In the wake of a Gallup poll that found more Americans are now in favor of legalizing marijuana than criminalizing it, we came across a statement from CALM (Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana), which offers only this: “We affirm the 2006 FDA finding and vast scientific evidence that marijuana causes harm. The normalization, expanded use, and increased availability of marijuana are detrimental to our youth, to public health, and to the safety of our society.”
That offers nothing of use. You can be harmed by drinking too much water.
Is it logical to continue to expend society’s legal resources to prosecute and incarcerate those who choose to consume a drug which is no more a threat to safety or a detriment to any of us than is alcohol? We have laws against persons taking to the highway while intoxicated, whether by alcohol or any other drug. We have laws against minors consuming these drugs. Use them in the workplace, thereby putting others at risk, and you’ll be terminated.
Why do we continue to instruct our law enforcement officers to arrest citizens for possession of plant material? Why, in Tennessee, do we classify them as felons if they possess a mere half-ounce of the stuff?
Fact is that unlike alcohol, marijuana is not toxic, marijuana “overdoses” are all but impossible, it hardly compares to alcohol or tobacco addiction, has relatively minor side effects and clear medical value to those suffering from a variety of serious ailments, offering relief from pain, nausea and other symptoms. Yet some 750,000 Americans are arrested every year for merely possessing it — some for possessing it in their homes where they smoke a joint for relaxation rather than consume a glass of wine.
Meantime, consumption of marijuana, which has not been and will not be deterred, is fueling international criminal activity, much of it centered in South American states, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and totally corrupted the government of neighboring Mexico. The U.S. spends untold millions in its failing program of interdicting the movement of marijuana into the country. And thousands of Americans languish in prison for the bum rap of selling it because their personal stash exceeded some arbitrary limit.
No one has ever died of a marijuana overdose. On the other hand, 38,000 died two years ago from drug overdoses, 60 percent of which were related to prescription drugs; 25,600 died from alcohol-related causes and nearly a half-million from tobacco-related causes. Nor, contrary to popular belief, is marijuana a gateway drug. Scientific American points out that studies which show people who use marijuana first before trying other drugs is correlation and not causation: people who go on to use hard drugs also smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.
The criminalization of marijuana is costing American taxpayers more than $7 billion annually, destroying lives and driving an underground economy that leads to real crimes. It is long past time it was legalized. The federal government won’t do it, but Tennessee can and should join other states in decriminalizing marijuana.