It is time for legal marijuana

It is time for legal marijuana

By Calvin Warner

http://current.com/1h55skc#

Opinion Columnist

Published: Friday, April 13, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 13, 2012 00:04

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Since 1937, marijuana has been an illegal substance in the United States. But in recent years, this ancient taboo has begun to crumble. Sixteen states plus Washington D.C. have legalized some form of cannabis for medicinal use.

Marijuana has been shown to be a legitimate relief for many kinds of pain, and can be used by elderly people suffering from terminal diseases. I would encourage other states to consider legalizing medicinal marijuana. But I also think that the legalization of marijuana even for recreational use is something that should be on the table. Some politicians, all the way up to Presidential candidate Ron Paul, have shown sympathy to efforts seeking to lift some restrictions on the drug.

Alcohol is legal and is far more dangerous both to the user and to others, as drunk drivers take to the roads or as a drunken person gets violent.

Cigarettes are legal as well. It is not possible to fatally overdose on marijuana, and it is very rare that you hear about a person high on marijuana doing anything uncharacteristically aggressive. There are more deaths annually from aspirin overdoses than from marijuana overdoses. It seems that we turn around and reject the same principles that we embraced to legalize alcohol and tobacco and that for some reason marijuana is a line we can’t cross.

I think that this cultural taboo is beginning to have destructive effects. Our prisons are full, especially compared to other nations around the world, and this is due in large part to “drug crimes” wherein an otherwise innocent young adult gets locked up for possession of marijuana.

We have less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but over 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The United States has more people in prison than Spain, Egypt, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, England, the Philippines, Vietnam, Poland, Thailand, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil, Iran, Pakistan and India combined.

Can you imagine how expensive this is?

And in prison, these otherwise law-abiding citizens are exposed to much more serious criminals and often come out worse than they went in, all funded by taxpayer dollars. Looking at the Uniform Crime Reports, drug crimes account for more arrests than any other crime.

Moreover, marijuana arrests are a majority of drug crime arrests.  If marijuana were legal, we could take a huge burden off of prisons and off of the taxpayer. The money could go to more important things, like paying down the deficit.

If marijuana were legal, seekers would not have to get involved with sketchy drug dealers, peddling harder substances. They would be less likely to be exposed to more serious drugs.

And perhaps best of all, we could tax and regulate marijuana for enormous government revenues while creating new jobs and businesses. This move would also weaken drug cartels that use illegal sales of marijuana as a huge source of income. We would be spending less on prisoners (states spend more money on each prisoner than they do on each public school student) and those free men would be working and paying taxes instead of sucking up tax payer funds in prison.

We could defund the DEA, saving even more government money. As we can see, the legalization of marijuana would be a big step toward national austerity.

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