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Monday, April 5, 2010

Legalize Marijuana

I have never used marijuana and don’t even know anyone who does. So how can I be so sure it is safe to make marijuana legal? The answer is simple. Legalizing marijuana has nothing to do with how safe or how harmful it may be. Lots of substances are harmful (like cyanide, and arsenic), yet BATF and DEA SWAT teams are not breaking down doors in the night looking for them.

If we are concerned that people may harm themselves with marijuana, why are we harming them even more with prison. We have over half a million people in prison for violating non-violent drug laws. Prison is more harmful than marijuana.

Is the threat of prison supposed to prevent drug use? If so, it is not working. We have about 40 million people in the U. S. who are occasional users of illegal drugs. That is more people than when President Nixon launched the federal war on drugs in 1972. Our last two presidents admit to trying marijuana. Do we really want all these people in prison? The U. S. already leads the world in incarceration rate.

If marijuana were legal, would it be more of a problem? Well, alcohol was more of a problem during prohibition than it ever has been since, so it seems logical that drugs would be less of a problem if they were legal. For one thing, we would not have pushers on campus like we do now. For another, terrorists would not be funding their activities with illegal drug money like they do now. For another, we would not have so much crime and gang violence like we do now.

Do we need drug laws to protect our children? Actually, teens report that marijuana is more accessible than alcohol and cigarettes. The reason is simple: pushers don’t ask for ID. It seems reasonable that if we treat marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana will be less accessible to teens.

Do we need drug laws because marijuana is immoral? It seems dangerous to me to let the government decide morality, because there is no end to it. Gambling, pornography, homosexuality, being absent from church on Sunday – all these things have been illegal in the past because of government’s moral judgment. Here is my moral judgment: leave your neighbor alone as long as he is not hurting anybody but himself.

So why do we have drug laws anyway? One reason comes to mind: the ever-expanding power and authority of the federal government. It is seen in the merciless pursuit of sick and dieing medical marijuana patients in California by the federal DEA, even after our state legalized medical marijuana. It is seen in the asset forfeiture laws which allow the government to confiscate your property without due process of law. It is seen in the ban on growing hemp. The war on drugs has become an excuse to expand government power.

Most of the points I have made here would apply not just to marijuana but to all illegal drugs. However, the voting public is not ready to consider legalizing all drugs. So let’s take them one at a time. Marijuana, being the least harmful and the most medically useful, is the logical place to start.

Recommended reading: “Why our Drug Laws Have Failed and what we can do about it”, book by Judge James P. Gray.

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