Should Marijuana Be Illegal?

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Apr 21, 2001.

  1. By Erik Dunham
    Source: Daily O'Collegian

    Well, it's April 20th once again. Protesters are gathering at the Capitol and Hemp Week at Oklahoma State is drawing to a close. I remember when I first heard about the yearly “4-20” lobbying. I said, “Do they really think Oklahoma is going to consider marijuana legalization legislation?”
    After considerable thought and research this year, I've come to the realization that they have a good point, and the demonstration at the Capitol is at least a step in the right direction, even if it doesn't get results in the foreseeable future.

    What kind of research might have lead me to this line of thought? No, not first-hand experimentation. I read articles on the issue. I read a lot of them. Today, I'm just going to tell you some important findings so that maybe you'll better understand what the fuss is about rather than thinking of it as selfish pot-head nonsense.

    First of all, how did marijuana become illegal in the first place? I'm glad that you asked. See, it all started around the 1920s. The jazz scene became an avenue for the popularization of smoking marijuana.

    As America became more aware of this sensation, it became associated with minorities. Racism was much more popular in those days and people liked to look for a reason to keep it strong. Marijuana became one of these reasons.

    Blacks and Hispanics were often pointed out as adding to the degradation of society. If people then associated “devil's weed” with these groups, it could add to their justification. Marijuana use was soon equated with violent crime and moral corruption, all in the name of good old-fashioned racism. Some sources say that other factors such as hemp's exceptional value in the textile and paper industries also came into play around this same time. Competition with big industry plus racist propaganda equals prohibition in this case. Congress passed the “Marihuana Tax of 1937” which, in effect, made the sale and use of the substance highly finable.

    Now here we are today with police running around enforcing the rather unsubstantiated illegalization of the narcotic. Well, that's understandable, but it adds to a bigger problem. A lot of these arrests lead to prison time, but prison time means prison space and taxpayer money.

    The U.S. prison population today is more than 2 million, a greater combined population than Alaska, North Dakota and South Dakota. With a cost of around $25,000 per year per inmate in a federal prison, that's a lot of taxpayer money.

    That's OK, though, because we're getting murderers and rapists out of circulation, right? During Clinton's term, marijuana arrests saw a 60 percent increase. And while we allocate all this money to take care of the ridiculously high inmate population, other publicly funded institutions (such as schools) see meager funding increases.

    So which is more beneficial to society - legalizing marijuana and gearing prison funding more toward violent criminals or keeping these drug offenders locked up while school funding continues to squeak by?

    Perhaps the idea of legalizing a “drug” offends you. I did a lot of research into side effects as well. Marijuana most likely leads to the same types of lung problems as cigarettes. That's pretty much it. It could lead to behavioral changes, but mostly in the area of motivation, not violence.

    Studies have shown that a drunken driver is much more of a threat to public safety than a “high” driver, but alcohol is legal. If the prohibition is dropped, will society go down the tubes? Will the United States turn into a bunch of pot-heads and exhaust our food resources? Actually, not much would change, except that we'd have less people in prison and less drug dealers.

    I've only touched on a few of the many reasons why the current legal status of marijuana should be reversed. Sadly, an opinion column is not long enough to paint the full picture. In fact, I can only present about one-hundredth the amount of information I dug up in researching this issue and that's just what I printed out.

    It may seem like a radical idea, but its not just because some hippies don't want to get arrested. New Mexico's governor Gary Johnson and even Dan Quayle have presented this same view. It makes a lot of sense in terms of the overall benefits to society.

    I ask you to open your minds to this, if only for today. Forego today's nap and get on the Internet. Look at some of the different sides of this issue for an hour.

    Supporting legalization does not mean you support smoking. You can support the legal status of cigarettes and still think it's a horrible habit. You may say, “Even if I love this idea, it won't make a single difference.”

    Every person counts, just look at what happened to the last presidential election. Sign an online petition at a site like NORML or even a paper petition with OSU's “Students for Sensible Drug Policy” organization.

    Whether you take a stand or just see where someone else is standing, you'll at least have learned something. Open your minds this Friday and have a happy April 20.

    Erik Dunham is a Chemical Engineering Senior from Ponca City.

    Source: Daily O'Collegian (OK)
    Author: Erik Dunham
    Published: Friday, April 20, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 Oklahoma State University

    Related Articles & Web Sites:


    Students For Sensible Drug Policy

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