Should marijuana be legalized?
Weed all about it.
The legalization of marijuana is one of the more prevalent and divisive issues in the current political climate. Its illegality (in most places) is seen by many to be an infringement on our rights as citizens of a free country. To others such as Bill O’Reilly, the reason marijuana is illegal is clear: We have to think about the kids! With such hot button topics as gay-marriage and abortion, where does marijuana stand? Well, here are the facts.
The marijuana plant, also known as hemp, was grown in the first English colonies for the manufacturing of rope, clothing and paper. In fact, the Virginia Assembly passed a law in 1619 requiring farmers to grow hemp, and it was used in several colonies as legal tender. It wasn’t until 1937 when Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act that marijuana became fully criminalized.
Now, marijuana is classified by the Federal Government as a Schedule I drug. This means it has no known medical benefits, is unsafe and has a high potential for abuse. It is also in the same category as heroin, LSD and MDMA, and is considered worse than cocaine and methamphetamine, both of which are Schedule II drugs. Clearly marijuana is not something to be messed with.
However, marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The first written record of medicinal marijuana is from the Chinese in 2737 B.C. Cannabis sativa, a specific genus of marijuana, is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Today, marijuana is used to treat symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, general pain, glaucoma, epilepsy and a variety of other conditions. In the U.S., 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, while Colorado and Washington have even legalized marijuana for recreational use.
In 2013, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that 76 percent of the world’s doctors approve the use of medicinal marijuana by reviewing responses by 1,446 doctors from 72 countries and 56 states and provinces in North America. If a majority of the professional medical community are in favor of using medicinal marijuana when necessary, why does the Federal government and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) so feverishly oppose its use?
To be honest, we aren’t sure. What we are sure about is that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, meaning out of every country in the world the U.S. is the best at sending its citizens to prison. This fact is largely due to its drug policies. In 2012, 1.55 million people were arrested on non-violent drug charges, 749,825 of those being for marijuana (88 percent of marijuana arrests were for possession with no intent to sell).
In the first two months of 2014, Colorado collected $6.17 million in tax revenue from legal marijuana sales, and is expected to receive about $98 million in this fiscal year. Additionally, Colorado has pledged $40 million in tax revenue from marijuana to its public school system. Imagine the benefits our country’s public school system could receive if every other state did the same.
All these facts and figures create a very clear message in our minds: marijuana should be legalized for medicinal use with a doctor’s recommendation and it should be legalized recreationally. To quote the wise words of poet and philosopher John Mayer, “Who says I can’t get stoned?”