How legalization could change the nation
Would it come as a surprise that at least one third of the U.S. population has at some point smoked one of the most common illegal drugs? Smoking weed is essentially a mainstream trend for young adults. Even the most influential celebrities — from artists like Lil’ Wayne and Willie Nelson to athletes like Michael Phelps to comedians like Seth Rogan — have confessed to smoking cannabis. Even President Barack Obama has openly admitted to previously inhaling marijuana.
How can the government still see prohibition as effective when some of the most influential figures in society are partaking in the illicit use of marijuana and public interest in the industry continues to grow?
According to research presented in Jon Gettman’s 2006 report of “Marijuana Production in the United States,” marijuana plays a prevalent role in our economy. Gettman is a leader of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis and a longtime contributor to High Times Magazine. He reveals that marijuana held the highest cash crop value in 2006, toppling over the combined value of wheat and corn, to a whopping 35.8 billion dollars. That translates to roughly over 20 million people in the United States smoking marijuana. The reality is that a lack of control from law enforcement has allowed the nation’s interest in marijuana to persist.
Since the Controlled Substance Act was passed in 1970, marijuana has been declared a Schedule I drug, meaning the drug rests on the same level as heroine and cocaine. In order to be placed on the Schedule I classification, a drug must have a high potential for abuse relative to other substances, must not currently have an accepted medical use and must lack accepted safety for use of the drug without medical supervision.
Larry Coleman is a qualified instructor for the Alcohol and Other Drugs Program (AoD Eye-Opener) led out of the Elyria, Ohio Police Department.
“I don’t believe in drugs being recreational, and when we use that term it is just a way of cleaning up the word ‘drug abuse.’ Addiction rewires my brain in favor of repeating the intoxicating experience,” Coleman said.
His outlook on marijuana as an addictive drug goes hand-in-hand with the opinions of many American citizens due to lack of information and available research. And even though the true effects of marijuana abuse on the brain have not yet been fully discovered, many scientific researchers hold the opinion that marijuana does not have a high risk of abuse any more than caffeine or alcohol.
“Physical dependence is rarely encountered in the usual patterns of social use, despite some degree of tolerance that may develop,” Leo Hollister, Veterans Administration Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif. said.
According to Hollister, marijuana does not pose a great threat to society, and therapeutic benefits can be gained from using medical cannabis. Sixteen states, as well as Washington, D.C., allow residents to attain a medical marijuana license.
The declassification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug is the first step on the long road to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
“It is a betrayal of the public trust to treat cannabis as if it has the same potential for abuse as heroin and cocaine,” Gettman stated in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.
In theory, illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroine are controlled by the prohibition of international suppliers. However, marijuana is produced through domestic and international cultivation, making it essentially impossible for law enforcement to obtain its exact origins of manufacture.
I propose a new system under the legalization of marijuana: The government would have some control over manufacturing, enabling the United States to gain an untapped source of revenue.
“Illicit marijuana cultivation provides considerable unreported revenue for growers without corresponding tax obligations to compensate the public for the social and fiscal costs related to marijuana use,” Gettman said.
If the government taxed marijuana, like they do for cigarettes and alcohol, it could become a large source of revenue to be invested back into the economy. By controlling the marketplace, new laws could be created to apply an age restriction of 18 and older.
Evan Nison, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy club at Ithaca College, fully agrees that the taxation of marijuana could bring about positive change to society.
“It should be taxed like any other product. We’re talking about a potential 100 billion dollar-a-year industry. Legalization would be beneficial to the economy in many ways — it would stop billions in wasteful spending on law enforcement, create hundreds of thousands of jobs in many different sectors and create a new tax stream for the government,” Nison said. Essentially, the legalization of marijuana could be a future solution for many of our financial problems as we struggle to work our way out of debt.
Charly Culberson is a freshman IMC major who is high on life. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org