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Kristofer Karol: Give Legal Marijuana A Chance

Herb Fellow

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It's a question that has local law enforcers and residents at odds: Should marijuana be legalized for medicinal purposes in Michigan? That's certainly a question that bears some investigation, and there is plenty of information out there to pretty much stake your claim one way or the other.

Law enforcement will say the issue's pretty straightforward: Legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses and growth at home could lead to a bigger pot problem, with joints getting into the wrong hands and stoners roaming the state looking for a good 24-hour diner because they "have the munchies" at 2 a.m.

Supporters contend pot has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and, if a dozen other states already legalize it, why not Michigan? By that logic, Michigan should also re-establish the death penalty and permit prostitution.

But, why stop at medicinal use? What about legalizing marijuana for everyone? Is it a smart move, or one that could devastate the state and country?

Put an end to pot

The opponents of legalizing marijuana use can point to a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to back their stance.

The report, located at Welcome to the Office of National Drug Control Policy - ONDCP, refutes a popular claim often made by proponents of legalization that by allowing people to smoke pot, America's overcrowded jails will be eased.

In fact, the report notes that, in 1997, the percentage of total state inmates being held for possession of marijuana only was 0.7 percent.

The authors of the report contend most people being incarcerated for marijuana possession are either chronic users, dealers or are also in jail for other non-drug-related offenses.

Even so, only 2.7 percent of all offenses involved marijuana, the report notes.

Talk to the medical experts, and they'll say one joint has four times more cancer-causing tar in it than one filtered cigarette.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services also claims that in 2002, almost 120,000 people were admitted to U.S. emergency rooms for marijuana-related problems, an increase of 139 percent from 1995. Lastly, in 1999, more than 220,000 people entered rehab to kick their marijuana addiction.

Pot for the people

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws rebukes the addiction claim, citing a 1999 U.S. Institutes of Medicine report that shows less than 1 in 10 of marijuana users become regular smokers.

Putting that into context, the study states 15 percent of alcohol consumers and 32 percent of tobacco users exhibit signs of drug dependence.

NORML also states you can't die directly from a marijuana overdose.

Then there is drugwarfacts.org, which states there are plenty of other things that kill more people each year than marijuana use.

In 2000, there were 435,000 tobacco-related deaths in the United States, 365,000 attributable to poor diet and inactivity and 85,000 linked to alcohol.

That poses the question: Should alcohol be banned again? How about tobacco? Maybe fast-food restaurants instead of marijuana?

And how else are you going to enjoy your Grateful Dead record? With a cigarette? I don't think so...

The analysis

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the argument, let's get something out in the open: I've neither had a joint, nor do I have any desire to have a joint. It just doesn't appeal to me.

That said, quite frankly, the statistics don't support the assertion that legalizing marijuana will ease the prison system.

It's a shame, given that recently released studies show Michigan is one of four states that spends more on its prisons than colleges and that more than one in every 100 Americans is now an inmate.

However, the proof also isn't there to show legalizing marijuana is going to create a perverse subculture of pot junkies. There are side effects to smoking pot, comparable to tobacco and alcohol, but hardly at the level of cocaine or other illegal hard drugs.

Simply put, legalizing marijuana for all seems only fair and should at least be given a shot.

After all, if alcohol sales could be banned in the 1920s and early '30s and later be reinstated, there's no reason why marijuana couldn't be given a chance. If it fails, then revert back to the way things were and everyone can go on with their lives.

Source: The Daily Press & Argus
Copyright: 2008, The Daily Press & Argus
Contact: Kristofer Karol at (517) 552-2835 or at kkarol@gannett.com
Website: Press & Argus - www.livingstondaily.com - Livingston, MI
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