Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Prop 19 and 203 should have passed

The defeat of Prop 19 and Prop 203 in California and Arizona respectively was a big upset to people like me who strongly believe in the legalization of the plant.

In Arizona, similar measures have been on the ballot 4 times in the last couple of decades. In 1996, a measure approving the use of medical marijuana was passed with %65.4 of the vote, but the state legislature prevented it from becoming law. In 1998, a ballot proposition that would have made it was rejected that would have required congress/FDA to restrict medical marijuana to those who were prescribed it. In 2002, voters rejected yet another proposition to legalize small amounts of marijuana and and give it freely to patients with certain diseases. Finally, prop 203 would have made it legal for seriously ill patients to freely use marijuana with a prescription.

In California, prop 19 would have made it legal to possess marijuana for recreational use, including the growing and selling of the plant.

Here's why marijuana should be legalized entirely:
  1. Unlike the hard drugs, and even alcohol and tobacco, there has never been a single death in history that was caused by the smoking of marijuana (by itself). Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (d9-THC) is simply not toxic enough to kill a human being, in any possible concentration (a concentration that could actually be achieved by smoking it).
  2. Marijuana does not increase the chance of lung cancer. There are some carcinogens in the smoke, but because marijuana users typically smoke MUCH less often then tobacco smokers, they inhale much less smoke over time. There no connection between the actual marijuana and lung cancer: that is simply the property of smoke. It does paralyze the cilia in the mucociliary escalator, giving an effect similar to smokers cough. Once again, that is caused by the fact that you are inhaling burning plant matter, and is not a property of d9-THC. It has also been observed that marijuana does not cause the obstruction of airways in the lungs, indicating that it is not a factor in emphysema.
  3. Unlike alcohol, marijuana does not cause brain damage; there has never been a study that suggests otherwise. Going along with this, there is also no evidence that shows marijuana causing mental illness, amotivational disorders, or impairing memory and cognitive function.
  4. Marijuana is not addictive, nor is it dependency forming. Users who smoke marijuana for long periods of time and then stop do not experience the same withdrawal symptoms that, say, smokers or alcoholics do.
  5. Marijuana is not a gateway drug, much like milk is not a gateway drink to alcohol. What causes people to move up to harder drugs for the most part is the blending of the hard and soft drug markets that only exists because of prohibition.
  6. Marijuana does not cause crime. The smoking of it does not lead people to commit more crimes under its influence. Studies done with marijuana show that d9-THC does not increase aggression, but rather calms the user. Crime associated with marijuana, or any drug for that matter, is the result of its illegality and the high prices associated with it. People steal because they need money because drugs are expensive, and so on.
  7. Marijuana does have some medicinal value. It can be used to alleviate pain, nausea, loss of appetite, muscle spasticity (in the case of multiple sclerosis), intraocular pressure (in the cause of glaucoma), and many others. It is not capable of, however, treating any disease. You will not cure MS or glaucoma with it, but you can alleviate symptoms. Pure d9-THC has been shown in studies to produce unwanted psychoactive effects, which is why it is better if the marijuana is smoked rather than taken in pill form.
  8. Marijuana does not impair the immune system
  9. Marijuana does not cause birth defects
  10. You cannot overdose on d9-THC
  11. While the number of hospital incidents involving marijuana are increasing, it is not due to the properties of marijuana. If a person admitted to a hospital claims to have used marijuana, that is noted whether or not it contributed to the condition, accounting for the increase.
  12. Marijuana is not a major cause of roadway accidents. In high doses, marijuana can impair motor function. However, unlike alcohol, which makes people riskier drivers, studies have shown that marijuana users tend to be more paranoid and slow while driving due to the effects of the drug. This sets the stage for the stereotypical marijuana user driving under 10 mph on the freeway. In part, that stereotype is true.
  13. If taxed correctly, marijuana could provide a serious boost to states with budget problems. California, for example, was projected to make nearly 1.3 billion dollars a year through the taxation of marijuana.
  14. Hemp is extremely durable. It grows very quickly, much like bamboo, and has a wide variety of industrial uses. It can be used to make clothes, paper, etc. It is also cheaper, and requires less land than tree farms because the plant grows much quicker than a tree.
So, what about the effects of having it illegal?
  1. Prohibition creates black markets that are free of a regulatory system (a private one, according to my beliefs). This means a few things. Children, especially teenagers, have much more access to the drug because drug dealers do not card.
  2. Because there is no regulatory framework, the only way to settle disputes is through violence. If the substance is illegal, you can't sue them if you get ripped off. You can, however, shoot them.
  3. Prohibition artificially inflates the value of marijuana, creating huge profits for the people who own the production of it (usually gangs). The potential for profit is so high that people are willing to fight for control of territory, etc. This is the biggest reason for the existence of the big drug cartels in south america.
  4. Prohibition prevents many people who have been convicted for simple possession from going to college because they can't get federal student aid. A person convicted of homicide, however, can.
  5. The massive amount of drug-related arrests has caused overpopulation in the prison system, which means that some criminals get expedited sentences. It also means that the government has to resort to private prisons, who lobby for longer sentencing for simpler crimes. Longer sentencing = more money.
  6. The war on drugs costs the federal government 40 billion tax dollars.
The last argument is a moral argument. Marijuana is a plant, and in a free society you should have the ability to make your own decision as to what substances enter your body. If you pose a legitimate threat to society because of your actions, i.e. you drink or smoke marijuana and drive, then government has the right to step in and arrest you. Until then, the smoking of marijuana harms no one and gives no reason to be prohibited. It's hard to cut through the rhetoric, but once you do it becomes amazingly clear that marijuana prohibition is a colossal failure.

Remember 1920. History repeats itself.

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