Pubdate: Thu, 29 Nov 2007
Source: Daily Egyptian (Southern Illinois U., IL Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Daily Egyptian
Author: Andrew O'Connor
Note: O'Connor is a junior studying political science.
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Illinois is now making the move to ban salvia, a naturally growing 
plant that is sold as a legal, light hallucinogen. This is business 
as usual for American politicians.

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in America and because 
of that, it has been the scourge of opportunist politicians, moral 
finger-wavers and all types of other grand-standers.

The war on marijuana (yes, war on a plant, even though it can't 
really fight or talk), has cost taxpayers in the country billions of 
wasted dollars, prevented the development of a much needed and 
promising industry, and has ruined the lives of non-violent offenders 
and their families.

It is difficult to gauge the actual number of Americans who use 
marijuana. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws 
does a good job of collecting data and comparing it with private and 
government data. According to NORML, user numbers generally fall at 
about 20 million, with about 11 million people using regularly.

This is an enormous segment of the U.S. population and makes 
marijuana the third most used substance (behind tobacco and alcohol) 
and the most used illegal substance. The demographics of this group 
are not just your cast of characters from "Half Baked," old Deadheads 
and the Method Man, this group is made up of mostly tax-paying, 
law-abiding citizens.

Marijuana is dangerous in the sense that any mood altering chemical 
is dangerous. It slows reaction time, thus making things such as 
driving more dangerous.

The active ingredient in marijuana that produces these effects is a 
chemical called THC. This chemical can come in amounts from 3 percent 
to about 30 percent, although certain oils and hash have even higher 
percentages. That can make dosage difficult especially for the novice user.

Marijuana smoke is cancerous, but not toxic; no one has ever 
overdosed from marijuana. The government currently has a campaign 
claiming one joint is as bad as five cigarettes. This propaganda 
doesn't include the fact that cigarettes have filters, and only a 
small percentage of people smoke doobies anymore, many opt for 
tobacco leaves, glass pipes, bongs or vaporizers, and, with the 
exception of the vaporizer (recommended for medicinal use), very 
little study has been done in this area.

So the bad side of marijuana is that it is hard to dose consistently, 
it slows reaction time and it is still smoke. Yet these facts still 
do not qualify it by any standard of measurement to be worse than 
alcohol or tobacco. Those two legal drugs each year kill more people 
than marijuana could ever hope to.

Then why, in 2006, did we arrest 829,000 individuals for marijuana 
offenses? Of those arrests, 89 percent were for possession - not sale 
or manufacture. There are more marijuana arrests than the combined 
arrests for all violent offenses in the United States. We arrest more 
marijuana smokers than robbers, killers and rapists.

Where is Nancy Grace when you need her?

This is all at a whopping cost to the U.S. taxpayers of $10 billion a 
year. With the crisis in funding wars of conquest, social security 
and Medicare, one might want to rethink spending $10 billion 
harassing people who use a plant that grows naturally.

In fact, recently some people did. Five hundred top economists, 
including three Nobel Prize winners, sent a letter to President 
George W. Bush saying if legalized and regulated like tobacco and 
alcohol, it could produce revenues of $6.2 billion a year.

So instead of losing $10 billion, the economy could make $6.2 billion 
and that money could be taxed.

This does not include the amount of revenue that a legalized, 
industrial hemp industry could produce. Hemp can be used to make 
paper, food, clothes and a whole slew of other things, including 
fuel, and it can be grown year-round without nearly as much 
environmental run-off as crops such as corn. The color of money in 
America is green.

As the Method-Man once said, "Marijuana is just nature's way of 
saying high." Whether it is moral, economic or practical, there is no 
good argument for continued prohibition.

It is time to hold these politicians and grand-standers who waste 
billions on this fruitless venture accountable, and finally do the 
one thing that makes sense: Legalize it.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake