by Lydia Miller
Do you know how much the United States government spends annually on the enforcement of marijuana laws? The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) estimates it to somewhere around $7.6 billion. That is nearly $7.6 billion spent preventing the use of a drug that is less harmful that cigarettes and less addictive than both tobacco and alcohol. The prohibition of marijuana is ineffective, makes it impossible to protect its users through regulation, and creates the opportunity for violence along the border.
Marijuana has been given a bad name by opponents as being harmful to the body and the mind. It has been called addictive and been said to temporarily effect perception and motor functions. Marijuana is, however, a fairly harmless drug. A study published in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, ranked marijuana as one of the least harmful drugs, behind tobacco and alcohol. According to Dr. Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, It is even less addictive than coffee (NIDA). And as far as damaging perception goes, the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that while marijuana does effect perception, it does not cause permanent brain damage.It seems odd that so much time and money are poured into the prevention of a drug that is essentially harmless, while people are legally allowed to buy cigarettes and pump addiction and lung cancer into their bodies.
One of the greatest health risks of marijuana use comes not from the actual marijuana, but from what can be hidden in it. Because marijuana is not regulated in the way that cigarettes and alcohol are, it can be laced with just about any other harmful drug. Drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine have been known to find their way into the mix, and without regulation, the users have no way of knowing what they are getting. If marijuana were legalized, the government would be able to regulate it much in the way tobacco is regulated. The sale of tobacco has restrictions on what goes into it, to whom in can be sold, how it is sold to them (it generally cannot be mailed), and who is old enough to purchase and use it( US FDA). There are specific rules and specific consequences for breaking those rules.Legalizing marijuana would make it easier to impose the same sort of regulations on it.
The cost of enforcing the prohibition of marijuana is around $7.6 billion a year. That is $7.6 billion that is being spent to prevent a drug that is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and one that despite the billions of dollars spent in trying to prohibit it, is still the most commonly used illicit drug in the US (NIDA).That is money that the government could be collecting rather than losing. If marijuana were legalized, the government could tax it in the same way they tax tobacco and alcohol.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems with prohibition is the violence that follows the illegal sale of marijuana. Because people can’t buy it through legal means, they go to other sources, sources that sometimes have violent backgrounds. An Article in the Huffington Post states that in 2010 alone, there were 15,273 deaths related to drug wars (Parks). Making marijuana illegal doesn’t stop the drug from being sold, it just keeps drug lords in power and allows the violence to continue.
Marijuana should be legalized.It is less harmless than other drugs which are now legal and it would be made safer through government regulation. Allowing the prohibition of marijuana to continue only allows unnecessary violence to continue at the cost of innocent lives.The cost of enforcement of marijuana laws loses government money when the government could instead be earning money through taxation.
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Parks, Cara. “Mexico: 34,612 Drug War Deaths; 15,273 in 2010.” The Huffington Post 12 Jan. 2011: Web. Mar. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/mexico-drug-war-deaths-2010_n_808277.html>
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Tobacco Products.” Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco from FDA.gov 5 Apr. 2013: Web. Mar. 2013. <http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/ProtectingKidsfromTobacco/RegsRestrictingSale/>.
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