Since 1998, medical authorities including the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences have documented marijuana's unique ability to relieve both intractable pain and nausea."
We're in the Money
The prohibition of marijuana costs American taxpayers a fortune, in the tens of billions per year, much of which is channeled toward the cost of law enforcement and incarceration (Beatty, Holman & Schiraldi). Prominent economists including Milton Friedman point out that "Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year," ("Costs of Marijuana Prohibition"). In addition to the accruement of costs associated with law enforcement, prohibition of marijuana, like the prohibition of alcohol, gives credence to a vast underground economy. The black market trade in marijuana takes away potential tax revenues that could be diverted toward social service programs including addiction recovery.
Moreover, the proliferation of criminal elements in the underground drug trade further increases financial and social costs associated with prohibition. Black market traders often use violence as a means of protecting their business interests, requiring the intervention of special task forces. Although most marijuana-related incarcerations do not involve violence, the underground marijuana drug trade necessitates the creation of profitable yet often violent-ridden criminal organizations. The prohibition of marijuana directly bolsters the black market in America and abroad; furthermore, the association between marijuana and violence is artificial and supported by government policy. As with the prohibition of alcohol, marijuana prohibition may be increasing the rates of violent crimes in America because of the introduction of organized crime into the equation. "America had experienced a gradual decline in the rate of serious crimes over much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. That trend was unintentionally reversed by the efforts of the Prohibition movement," (Thornton).
The prohibition on marijuana is at heart un-American, an affront on common sense, reason, scientific evidence, and civil liberties. One of the main reasons to repeal the prohibition on marijuana either at the state or federal level is to help create the "more perfect union" alluded to in the opening sentence of the American Constitution. Though the United States is not entirely a libertarian state, the foundation of its political and social ideology is essentially about individual rights, freedoms, and liberties. The Marijuana Legalization Organization states that "Responsible individuals in a free society should be allowed to choose whether or not they use marijuana. Individual liberty is a fundamental value," ("Why Should Marijuana Be Legal?"). If marijuana does have proven medical benefits and if the only violence associated with marijuana stems from its being a top part of organized crime syndicates' revenues then cannabis should be legal. Keeping marijuana illegal in light of its medicinal benefits is alone outlandish. More importantly, the fact that non-violent marijuana offences have ruined the lives of millions of poor and disenfranchised persons throughout the nation indicates that prohibition has become a serious social problem, an insult to the values and principles upon which the nation was founded.
Tough-on-drugs policies that began with Nixon and culminated with President Reagan have served only to increase incarceration rates especially among African-American youth and high incarceration rates have led to not lower but higher rates of drug use (Beatty, Holman & Schiraldi). Like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition simply does not work. Taxpayer dollars are wasted on promoting the war on drugs, which is also costing Americans their civil liberties and their right to find relief for pain and discomfort.
Marijuana is, above all, a plant. The drug is not synthetic, not processed using toxic solvents, and has never been known to cause an overdose. Banning a weed outright seems preposterous and yet the American government has for nearly a century clamped down on the recreational use of marijuana, classifying it among the most harmful narcotic substances known. Americans have access to a wide range of potentially deadly substances including alcohol, which is responsible for countless deaths every year due to overdoses or long-term abuse. Ordinary household cleaners contain chemicals more harmful than THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. If the American public retains the right to choose which chemicals to spray on their kitchen counters or how many drinks to have after work, then they also must possess the right to choose whether or not they want to grow and possess marijuana for personal consumption. Reworking marijuana laws would mean decriminalizing small-scale growth and possession of the plant: thereby driving out the criminal elements of distribution and sales. Regulation of the drug could follow similar laws that are currently in place for alcohol, which is not available to minors and which is taxed and regulated on a state-by-state basis.
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