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Friday, February 04, 2005

Pot: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!

I found this piece tonight as I was browsing through some old writings. I'm pretty sure i wrote it a couple of years ago for an assignment to write an essay on current events. I thought you might enjoy it. I hope I'm right. :)

“It’s the way I believe. It’s my core values.” This statement is given by Wes Stephensen, a voter in Las Vegas, and is quoted by Ed Vogel in an article entitled “State Votes to Reject Legalizing Marijuana.” The statement by Stephensen is made in response to a question concerning Question 9, a ballot proposition in Nevada that would legalize marijuana, and is published in the Nevada Review-Journal. That statement sums up the blind march that continues to work to keep sick people in pain here in the United States, the jails overcrowded, and the televisions flooded with lies. Question 9 would have allowed adults to possess as much as three ounces of marijuana. The initiative failed with 61 percent of voters opposing the issue. Notwithstanding this defeat, the fight to decriminalize marijuana wages on, and marijuana will eventually be legalized. Granted, there are problems with legalization. But the positives outweigh the negatives. If marijuana were legalized, it would be available to help those who need it for pain management, and, furthermore, the jails would become less crowded, and there would be no more danger involved than that which already exists from alcohol and tobacco.

There are many hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, who suffer from chronic pain. Cancer, AIDS, and many other health problems can cause chronic pain. There are many of these people who cannot find relief through the use of traditional medicine. Their only respite is marijuana. There is no good argument that marijuana is more dangerous or addictive than the stronger prescription narcotics available. It is immoral to restrain those in chronic pain, many also terminally ill, from the only relief they can find. It is immoral to say that they are breaking the law simply by trying to cope, without causing any injury to other’s persons or property.

Of course, they are jailed, and jailed at an alarming rate. In several states, a first offender can get up to five years in prison. Under federal law, possessing a single marijuana cigarette or less is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine, the same penalty as possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine or crack. Considering the fact that marijuana use does not significantly correlate to other crimes being committed by the user, these penalties are absurd. Beyond that, suppose fairness is no issue. It is common knowledge that the prisons here in America are beyond overcrowded. The penal system is being stretched to the breaking point. Sixty thousand individuals are behind bars for marijuana offenses at a cost to taxpayers of $1.2 billion per year. Yet, the government deems it necessary to jail thousands of more people per year, simply for possessing small amounts of a plant. A plant that, by all accounts, is all but harmless.

If one were to listen only to the anti-drug propaganda on the television and radio, one would believe that marijuana kills, that one joint will make that person stupid, that trying pot will make that person want to inject heroin. Nowhere in these ads, paid for by the alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drug companies by the way, is there much truth to be found. A common misconception is that marijuana is very dangerous to one’s health. Well, according to prestigious medical journals, the smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. It would be, then, reasonable to judge cannabis to be no more of a threat than alcohol or tobacco. The fact is well known of the many thousands of people killed by alcohol and tobacco related accidents or health problems. Deaths due to marijuana use are very rare, limited only to cases of one’s doing something dangerous, driving for instance, while intoxicated. In most years, the number of deaths associated with marijuana may be counted on one hand. Concerning the “marijuana is the fuse” argument, The National Academy of Sciences finds there to be no conclusive evidence that marijuana use is directly linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. The opinions of the anti-marijuana crusaders seem to be quickly running out of steam.

Marijuana is a drug. It has negative side affects, as well as positive ones. The issue of marijuana decriminalization and legislation should not be taken lightly. However, the current legislation seems rather barbaric and myopic, considering the arguments now coming from all sides. From the hippy communities of San Francisco and New York to the National Science Foundation and Health Canada, there is urging for the decriminalization of marijuana. No group or individual of note is saying that the government should take a laissez faire attitude with cannabis. It is a drug and should be regulated and watched. But, to prosecute the terminally ill for trying to make life bearable is to take a step back in the march toward compassion.

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