Editorial: Marijuana legalization worth considering

As Oregon lifts the ban on recreational marijuana, it is increasingly clear that this movement will not stop until legalization is a national standard. Why wouldn’t it? Scientific research has yet to prove that pot is more dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. In addition, the revenue benefit of legalizing and taxing marijuana is hard to ignore. That’s on top of the money the government would no longer have to spend on the “war on weed”.

The war on weed drains our resources, which the government could use for social welfare or education. In fact, hundreds of economists signed a letter in which they estimated that legalization would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal spending on prohibition enforcement; and if we taxed pot like alcohol and tobacco, it could result in $6.2 billion in tax revenue. That’s a $13.8 billion net gain each year. Legalizing pot essentially adds a new way to be fiscally responsible.

Marijuana’s effect on society is not nearly as bad as it may seem. It is commonly thought that marijuana is a dangerous drug. In contrast to the 25,000 deaths attributed to alcohol overdose each year, no deaths are reported due to marijuana usage. If we compare weed to alcohol we actually find that weed comes out on top in every category. Marijuana is effective in the medical field to treat anything from depression to leukemia. Alcohol causes a number of health issues including anemia, cancer, cirrhosis, dementia, heart disease. What’s interesting is that the federal government classifies marijuana on the same level as heroin as a schedule 1 drug. This is worse than schedule 2 drugs such as cocaine and meth. Obviously, alcohol makes no appearance on these lists. 25,000 people die each year to alcohol overdose, and 88,000 deaths can be attributed to alcohol once car accidents and violence are tallied. Driving drunk increases the risk of a fatal accident thirteen fold while driving high increases risk less than two fold. The government claims that weed is horribly dangerous drug yet alcohol has a higher death count.

We often accuse marijuana of being a gateway drug. This is no doubt true at the moment. Any serious drug addict gets their start on weed. However, this is not because marijuana causes a smoker to search for a better high. It is currently lumped in with every other illegal drug. The access to weed through the black market also gives people access to other worse drugs. It is a gateway drug because it is immersed in the same culture as other dangerous drugs. We could stop that by legalizing it. A legalized marijuana would be no more a gateway drug than alcohol and tobacco.

All this does not mean that pot will have a positive effect on society if legalized. Like any decision, it’s a gamble. There is encouraging evidence that weed could replace alcohol which would decrease crime, violence, and death from intoxication. However, if the legalization of weed complements alcohol and adds to a party culture, then it could make America’s drinking problem worse. The legalization of marijuana is sure to happen as the movement gains ground. This could be a new era for the United States or it could be the beginning of a long road of trouble, but either way, it is time for the issue to be on the national forum for debate.

This is an editorial that reflects the collective opinion of the LSNews.org editorial board. Its lead author was opinion editor Aaron Davies. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the LSNews.org advisor or those of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District. Any questions or concerns can be directed to lspioneernews@gmail.com.


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