Letter to the Editor:
Marijuana should be decriminalized and fully legalized. I am almost 25 years old and have grown up my whole life being told that marijuana is a powerful and dangerous substance that only lesser, weaker, criminal people use. It is only recently that I was able to look at the facts objectively and see if what I have been taught can stand on its own feet. Cannabis is rated as a Schedule 1 substance which is reserved for drugs that have no useful purpose, including medically. They also hold the highest punishments for any offense of the law. How is it that a drug that has not killed anyone is ranked as dangerous as heroin and LSD? Lets consider a few things:
Alcohol has had a history similar to marijuana. A prohibition was enforced and it was essentially overturned by the will of the people. Each year, tens of thousands of people die in alcohol related deaths, whether it be from overconsumption or driving drunk. That being said it is figured that roughly half of all Americans drink alcohol. That is an exceptional amount of users, who, for the most part, drink responsibly. How is it that alcohol, which kills people and destroys lives, is legal, while marijuana is illegal? Not only is it illegal but it is somehow looked upon as a morally wrong thing to enjoy. Alcohol also is much more likely to cause violence or addictive behavior than marijuana. Recent studies actually show health benefits whereas alcohol has no benefit to your body at all. This is not a new argument but it is a very valid comparison.
Because marijuana was placed as a Schedule 1 substance, practically no research has been allowed on any potential benefits of its use, until recently. This has allowed the "reefer madness" propaganda concept to fester and stagnate for 30 years longer than it should. Recent studies have shown a myriad of health benefits in diseases and illnesses including: cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, chronic pain relief, and many more things. Another consideration is the deadly and addictive effects of prescription drugs, which also have a much higher chance of abuse than marijuana. Drugs such as Oxycontin and Xanax are widely abused.
Back in 1971, Richard Nixon and the Controlled Substances Act, initiated The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to objectively study marijuana abuse in the United States. While the Controlled Substances Act was being drafted in a House committee in 1970, Assistant Secretary of Health Roger O. Egeberg had recommended that marijuana temporarily be placed in Schedule I, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending the Commission's report. On March 22, 1972, the Commission's chairman, Raymond P. Shafer, presented a report to Congress and the public entitled "Marijuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding," which favored ending marijuana prohibition and adopting other methods to discourage use. Despite the recommendation of the commission, NIixon did not implement any change and left marijuana in the most restrictive classification available. This marks the beginning of the failed "war on drugs", which has cost us (taxpayers) over a trillion dollars.
So, in closing, it is very obvious to me that something needs to change. Our stance on marijuana as a country has been ineffective and ruined more lives than it has helped. I do not use marijuana but I have seen people's lives affected on a deep level from the being subjected to the court system for simply possessing a plant. How much would we save as a country each year by freeing up our overcrowded prisons for non-violent offenders that simply smoke cannabis? How much would our economy thrive from allowing industrial hemp (non psychoactive) and marijuana to be sold, regulated, and taxed like alcohol? Time will tell because we are headed in that direction. It's time to think about this issue for yourself. Look at the facts. Do your own research. Marijuana is harmless compared to alcohol, tobacco, and legal prescription drugs that millions of people use everyday without hesitation. I look forward to seeing our country mature and grow into this next phase of personal freedom and responsibility.
If you live in Tennessee, we currently have a petition to end marijuana prohibition in Tennessee. Please help move this process along.
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