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What to Do About the Doobie: Part Two


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Marijuana is supposed to make you relax, but the last few weeks it's been stressing me out. The reason for the duress is my attempt to understand whether smoking the doobie should be legalized.

My quest began when I saw the writing on the wall, literally, in a men's room on the fifth floor of Davis Library where someone scribbled "legalize it" on the tile. In light of that gastro-inspirational moment, I wrote last week's column on the health implications of marijuana. Although I concluded that marijuana is no worse for your health than alcohol or tobacco, the broader legalization question remained open.

Marijuana wasn't always illegal; in the early 20th century recreational use of the herb caught on, but getting high was looked-down upon. Widespread misunderstanding about marijuana's effects stimulated anti-pot sentiment. A 1934 New York Times article described marijuana as a "poisonous weed which maddens the senses and emaciates the body of the user."

Caught up by public hostility and poor journalism, the government enacted the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which heavily restricted and taxed cannabis. When the Supreme Court declared that act unconstitutional in 1969, Congress passed a new law that classified marijuana as a schedule I drug and essentially outlawed it.

Oddly enough, since marijuana use was first restricted, public opinion has done an about-face on the issue. Now a large majority of American citizens support marijuana use for medical purposes, and the herb is considered more benign than it was 70 years ago.

Despite the swing in public opinion, the federal government has refused to grant states authority over marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use. Washington's obstinacy is surprising because legalizing marijuana has two very obvious benefits - taxation and regulation, two of Uncle Sam's favorite words.

At least one economist has attempted to estimate the fiscal benefits of legalization. He estimated the federal and state governments would collectively save $7.7 billion a year in enforcement expenses, and if marijuana were taxed at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco, the government would rake in about $6.2 billion in tax revenues as well, creating a total net benefit of $13.9 billion. Not a bad chunk of change.

But legalization involves more than just money. One argument against legalization is the notion that marijuana is a "gateway drug," which will lead to use of heavier narcotics. An important but dubious proposition, the gateway concept has proved impossible to verify due to the cumbersome entanglements of cause and effect.

Other doobie doubters worry that legalization would boost the number of potheads, thereby causing a shortage of brownie mix.

While researchers have had mixed conclusions on whether legalization would increase marijuana users, anecdotal evidence suggests that use wouldn't increase by much if at all.

When England relaxed enforcement of marijuana laws in 2004, use actually declined significantly, even among youth. Similarly, the Netherlands' nonenforcement marijuana policy has worked fine for years.

In the end, determining exactly what would happen if marijuana were legalized is unfeasible. But the known evidence reveals that pot isn't much worse for your health than alcohol or tobacco, that the U.S. government would get a substantial financial boost from taxes and law enforcement savings and that other nations' relaxation of marijuana laws hasn't resulted in any massive unraveling of their social fabrics.

Considering all that, it's time for the United States to ease up on the cannabis crackdown.

Source: Daily Tar Heel, The (U of NC, Edu)
Copyright: 2007 DTH Publishing Corp
Contact: editdesk@unc.edu
Website: Daily Tar Heel


New Member
Marijuana wasn't always illegal; in the early 20th century recreational use of the herb caught on, but getting high was looked-down upon.
as was smuggling though out time :3:
You know I met fellas down in the Keys that told me,
"They didn't know what we were doing!
We loaded the boats so full we sat on bales to steer comin' into Key West in those days"
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