Considering economics a good start
Someone is arrested for a marijuana offense every 36 seconds, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Of those arrests, a whopping 89 percent are for possession, not sale or trafficking.
As organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws work to reform marijuana laws, the legalization of the third most popular recreational drug in the United States - second to tobacco and alcohol - becomes a hot topic.
Why legalize? There are plenty of benefits to reap if the organization of reform and the policy project achieve their goals.
Keeping marijuana illegal is expensive. America's war on drugs spends billions of dollars each year. The president requested $14.1 billion for the budget this year, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Arresting 750,000 people per year for marijuana possession throws away large amounts of money to jail individuals with minimal offenses. Doing so wastes jail space and takes time away from the prosecution of more serious crimes.
There are more drug-related arrests in the U.S. each year than for all violent crimes combined, according to the FBI's annual study titled "Crime in the United States." If marijuana was legalized much less, money would be poured into the war on drugs and could be put towards other government projects.
Legalizing the drug would also make money for the government. Cannabis is currently the largest cash crop in the U.S. If legalized, it would also become a taxable product.
Many legalization supporters claim that marijuana is safe. Marijuana is not toxic to humans and overdose is almost impossible. Chance of addiction is slim compared to alcohol and tobacco.
British medical journal, The Lancet, even vouches that marijuana is not harmful to human health.
Less than one in 10 people who smoke marijuana become regular users and most voluntarily give up their smoking habits after age 34, according to the Institute of Medicine.
The institute also found that observable withdrawal symptoms don't occur often and have only been observed in limited patient settings like substance abuse treatment facilities or settings where the patients were given the drug daily.
Withdrawal symptoms are mild and usually do not re-initiate use of the drug.
If for no other reason, marijuana should be legalized because prohibition isn't working.
When alcohol was prohibited, use continued. This works the same way for marijuana. It can't be determined whether prohibition actually decreases the use of the drug or not.
More often than not it is even easier for underage kids to obtain marijuana than alcohol because there is no age limit for use. A drug dealer isn't going to card you.
Alcohol is regulated by the government to keep it away from children. The same principle could easily be applied to marijuana.
Why legalize? The benefits are pretty obvious.
September 15, 2009
University of Nebraska at Omaha Gateway