Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

PXHERE | PHOTO COURTESY
Isn’t this a beautiful plant.

Last week I was walking through the Memorial Union. I passed by the tables next to the coffee shop and a poster caught my eye. It read “Should Marijuana be Legalized?” and there was a piece of paper below that said “Vote now.” So I casted a vote and moved on with my day. It got me thinking, however. I thought about how I should write a piece on my opinion regarding Marijuana. A vague and broadly discussed topic, I know, but I think it’s worth it to discuss.

There are currently nine states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. There are many more that have legalized it for medical use only, but that’s not what we’re looking for. It’s all about the recreational use. At the rate we’re going, it looks like marijuana could be legalized in over half the states in as little as five years (give or take). Given this, it really doesn’t make sense why they don’t legalize it altogether.

Recreational drugs are illegal for a number of reasons. They cause violence among people, as well as addiction. They can transform people for the worse, not to mention the damaging effects they have on your body. They can potentially kill you through overdose, which we have seen many times, especially with celebrities. However, marijuana doesn’t really fall in any of these categories. There’s no evidence that marijuana has caused violence within a person. Along with this, there are no confirmed deaths from a marijuana overdose. I think this is a big fact. Marijuana doesn’t have the same damaging effects on your body as other illegal drugs. There have been athletes that have played, and excelled, while smoking marijuana. You don’t see an athlete snort up a line of coke during the season. I’m not saying it’s great, but it definitely shouldn’t be classified as a hard drug.

Some people will argue that it’s a gateway drug. A gateway drug is defined as a habit-forming drug that, while not itself addictive, may lead to the use of other addictive drugs. Personally, I don’t buy into this claim. I feel like it’s more of a personal decision to carry onto stronger drugs. I don’t think marijuana itself causes someone to want to experiment with harder drugs. If one were to try a hard drug for the first time, there would have to be other outside factors influencing the decision. These factors could be anything, such as peer pressure, environment, family situation, etc. Bottom line, I don’t believe marijuana causes the urge to use other drugs.

I think it’s a good idea to compare marijuana to alcohol. Alcohol has been legal since the end of the Prohibition era (which was damn near 100 years ago). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 88,000 deaths per year in the United States relating to alcohol. That’s 88,000 more deaths per year than marijuana. Despite this, alcohol remains legal while marijuana is still illegal. To me, this doesn’t make sense. Why would a drug that kills thousands of people each year remain legal and a drug that hasn’t killed anyone remain prohibited? It’s obvious you are much more likely to crash while driving drunk. While it’s similar to when under the influence of marijuana, it’s not to the extent of driving drunk. Still, driving high does increase your chance to crash. This is why I think they should treat marijuana like alcohol. It should be illegal to drive under the influence of it, but not illegal altogether.

There is supposedly a positive correlation between marijuana use and lower standards of living. I believe this only to be true in heavy marijuana smokers, however. Obviously, there are exceptions too. Not everyone who smokes has a lower standard of living. You could argue that because, like marijuana, alcohol is a depressant, it would give you the same “lower living standards.” This also ties into everyone making their own decisions. Even if the correlation is true, people have choices.

We also need to realize that not everyone smokes on a regular basis. Some people just want to let off some steam after a long day. Many people do this by drinking, but marijuana could offer a “better” alternative. By better, I mean it takes less of a toll on your body. You don’t consume empty calories when smoking marijuana. You also don’t damage your liver and increase the risk of common diseases such as cirrhosis. Sure, it’s not the best way to deal with stress, but neither is drinking and people do it anyway.

If anything, alcohol should be illegal and marijuana should be legal. I’m not trying to ban alcohol; I just want people to realize how much worse it is for you compared to marijuana.

Even if marijuana doesn’t get legalized, people are still going to do it anyway. That being said, there’s really no reason not to legalize it. I’m not encouraging the use of either alcohol or marijuana by any means, but I am suggesting that marijuana being illegal doesn’t really add up. I’m anxious to see the future revolving around this issue.  

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