8 Reasons to Change Marijuana Laws

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Here are the top reasons to change marijuana laws on a federal level.

1. Prohibition has been a failure. Any claims that the war on drugs has been successful is completely unsupported by evidence. The government has tried to use criminal penalties for over 75 years, but ultimately the prohibition has failed to control the use and production of marijuana.

As of today, over 25 million people use marijuana every year, making it the largest cash crop in the United States (About Marijuana). Any notion that marijuana will be eliminated from this country or from the planet is more than wishful thinking—it’s a ludicrous fantasy.

2. It would decrease gang activities. It is common sense: The illegality of anything is going to make it more valuable than if it were legal. Marijuana’s illegality makes foreign cultivation and smuggling to the US an extremely profitable business for drug cartels and gangs. They send billions into the underground economy of other counties who may be hostile to the US.

This also goes for domestic drug dealing, as well. Though the use of alcohol and tobacco remain serious health problems, even though they are legal, the availability of these two drugs gives people less incentive to sell them on the black market. If the sale of pot were legal, then teenagers would face more difficulty making easy money off of selling it to their friends and peers.

3. Legalizing marijuana is safer for the general public. According to history, regulation correlates to public safety. Take, for example, the restaurant industry, which have to be inspected for health violations, or pharmaceutical companies, who have to submit their products to the FDA for testing. The marijuana industry would work the same way. Regulating marijuana would displace the black market, making it harder for children to get the drug, while making it easier to hold specific pot dealers more accountable for foul play, ensuring consumers get quality products without harmful additives.

4. It’s a valuable agricultural commodity. Changing marijuana laws could lead to billions of dollars in tax revenue. The induction of Colorado’s Amendment 64 brought in more than $30 million of taxable revenue for their budget (Kreps, 2015). If California taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana, it could raise annual revenue by $1.4 billion. If marijuana is legalized federally, the marijuana industry could potentially be three times bigger than the NFL, which could all be taxed, saving the US $13.7 billion a year (Pot Legalization Could Save U.S. $13.7 Billion Per Year, 300 Economists Say, 2012).

Even if recreational marijuana use was not legalized, the US is still missing a golden opportunity to support legal hemp cultivation—like Canada and Europe. It is also important to develop hemp as a bio-fuel source, as a way of reducing carbon emissions. Hemp stalks will also not increase demand and prices for food, like corn does.

5. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. Testing has shown that using marijuana is significantly safer than drinking alcohol. In fact, for every thousand regular alcohol drinkers there are eight more trips to the E.R than for every thousand marijuana users. In other words, you are 30 percent more likely to be sent to the E.R. for alcohol than marijuana. It is an established scientific fact that overdosing off of marijuana is nearly impossible. Marijuana is also not as addictive as alcohol or tobacco (Ingraham, 2014).

6. Marijuana is costing our court system. On average, over 750,000 thousand individuals get arrested for marijuana possession every year (Uniform Crime Report, 2010). The responsibilities of law enforcement are too great to focus on marijuana offenders, and it is far too expensive for our justice system to dispose each one of these cases—as it wastes space, clogs up the court systems, and diverts time away from attorneys, judges, and corrections officials. Their attention would be better spent on cases involving violent crimes and terrorism. What’s more, taxing marijuana would provide the money needed to fund important criminal justice and social programs.

7. Marijuana can heal. Though for decades the prohibition on marijuana has hampered serious scientific study into the risks and health benefits of marijuana, there is substantial evidence that it can actually alleviate many medical disorders, such as:

    • Pain: 70-80% of patients experienced pain relief when using medical marijuana (Chronic Pain Treatment and Management with Medical Marijuana).
    • Glaucoma: Marijuana lowers intraocular pressure, and decreases damage to the optic nerve.
    • Epileptic Seizures: Cannabinoids control seizures by binding to the brain cells responsible for controlling excitability and regulating relaxation.
    • Cancer: In some studies, cannabidiol has been shown to stop cancer by turning off a gene called Id-1.
    • Alzheimer’s Disease: Studies have found that THC, the active chemical in marijuana, slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques are what kill brain cells and cause Alzheimer’s (Lisa M. Eubanks, 2008).
    • Inflammatory Bowl Disease: University of Nottingham researchers found that chemicals in marijuana, including THC and cannabidiol, interact with cells in the body that play an important role in gut function and immune responses.
    • Anxiety: Studies suggest that some of the drug’s benefits may actually improve the smoker’s mood and act as a sedative in low doses.
    • Improving Lung Health: In a study, tobacco smokers lost lung function over time, but pot smokers actually showed an increase in lung capacity (Goodman).

8. Legalization is inevitable. Already, four states and Washington D.C. allow recreational marijuana use, while 19 states allow it for medical purposes, and 14 have decriminalized it. Alaska, Oregon, Washington and are already in the process of introducing a model whereby marijuana can be legally sold, taxed and regulated.

In the 19 states where medical marijuana is legal, regulation varies so widely concerning the criteria for acquiring a medical marijuana card that it ultimately assumes a quasi-legal status. Like with medical marijuana, states that decriminalized marijuana vary a great deal in their laws as well. In the 14 states that have decriminalized marijuana, the penalties have softened so much that the courts are often limiting or eliminating prison time and opting for fines instead.

In addition to that, support for a change in marijuana laws towards legalization has steadily increased, with recent polls showing that over 58% of the country (Swift).

About Marijuana. (n.d.). Retrieved from NORML Foundation: http://norml.org/aboutmarijuana

Chronic Pain Treatment and Management with Medical Marijuana. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.medicalmarijuana.net: http://www.medicalmarijuana.net/uses-and-treatments/chronic-pain/

Goodman, B. (n.d.). Marijuana Smoking Not Linked to Chronic Breathing Problems. Retrieved from www.webmd.com: http://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20120103/marijuana-smoking-not-linked_to-chronic-breathing-problems

Ingraham, C. (2014, July 31). The federal government’s own statistics show that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/07/31/the-federal-governments-own-statistics-show-that-marijuana-is-safer-than-alcohol/

Kreps, D. (2015, January 30). Colorado May Pay Residents Over Excess Marijuana Revenue. Retrieved from www.rollingstone.com: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/colorado-may-pay-residents-over-excess-marijuana-revenue-20150130

Lisa M. Eubanks, C. J. (2008, October 6). A Molecular Link Between the Active Component of Marijuana Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2562334/

Pot Legalization Could Save U.S. $13.7 Billion Per Year, 300 Economists Say. ( 2012, April 17). Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/economists-marijuana-legalization_n_1431840.html

Swift, A. (n.d.). For First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana. Retrieved from www.gallup.com: http://www.gallup.com/poll/165539/first-time-americans-favor-legalizing-marijuana.aspx

Uniform Crime Report. (2010). Retrieved from www.fbi.gov: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/persons-arrested