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Legalize It


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Illinois is now making the move to ban salvia, a naturally growing plant that is sold as a legal, light hallucinogen. This is business as usual for American politicians.

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in America and because of that, it has been the scourge of opportunist politicians, moral finger-wavers and all types of other grand-standers.

The war on marijuana ( yes, war on a plant, even though it can't really fight or talk ), has cost taxpayers in the country billions of wasted dollars, prevented the development of a much needed and promising industry, and has ruined the lives of non-violent offenders and their families.

It is difficult to gauge the actual number of Americans who use marijuana. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws does a good job of collecting data and comparing it with private and government data. According to NORML, user numbers generally fall at about 20 million, with about 11 million people using regularly.

This is an enormous segment of the U.S. population and makes marijuana the third most used substance ( behind tobacco and alcohol ) and the most used illegal substance. The demographics of this group are not just your cast of characters from "Half Baked," old Deadheads and the Method Man, this group is made up of mostly tax-paying, law-abiding citizens.

Marijuana is dangerous in the sense that any mood altering chemical is dangerous. It slows reaction time, thus making things such as driving more dangerous.

The active ingredient in marijuana that produces these effects is a chemical called THC. This chemical can come in amounts from 3 percent to about 30 percent, although certain oils and hash have even higher percentages. That can make dosage difficult especially for the novice user.

Marijuana smoke is cancerous, but not toxic; no one has ever overdosed from marijuana. The government currently has a campaign claiming one joint is as bad as five cigarettes. This propaganda doesn't include the fact that cigarettes have filters, and only a small percentage of people smoke doobies anymore, many opt for tobacco leaves, glass pipes, bongs or vaporizers, and, with the exception of the vaporizer ( recommended for medicinal use ), very little study has been done in this area.

So the bad side of marijuana is that it is hard to dose consistently, it slows reaction time and it is still smoke. Yet these facts still do not qualify it by any standard of measurement to be worse than alcohol or tobacco. Those two legal drugs each year kill more people than marijuana could ever hope to.

Then why, in 2006, did we arrest 829,000 individuals for marijuana offenses? Of those arrests, 89 percent were for possession - not sale or manufacture. There are more marijuana arrests than the combined arrests for all violent offenses in the United States. We arrest more marijuana smokers than robbers, killers and rapists.

Where is Nancy Grace when you need her?

This is all at a whopping cost to the U.S. taxpayers of $10 billion a year. With the crisis in funding wars of conquest, social security and Medicare, one might want to rethink spending $10 billion harassing people who use a plant that grows naturally.

In fact, recently some people did. Five hundred top economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, sent a letter to President George W. Bush saying if legalized and regulated like tobacco and alcohol, it could produce revenues of $6.2 billion a year.

So instead of losing $10 billion, the economy could make $6.2 billion and that money could be taxed.

This does not include the amount of revenue that a legalized, industrial hemp industry could produce. Hemp can be used to make paper, food, clothes and a whole slew of other things, including fuel, and it can be grown year-round without nearly as much environmental run-off as crops such as corn. The color of money in America is green.

As the Method-Man once said, "Marijuana is just nature's way of saying high." Whether it is moral, economic or practical, there is no good argument for continued prohibition.

It is time to hold these politicians and grand-standers who waste billions on this fruitless venture accountable, and finally do the one thing that makes sense: Legalize it.

Source: Daily Egyptian (Southern Illinois U, Il Edu)
Author: Andrew O'C onnor
Copyright: 2007 Daily Egyptian
Contact: Daily Egyptian
Website: Daily Egyptian
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