I’ll start this by saying I am an advocate for the legalization of marijuana, and not just for medical use. This latest debate has brought out the ignorance in people once more, so I figure I might as well do what I did for gun rights and compile some facts for everyone to understand.
1) Marijuana is, comparatively, not a bad substance to use
Contrary to the obviously biased lies spread by anti-marijuana, the use of cannabis does not lead to aggression or insanity. Smoking marijuana’s short-term effects include pacification, lethargy, apathy, reduced stress, and reduced cognitive ability. Certainly not the people you want driving a vehicle or performing a risky task, but far from the claims of slavering nutjobs that have to be put down by bullets (you’re thinking about PCP or Meth). Now compare that to the effects of people who drink alcohol, a legal substance that has shown correlation with aggressive behavior, reduced judgment, reduced coordination, and reduced inhibition. Why is it that it’s OK to take something known to cause vehicular accidents or physical conflicts, yet not OK to use a substance known to pacify individuals or make them lazy?
If we look at the long-term effects of marijuana, we find a number of positives. Certainly, the most notable is that medical marijuana has proven to reduce neuropathic and psychosomatic pain. In addition, some studies are showing correlations between reduction in overall symptoms and increases in immune system, possibly because of the psychological effects THC intoxication can have on mood and stress relief. Marijuana shows no conclusive relationship with cancer and may actually improve cancer patients chances of remission. In contrast, tobacco is directly proven to cause cancer and numerous other physiological effects. Neurologically, moderate THC use has not been proven to create a permanent effect on cognitive ability or memory in adults. Alcohol, on the other hand, not only effects the liver but also the brain, creating deficits in both of those areas. We end up with two legal substances (cigarettes and booze) that are proven to create lasting neurological and physiological effects, yet marijuana is the illegal one.
What about addiction? Although there is some minor evidence that marijuana may be psychologically addictive, it is no more so than many other substances. The majority of people who suffer marijuana addiction generally suffer from an “addictive” personality archetype and would be addicted to something anyway. In addition, marijuana has no proof of physiological addiction, unlike tobacco and alcohol. Should we be banning a substance because a minority have a psychological disorder that may be exacerbated, while we continue to allow legal use of substances that are known to create a chemical addiction in users?
2) Marijuana is not safe
Now, to make it clear, smoking marijuana is not something done without a care. Marijuana can create negative effects in the short-term and has shown to have some lasting effects in the long-term. Any effects of substance use will be dependent on the individual and their situation, so don’t think that marijuana is some wonder drug that is safe.
In the short-term, marijuana still affects cognitive ability, which means it needs to be used responsibly. You should not use vehicles or perform stressful or risky tasks while under the influence. You wouldn’t want your doctor or a firefighter showing up drunk, so why should they show up stoned? Moderate usage at home or at an event that does not require you to drive is smart, no different than getting drunk.
In the long-term, marijuana does have correlations with some respiratory illness, including atypical bulbous disease. This is because smoking anything is bad for you, as you’re pouring hot, toxin-filled air into sensitive lungs. This may be why many are turning to vaporizers, tablets, or patches for THC. Also, while most adults are not affected by cannabis use, the same cannot be said for children. Studies have shown that adolescent use of marijuana may restrict neurological development, stunting cognitive ability later in life. Of course, you don’t want your underage kids smoking or drinking, so the same rules should apply to cannabis use.
Remember how I said the use depended on the individual and the situation? Similar to alcohol, marijuana use requires a person to be able to moderate themselves. They have to recognize how much they’ve smoked, be responsible enough to avoid risky behavior (like driving), know how much they can have and when they need to sober up by, etc. Too many smokers do so without concern, often with continued and intense usage, and this can lead to many problems.
3) Marijuana is not a gateway drug
Despite some controversial studies in the early 21st century supposedly finding a correlation between later drug use, current studies reveal that there is no evidence that marijuana use leads to heavier drug use. What the current research discovered is that the original studies did not take into account two types of marijuana users: at-risk youths and the curious.
Aggressive or deviant adolescents and young adults are more likely to perform risky behavior. When they use marijuana, with minimal effect on themselves, they are more likely to try something “harder”. Of course, they are just as likely to do this through alcohol as well, yet that substance is not labeled a “gateway”. Instead of accusing marijuana of leading these teenagers astray, perhaps there should be a stronger look at the community from which they come from. Where are the parents? Where are their teachers? Who is trying to help these troubled kids and advocate for responsible behavior?
Similarly, the criminalization of marijuana often puts it in proximity with other substances. When an individual who is naturally curious is presented with a dealer or a party, they may be inclined to try something different. Instead of claiming that marijuana should be banned because of these inquisitive users, perhaps decriminalization will remove the presence of harder substances. If you’re purchasing from legitimate businesses and salesmen, you avoid interacting with criminals who may try to push other drugs.
4) Marijuana can help a society
I’ll talk about hemp in a second, but I figured I should mention a key point about marijuana: taxation. Colorado is estimated to have pulled in over $100 million in tax revenues alone. Now, while we all cringed at “taxes”, if done right these things can help save a community. Putting money into schools, police, infrastructure, etc. is just the tip of the iceberg. Colorado is using much of this money toward community support programs, including advocacy against substance use among kids, addiction counseling and networks, etc. If we can take a previously illegal substance, flip it and sell it to responsible adults, and use the revenue to help the irresponsible… would we not be creating a better environment?
Another side of this is the decriminalization that can help reduce prison rates, refocus police on more important issues, and avoid the ruin of many people’s future. There are a disproportionate amount of people in prison for simply smoking marijuana, whereas wealthy blue collar criminals can embezzle millions and get off with a slap of the wrist or a year in Club Fed. Freeing up space in prison for true criminals and allowing someone to not pay for the rest of their life for simple substance use would be the smart thing, wouldn’t it? I mean, it’s almost like the entire war on marijuana was created not to help society but to keep it divided, the for-profit prisons filled with the poor and minority… but that couldn’t be true, could it?
5) Hemp is an amazing substance
We’ve talked about the good effects of marijuana, some of the bad, and the fact that marijuana is not a gateway to the ugly. Are there are other reasons to encourage the growth of this plant? Well, consider this: hemp is one of the most useful, and oldest, agricultural plants in the world. The growing of hemp stretches back to antiquity and was even performed by our Founding Figures, only becoming illegal in the last century or so. What does this wonder plant do?
Hemp seed can be used to replace soybeans and other food goods. The nutritious value of this seed, which is high in dietary fiber, essential fats, proteins, and Vitamin B is second to none. Hemp fibers are better than cotton, showing higher absorption and insulation than that popular plant. Clothes, towels, sheets, rope, etc. made from hemp have long been proven to be superior. The great part is that none of these forms contain psychoactive levels of THC, making them perfectly safe and not at risk of wrongful use.
What about hemp’s effect on the environment? Green energy could see a spike from hemp used as a biomass fuel producer, replacing corn and similar ethanol crops. Hemp is also a hardy plant, requiring less chemicals to maintain healthy growth, and can produce more product per square acre than any other crop. Hemp may even be used to produce more biodegradable plastics and papers, reducing waste.
So why haven’t we used this wonder plant? Simply, those invested in wood, plastics, oils, etc. don’t want it. They will use every last politician and lobbyist in their pocket to prevent an efficient, environmentally friendly, and useful substance from ruining their own profits. This is why you see so much advocacy against marijuana and hemp, often filled with lies and misinformation… the Corporations want to keep public opinion swayed their way.
So, there you have it. You have a substance that does have some risk to it, but is comparatively safer than other substances (including the two legal ones), is not a gateway drug, and is not addictive. It can help a society by bringing in extra revenue and reducing prison populations and ruined futures, not to mention wonder crops that run a gamut of positive uses. Yet we still debate over legalization, as if there was a valid reason not to…
Perhaps we should just round up the politicians, lock them in a room, and smokebox them until they start to see some reason.