Marijuana: A Modern Scapegoat

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Every year, more than 1.6 million people are arrested for possession and trafficking of drugs. Of these 1.6 million arrests, around 850,000 are for the possession or trafficking of marijuana, and 80% of these arrests are for possession alone. More people are charged with possession of marijuana than all other drugs combined. Most of these “criminals” are nonviolent offenders. The so-called “war on drugs” has primarily become a war on marijuana, but also a war on personal freedom. Why is it, in a country where more than 5.4 million deaths are caused by tobacco, that we continue to persecute minor marijuana offenders? Jimmy Carter once said, “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself”. By legalizing marijuana, the money spent putting harmless pot junkies in jail could be better put into other more important issues, like control of more harmful and highly addictive drugs.

Marijuana, or more correctly, the cannabis plant, was brought to the New World in 1545 by the Spaniards. It quickly became a major commercial crop along with tobacco, although not as a drug but for its use in making hemp fiber, principally for ropes. By the 1900’s, marijuana use was common among jazz musicians and artists as a recreational drug. When President Reagan began his drug war, the most popular recreational drug was pot, and it became the focus of this “war”. Marijuana was pinned at the top of Schedule I, along with other notorious drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, and psilocybin. For a drug to be classified as Schedule I, it has to have minimal medicinal use and high abuse potential. The drugs on the Schedule I list are the most harshly penalized and their users most persecuted. The penalty for possession of marijuana alone is up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine!

Furthermore, the amount of money spent on keeping these small-time offenders behind bars, more than $20,000/year in some states, far outweighs the cost of an individual rehabilitation program for a more serious drug.



As you may already know, marijuana is relatively harmless with an extremely low mortality rate -- less than that of aspirin. In the United States, there has not been a single fatality directly attributed to the physiological effects of marijuana, while the war on drugs kills more people annually than marijuana ever could. Last year alone, 15,000 people were killed in México when war erupted between the government and the drug cartels!

Another misconception is that marijuana causes lung cancer. This was proven untrue in a study by Kaiser-Permanente HMO, where 65,000 smokers of tobacco, smokers of marijuana, and non smokers were followed for nearly a decade and tested for cancer rates. Smokers of marijuana had slightly lower cancer rates than non-smokers, and smokers of both marijuana and tobacco had lower rates than just tobacco smokers.


Marijuana has been used medicinally all over the world since 7000 B.C., and has proven cancer-fighting abilities. It has been shown to increase the appetite of cancer patients, and to help reduce vomiting and some other negative side effects of chemotherapy. Its positive medicinal uses and its minimal or non-existent effects on personal health should be cause to reconsider its classification as a “dangerous” Schedule I substance, and to consider its ultimate legalization.


The legalization of marijuana would have several beneficial economic consequences. It would take the profit out of the illegal trade and profit our own government. The tax put on the sale of marijuana would be a welcome new source of revenue for local governments. Prison costs would drop dramatically. Law enforcement funds would be redirected to more useful programs. The possibilities are endless. Marijuana has been around for thousands of years, and will no doubt be with us for many years to come. We must develop laws which support an individual’s rights and freedoms and legalize Marijuana!





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