Over the past couple of years the marijuana legalization debate has taken some drastic twists and turns. It has gone from being classified as an illegal and completely banned drug across the board to a much more accepted and tolerated substance, that in some states is now legal to use and possess. Even the federal government has made medical marijuana legal in all 50 states, as of 2014. However, there are still states that absolutely outlaw it and the status of the plant from state to state can get a little confusing. Some states have legalized it for recreational use, some have decriminalized certain amounts, and more and more are passing laws allowing it for limited medical uses.
The times have certainly changed and a major driving force behind the shift in thought is increased awareness of the fact that marijuana is quite possibly the safest ‘drug’ that a person could use. In all of 2015 a grand total of 0 people fatally overdosed while using marijuana. That number has remained the same year after year. In fact, according to a 2013 Huffington Post article, no one has ever died from overdosing on weed and it’s basically impossible to do so. When compared to every other type of drug out there, legal or illegal, prescription or non-prescription, alcohol or nicotine, marijuana has the lowest fatality rate. More people have died from taking aspirin than smoking weed.
Furthermore, the main reasons often stated for why it should remain illegal have been mostly proven false. Law enforcement officials claim that people high on weed are violent and unpredictable, yet that is not true. Marijuana is a depressant, it slows down the messages between the brain and body, which causes people to relax and have delayed reactions rather than the super strength or speed that stimulants have been known to give users. They also claim that marijuana is a gateway drug which by using leads to an interest in other stronger, harder substances. However, that is a viewpoint and opinion at this point in time, as many scientific studies have yet to conclusively prove or disprove this hypothetical causation. Furthermore, the police and prison groups making these claims have a huge financial stake at risk in terms of the war on drugs and policing marijuana. According to the norml website, one in eight US drug prisoners are in jail for marijuana related offenses. Some people are serving years behind bars because they got caught with a bag of weed on them and US taxpayers are spending over one billion dollars a year to keep them there. These days many prisons are privately run and they need to be kept full to make a profit, which they cannot do if they lose the ability to arrest people for such minor offenses.
When the benefits of marijuana are weighed against the negatives, it becomes clear that the costs of outlawing it are steep and unnecessary. Besides the obvious and known medical uses to date, there are countless unknown medicinal benefits that are either currently being studied or have yet to be discovered. Then there is the actual plant itself that can be used industrially as hemp. Compared to cotton, hemp grows more efficiently, requires no pesticides, uses less land and water, is stronger, softer, more durable, and can be grown anywhere in America. The uses for it extend far beyond textiles and clothing since it can be used to make cardboard and paper, rope, fiberboard, plastic substitutes, and much more, plus the plant seeds can be eaten or ground into flour.
Oh yeah, and no one can ingest or smoke so much of it that they overdose and end up dying. It’s safer than the soap you use to wash your hands, yet it remains illegal in some states because of the interests of a few powerful business groups who face losing money and their hold on the part of the market in which they operate.
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