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The Cannabis Caveat

Pot, weed, grass, marijuana, ganja, Mary Jane - the names are many and perhaps that’s why so much ambiguity seems to surround the issue of the legalization of marijuana. In the midst of all the vitriol from both sides, one thing seems clear: this issue is much more black and white that is is often made out to be.

As is so often the case, we need only look back into our own past to catch a glimpse of what the future is most likely to hold. The parallels drawn between early 20th-century Prohibition and the current illegal status of pot are good ones, though not entirely accurate. Marijuana was banned in 1937 and did not have a particularly noticeable effect at the time. In start contrast, when Prohibition was enacted, myriad problems erupted including widespread bootlegging, gangsterism, and dangerous moonshining. The reason that the effects of alcohol prohibition were so much greater than that of the illlegalization of Cannabis was simply due to the staggering difference in the volume of use of each substance. Millions upon millions of Americans consumed alcohol regularly in the 1920s, but very few individuals were regular users of recreational marijuana when its use was criminalized in the following decade. The difference is comparable to the effects that a ban on cell phones would have had in 1985 versus today. Volume is everything.

Due to this fact, it seems to me that a great deal of marijuana abuse recreationally can in fact be blamed on the allure of its illegality. Therefore, simple logic would imply that a lift of the current ban would actually end up reducing use. Books that have been challenged or banned immediately become more intriguing and alluring - the same has become true with THC.

Not only would the legalization of marijuana undoubtedly lead to a subsidence in its abuse, but it would also allow individuals to feel significantly more comfortable admitting their own use of the substance to healthcare professionals. If, for example, illicit oral sex was illegal, many less patients would elect to disclose their involvement in said risky behavior to their doctors, thereby driving their own risks for STDs to be contracted and remain untreated through the roof. Time and time again, both studies and simple common sense have shown that education is everything. The more educated patients are, and the less pot’s detrimental health effects are hidden behind a veil of public ignorance and urban legend, the more patients will consider the bodily harm that they are causing by opting to smoke the drug and, since pot is not addictive, cease to use it.

Another important effect that legalization would have would touch us all as individuals, and our nation as a whole. The potential fiscal merits of the taxation of legalized recreational marijuana are very promising indeed. How can we be so certain of this?, one might ask. Well, to some extent, we can be certain that it will work because it has already been done. The state of California, since its legalization of physician-prescribed medical marijuana in the past decade, has pulled itself out of a $1.5 billion deficit solely on funds from the taxation of medical marijuana used by its eligible constituents. As remarkable as that alone is, just imagine the potential of such measures carried out on a national scale. Such would be a very wise first step down the road to financial recovery in this country.

On a slightly different note, the Californian example goes even a bit further. I recently spent time in California and (incredibly enough) failed to notice any of the horror stories that anti-pot advocates assure us would ensue if we ever legislate weed into the realm of legality. I witnessed no violent drug deals, no droves of druggie-turned-homeless miscreants wandering the streets of LA, no hospitals clogged with victims of Cannabis. In fact, quite the opposite: public areas were immaculate and well-manicured, no one was driving his or her car down the wrong side of the freeway whilst high, and I even felt entirely safe taking a city bus from my hotel to a small restaurant across town by myself at 11 PM in Anaheim.

As I stated previously, this issue is really much more black and white than it is generally presented to be, clogged with strangulating fear-mongering, bias, and outright mendacity. The effects of legalizing marijuana for recreational use would be beneficial across the board, as has been, for all practical purposes, proven in many analogous instances from the past and present. The move to legalize would be a positive thing for us all. All we need to do is educate ourselves and get over our unfounded fears.

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