Legalizing Marijuana: A Conservative Stance
I have to admit, I have kicked this story idea around for a considerable time. Many of the things I write are in direct opposition to my party's views, and although I'm no different than anyone else in hoping something I write is given accolades by the people I hope support me, I occasionally find myself in rough waters when something I agree with goes against what I'm told I should believe as a conservative. This is one of those articles. When I was 15, I decided to smoke pot with some friends. I wasn't that impressed at first, although I had the urge to eat several hot dogs and almost an entire chocolate cake by myself. Later, I found that those things don't mix and spent the night throwing up. But I wasn't deterred. In my mid 20's, I decided to give it another go. This time, I flipped out with what I would term a pretty bad anxiety attack. After that, I decided perhaps this wasn't for me. Yet the people I know who do smoke it as an occasional substitute for drinking laugh, and joke around, and, ok, I admit, they eat a lot, too. I suspect things like Twinkies and Ding Dongs never tasted so good. They're mellow, they never fight, they never develop beer muscles, or in this case, pot muscles. I wondered why, so I thought maybe I should look into some statistics on marijuana use and it's health hazards, since the fact that it's illegal seems to be a silly thing to me. But I could be wrong. Now don't read too much into that. The first thing I wondered is how many deaths are caused by what is legal. In no way am I advocating to outlaw them, but I was still curious. I suspect some of these statistics will surprise a lot of people, as it did me. Alcohol Related Deaths: *More than 100,000 deaths occur annually, directly attributed to alcohol *30% of all fire related deaths can be traced to alcohol use *30% of all accidental drownings are alcohol related *45% of all traffic fatalities are due to drunk driving *Alcohol kills 6 1/2 times more youth than all illegal drugs combined Let's put that in perspective. AIDS claims the lives of approximately 18,000 people a year. These statistics should definitely be sobering thoughts to us all. Alcohol is deadlier than AIDS, the scourge of our generation, yet alcohol is legal. Tobacco Related Deaths: *Approximately 440,000 people die each year from tobacco related illnesses *These deaths include cancer, emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, heart disease, etc. To put this in perspective, approximately 42,000 people die in traffic accidents annually. *All of these statistics pertain only to the United States and are not a representation of global numbers. Suddenly, it occurred to me that marijuana must be a terrible drug that the government prefers it to remain illegal. Now it was time to look at those stats. Marijuana Related Deaths: *None Wait, did I read that correctly? Marijuana alone has never been found to have caused an overdose? But there had to be traffic related deaths attributed to marijuana, right? Or an increase in crime. (Again, just for perspective, about 7600 people die each year from aspirin.) It seems I was wrong there, too. While it seems that marijuana can impair driving abilities, it's less than even a small amount of alcohol, which would fall under the legal limit. Same with prescription drugs. (see Moskowitz, Herbert and Robert Petersen. Marijuana and Driving: A Review. Rockville: American Council for Drug Education, 1982. 7.) So now the big question: Do marijuana user cause an increased crime rate when high? Absolutely not. An overwhelming majority of marijuana users commit no crime other than possessing pot. In fact, cannabis has been shown to decrease rather than increase aggression. (see Fagan, J., et al. “Delinquency and Substance Use Among Inner-City Students.” Journal of Drug Issues 20 (1990): 351-402.)(Although when crimes are committed on pot, the majority of the time either alcohol/other hard drugs are also found in their systems) Now, I'm in no way saying marijuana is completely benign. Anything that causes altered perception has the potential to be problematic, I suppose. But the question arises, why are alcohol and cigarettes legal, yet marijuana, which seems to be the least harmful of these substances remains illegal? I don't have an answer to that, frankly. Perhaps it's because I breathe common sense, therefore there is no logical conclusion I can reach. Is it some vast government conspiracy? Again, I don't buy into that. What I believe it boils down to is that our government has so much invested in the war on drugs, they aren't willing to give an inch. I was afraid I would have to blame the Republicans for this one, but there were some other unusual statistics I found. Between the years 1996-2002, those in prison or jail due to drug related offenses rose 37%, the largest increase ever...under Bill Clinton. Mandatory minimum sentencing became the Draconian laws under which we all lived, with many people receiving life sentences for possessing no more than personal use amounts of marijuana. But Obama, liberal that he is intends to change these laws, finally make pot legal, right? Obama was asked by the online community if he would consider legalizing marijuana, and his attitude was nothing less than rude and ignorant. Criticizing the online community for asking if he would allow the legalization of marijuana, Obama said, "I don't know what this says about the online audience," then danced around the question. His press secretary Robert Gibbs was forced to answer: "The president opposes the legalization of marijuana," Gibbs told reporters, emphasizing his seriousness. "He doesn't think that's the right plan for America." The fact is that as Republicans, we preach personal responsibility, yet don't practice it. Drug use is a personal responsibility, and those who will choose to ruin their own lives with drugs will do so anyway. I'm near the point of saying, "Legalize them all. These people are killing themselves anyway, why not simply help them to do it quicker? Get the damn dealers off the streets, the mules on the other side of the border, and let these jerks kill themselves off. Natural Selection." The only problem is that other drugs have in fact been found to increase both crime and aggression. More than two thirds (68%) of inmates of local jails awaiting trial admit to using hard drugs during their crime. So I can't safely say to legalize it all, even though there would be both beneficial and detrimental aspects of it. Like I said, for one, those who would do those kinds of drugs would be more likely to kill themselves faster, which is fine with me. The other is we put dealers out of business and get them off the streets. But, of course there is an increase in crime with hard drug use. It's a conundrum, and I can't answer which would be best. The only thing I can say for certain is that marijuana should be legal, taxed, and regulated, and other conservatives need to embrace this idea.