This was a topic that seemed to really cause a stir a week or so ago when it was brought up. It seems that there are many who would stand in the way of legalizing marijuana, in fact there were more comments saying so on this site than I would have expected. During those discussions, I kind of kept myself clear, not getting into the debates too heavily. I did so because I knew from the reactions that I was going to write an article about this. Tonight I offer that article. It appears that there are many myths and false statements around this debate. Further, it appears that I have unwittingly struck yet another topic where folks that otherwise seem to espouse freedom fall in the realm of contradiction. I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago stating that many people do not really want freedom. I think this is one of those topics that show exactly that sentiment. There sure is a lot of demand that people conform to someone else’s standards on this topic. So let’s take a closer look. AND TAKE NOTE THAT THERE IS A NEW POLL OVER THERE ON THE LEFT ON THIS SUBJECT!
Allow me to be clear on where I stand right up front. I support the legalization of Marijuana in the United States of America. I do not smoke Marijuana. I have not touched the drug since 1986. I do not use illegal drugs of any sort. I do not drink alcohol. In other words, I am a completely drug free person, and have been for a very long time. So I do not fit legalization opponent’s version of the users who simple want to be able to use more freely. I support legalization because I do not think that the drug poses a significant danger to those who use it or those around them. More important, I support legalization because I believe in the individual freedom to do what you want to your own body. I do not have the right to tell you that you cannot get a tattoo, cut yourself to relieve stress, drink to excess, take massive amounts of narcotics under a doctor’s prescription, eat far too much unhealthy food, or blow your head off with a shotgun. So why would I have a right to tell you that you cannot smoke a little weed now and then?
So how did we get to where we are in terms of legislation? It might surprise you to know the truth. During the early 1900s many states began to make the use of cannabis illegal. Hemp was being used for many things such as rope and industrial uses. It was also being prescribed by physicians and sold openly in drug stores. This really began to change with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The Act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana, or cannabis, but levied a tax equaling roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. There was a ton of faulty testimony during the debate on this legislation. Some testimonies included that cannabis caused “murder, insanity and death”. The American Medical Association protested the law because it affected medical use, and further because they were not finding that the claims about marijuana were true. Keep in mind that for the majority of the first half of the century, marijuana was generally believed to be a narcotic, on the same levels as cocaine and opium.
Eventually, the Supreme Court, in 1969, ruled the MTA of 1937 unconstitutional, and Congress responded by passing the Controlled Substances Act as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which repealed the Marihuana Tax Act. However, legislation in the 1950’s made selling or distribution of hemp materials carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 2-10 years and $20k. Then Nixon formed the DEA, the Supreme Court deemed it reasonable to give a hemp dealer 20 years, Reagan offered the War on Drugs and the three strike rule. Those are some quick highlights of legislation around marijuana, as it would take an entire article to cover it all. But if there is a point to be made here, it is this: Marijuana was made illegal in the first place by the use of false claims about its effects, make-up, and dependency rates. And I personally don’t believe that it was because people were simply uninformed. Hearst, DuPont, and other industrial powers of the time needed hemp criminalized in order to allow wood pulp paper and other factors to come to the forefront. As we all know, hemp is a very versatile product, and it was in direct conflict with some very powerful and politically connected men of the time.
But now that you have a quick history of cannabis law under your belt, you can forget it in terms of the argument today, because it really doesn’t factor in. We are where we are in terms of what the laws say, regardless of what crooked or flawed ways got us here. So let’s look at some of the facts around the claims. First I offer some myths and facts from one of the official legalization sites out there:
Myth: Smoking marijuana can cause cancer and serious lung damage.
Fact: There chance of contracting cancer from smoking marijuana is minuscule. Tobacco smokers typically smoke 20+ cigarettes every day for decades, but virtually nobody smokes marijuana in the quantity and frequency required to cause cancer. A 1997 UCLA study (see page 9) concluded that even prolonged and heavy marijuana smoking causes no serious lung damage. Cancer risks from common foods (meat, salt, dairy products) far exceed any cancer risk posed by smoking marijuana. Respiratory health hazards and cancer risks can be totally eliminated by ingesting marijuana in baked foods.
Myth: Marijuana contains over 400 chemicals, thus proving that marijuana is dangerous.
Fact: Coffee contains 1,500 chemicals. Rat poison contains only 30 chemicals. Many vegetables contain cancer-causing chemicals. There is no correlation between the number of chemicals a substance contains and its toxicity. Prohibitionists often cite this misleading statistic to make marijuana appear dangerous.
Myth: Marijuana is a gateway drug–it leads to harder drugs.
Fact: The U.S. government’s own statistics show that over 75 percent of all Americans who use marijuana never use harder drugs. The gateway-drug theory is derived by using blatantly-flawed logic. Using such blatantly-flawed logic, alcohol should be considered the gateway drug because most cocaine and heroin addicts began their drug use with beer or wine–not marijuana.
Myth: Marijuana is addicting.
Fact: Marijuana is not physically addicting. Medical studies rank marijuana as less habit forming than caffeine. The legal drugs of tobacco (nicotine) and alcohol can be as addicting as heroin or cocaine, but marijuana is one of the least habit forming substances known.
Myth: Marijuana use impairs learning ability.
Fact: A 1996 U.S. government study claims that heavy marijuana use may impair learning ability. The key words are heavy use and may. This claim is based on studying people who use marijuana daily–a sample that represents less than 1 percent of all marijuana users. This study concluded: 1) Learning impairments cited were subtle, minimal, and may be temporary. In other words, there is little evidence that such learning impairments even exist. 2) Long-term memory was not affected by heavy marijuana use. 3) Casual marijuana users showed no signs of impaired learning. 4) Heavy alcohol use was cited as being more detrimental to the thought and learning process than heavy marijuana use.
And would it surprise you to know that many of these common myths are not being spread by those who are simply ignorant to the truth? No sir, they are being spread by the government itself, which apparently completely ignores the multitudes of studies that completely debunk their claims. Take for example the article linked below, written by Karen Tandy, the administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. She actually claims that marijuana is the most addictive drug, when all studies have found that marijuana has zero physical addiction capability, leaving only “mental addiction”. In other words, it is as addictive as FreeCell, Mafia Wars, Chocolate, and Bananas Foster (the hands down best dessert ever created. Visit the Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans and you will be forever addicted to it).
Another line of thought from a Professor of Pharmacology, Dr. John Morgan, co-author of a book titled, “Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts”, comes from the perspective that even if all of his research is wrong, and marijuana was found to be harmful, that this would be a more compelling reason to legalize rather than not legalize. This 4 minute video covers the subject from his perspective:
Alright, enough of the “expert opinions” and all of that. I have offered up roughly 1000 words that discuss how we got here and where we are. Now I offer my personal opinions and thoughts.
It must be remembered that first and foremost I support legalization because doing so is in line with my belief that we are born as free men and women. Unless you can prove demonstrable harm to you caused by someone else smoking marijuana, then you have absolutely no right what-so-ever to tell people that they cannot do so. Realistically, I could end the entire debate with that single thing. Freedom and liberty dictate that I have every right to use marijuana if I want to, whether it is harmful to me or not, so long as I do not harm anyone else. Period. End of story. If you believe anything else other than this, then I submit that you do not support the core principle of freedom.
So I could stop right there and have said what really matters to me, but you all know that I am going to say more. I always do…
Just as the claims that we must restrict people’s diets, curb dangerous activities, and in any other way take away liberty, I reject the claim that society has a right to force me to be healthy. Society only believes this to be true because of the non-freedom concept of society somehow being forced to deal with the repercussions of my actions. Nationalized health care is an example. When you allow others to force society to pay for health care, you set up a system that allows others to dictate what you must do for your health. This is the primary reason I oppose health care legislation as we have seen it. But that is another article for another day.
Our legal systems have been overwhelmed with marijuana arrests and prosecutions. Estimates are that over a billion taxpayer dollars a year are spent just on the incarceration of those sentenced for crimes around marijuana. This doesn’t include police actions, court systems, or any other costs associated with the war on drugs around marijuana. There are more arrests every year for marijuana than for all violent crimes combined in the United States:
|Year||Total Arrests||Total Drug Arrests||Total Marijuana Arrests||Marijuana Trafficking/ Sale Arrests||Marijuana Possession Arrests||Total Violent Crime Arrests||Total Property Crime Arrests|
The point here is that we are spending massive amounts of taxpayer money on a “war on drugs” that has proven to be both completely ineffective (notice that the drug arrests don’t seem to really be going down, do they?) and terribly inefficient. And just under half of all drug arrests are for marijuana, a drug that by all calculations is less harmful and less dangerous than alcohol. Just imagine how less crowded our prisons would be, how many more officers would be available to protect our property, and how many resources would be freed up to combat serious threats to our freedom if we simply stopped this madness. Yet we persist.
I will wrap up my article here. There are obviously dozens of different avenues that can be discussed around the legalization of marijuana. I won’t attempt to exhaust them all in my article. I will leave that to the discussions. I know that there are many on both sides of this issue. I am willing to hear them all, and I am now prepared to address whatever folks want to bring up. But take caution…. You know I don’t accept emotional appeals or arguments that lack logic.