The movement to legalize marijuana certainly has many obstacles to overcome before it can ever come to fruition nationally. This makes sense; however, many other arguments regarding the legalization of marijuana in this article do not. The argument that marijuana’s effects are more minor than the effects of alcohol and cigarettes is justifiable when examining the evidence. Not only has alcohol been linked to 75,000 U.S. deaths a year, but the addictiveness of nicotine has been compared to that of heroin. Also, the Marijuana Law Reform website provides information on various state laws concerning marijuana, and in Ohio, possession of less than 100 grams amounts to a civil citation and a $100 fine. The fine does not include court costs, which can often amount to thousands of dollars, as well as time spent in diversion programs and emotional stress. That is certainly more than a “slap on the wrist” as the author believes and as it may have been in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Though Ohio’s drug laws regarding marijuana don’t include jail time, plenty of other state’s drug laws do. For example, if you’re arrested in Pennsylvania for possession of less than 30 grams, you are subject to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. In Texas, if you get caught with two ounces or less, you can be sentenced to 180 days of incarceration and a $2,000 fine. This is not “little more than a slap on the wrist” for possessing a drug which once grew on the sides of the road in the south. Consider the Human Rights Watch report that concluded that outdated drug policies are the “primary responsibility for the quadrupling of the (U.S.) national prison population since 1980 and a soaring incarceration rate, the highest among western democracies.” Also, since housing one inmate for one year can cost between $18,000 and $31,000 annually, or $33 per day for the average prisoner, the argument that making marijuana legal would not lessen the burden on taxpayers is preposterous.
Dave Bewley-Taylor, Chris Hallam and Rob Allen put together an enlightening report on the effects of outdated drug laws. This report, titled “The Incarceration of Drug Offenders: An Overview,” has a substantial three pages of references to back up its findings. According to it, in 2005 there was a record 1.8 million arrests for drug possession, 81.7% of which were for possession and 42.6% of which were for marijuana. The authors note that research has revealed that most incarcerated, non-violent drug offenders are dealers from the lower end of the drug-dealing chain, undermining the argument that the legal system focuses mainly on large-scale operations that produce and supply marijuana.
Legalizing medical marijuana, particularly for those with such terrible diseases and disorders as leukemia, multiple sclerosis, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is of utmost importance. But equally important is the environmental stability that industrial hemp could allow, and whether you like pot or not, there are undeniable benefits to making it legal that all hinge on American values: medicine for the sick, relief for taxpayers and a fairer justice system.
In conclusion, here is a quote from the late master of comedic and philosophical musings, Bill Hicks: “It’s not a war on drugs, it’s a war on personal freedom. Keep that in mind at all times, thanks.”
Lisa Burkhart is a junior integrated language arts major and guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]