcohol over an extended period of time or in one single occasion can cause damage to the heart, liver, brain, pancreas, and can weaken the immune system. Binge drinking can also cause loss of consciousness and in some cases, death.
The general assumption with illegal drugs is that overdoses are fatal. However, with marijuana that is not the case. In an article written on Leafscience.com they state that while a person can in fact overdose, the effects do not lead to death. The reason for this is that in the human body cannabinoid receptors, which are what allows the body to absorb marijuana are not located in the brain stem, unlike opioid receptors which are located in the brain stem areas which control respiration. Therefore, lethal overdoses from cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.
The only valid argument people have regarding the health issues of marijuana are the long-term effects it has on the body. Smoking marijuana can cause low blood pressure and lung-related diseases. However, the same goes for smoking cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. Tobacco products are smoked much more heavily by the general population than weed and they also contain many different chemicals outside of those found simply in tobacco that are poisonous to the body.
At this point we are forced to ask, why aren’t those products illegal? I believe that marijuana still has not been legalized because the government is still figuring out how to profit from its sales. They could tax and regulate it like alcohol and tobacco, but because marijuana usage was fairly new and generally used among lower-class citizens, they decided to instead make it illegal.
Today, states like Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, and even our country’s capital, Washington D.C have legalized the recreational use of marijuana while still putting reasonable restrictions on the amount a person can purchase and possess to regulate its consumption and usage. All of the states in which marijuana has been legalized have seen a rise in tax revenue, California alone made an estimated $59-$109 million off of revenue generated from marijuana taxation and this is only from medicinal sales as at the time of this article it had not been made recreationally legal. Again, why not make it legal across the nation when our country can generate so much revenue off of taxing its sales?
It’s likely because the government is still having Vietnam War flashbacks and remembering all of the anti-drug campaign propaganda from the 70’s. There’s really no reason to be afraid. Legalizing marijuana isn’t going to destroy a country, most people use it for health reasons or for recreational purposes in their own homes due to the fact that in each of the legal states public usage is still illegal.
If anything the prevention of marijuana is harming our economy more than legalizing it would. Annually the United States spends $3,613,969,972 enforcing marijuana laws each year. From 2002-2012 reports showed that the New York Police Department spent over 1,000,000 hours enforcing low level marijuana offenses. If marijuana were legalized, both the time and money spent enforcing its laws could be used for more serious issues. The money could be spent on the declining public education system in the United States or even help those living in poverty across the country. Did you know that annually there are more arrests for marijuana related crimes than there are for violent crimes? Law enforcement across the country could put their time and effort into preventing violent crimes rather than something that can help our nation’s economy. Legalize it. Regulate it. Tax it.