The movement to legalize marijuana continues to gather momentum The Huffington Post says four states have now legalized pot. Communities across the nation are reducing legal penalties for possession of small amounts of the drug. There are good reasons for making cannabis legal. The reality is that some form of recreational drug use has been a feature of nearly every society throughout history. Maybe it’s time to focus policy on managing marijuana instead of trying to eradicate it.
The Medial Benefits
High Times and the Huffington Post report that 23 states now allow the use of medical marijuana. Opponents of legalization often claim that the medical benefits of cannabis are unproven. That’s simply not correct. There is substantial evidence that marijuana is an effective treatment for glaucoma and a variety of seizure disorders. It is known to relieve the symptoms of chemotherapy. Marijuana may have other medical uses as well. It is true that more research is needed. We need to know much more about the long-term impact and side effects of medicinal marijuana. However, current laws make it difficult or impossible for medical researchers to conduct the necessary studies. Legalization will remove the barriers to proper and comprehensive research into the benefits and risks of cannabis. There is one certain outcome of such research: patients will benefit.
The Legal Benefits
Laws banning marijuana use date from the 1930s. Millions of people have been arrested, spent time in jail and have been labeled as criminals in the last eight decades. However, efforts to eradicate marijuana use are notable only for their failure. Law enforcement agencies spend immense amounts of time and taxpayer money arresting and prosecuting people for possession who are otherwise law-abiding citizens. This is time and money that isn’t being used to apprehending violent criminals and the dealers of far more dangerous drugs. Outlaw gangs, drug cartels and even terrorists fund many of their criminal activities by selling pot. Legalization will cut off this source of revenue.
The Economic Benefits
The potential economic impact of a legal cannabis industry is considerable. The Huffington Post reports that studies show the average pot user would spend $647 annually on marijuana. The potential tax revenue is estimated to be $46.7 billion. In a time when state and local governments are scrambling to find the money to support vital services, that is a major consideration. In addition, a legal domestic pot industry will create thousands of jobs and help grow the economy.
It is very difficult to overdose on pot. That’s not true of legal drugs like alcohol. The number of deaths attributable to marijuana use are few. By contrast, deaths from smoking and alcohol abuse total in the hundreds of thousands each year. Given that history shows us that people are going to continue to smoke pot, it only makes good sense to legalize it. We will reap real benefits for health care, law enforcement and economic growth.