According to the United States government, Marijuana is a Schedule I drug (as declared by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970). The Federal government claims that it has a high potential for abuse and has no accepted medical use, thus making it as illegal to posses and use as other hardcore drugs such as cocaine, meth, heroine, etc. Schedule I drugs are listed as either stimulants, depressants, or hallucinogens. “Weed” however, can be any three of these, or even a mixture of one or more, depending on the strain. There is currently a huge ass debate as to whether weed should be illegal, whether it is as harmful as the government likes to make people believe, whether it actually does have medical use or not, whether the legalization of weed would help the USA’s economy, whether the war on marijuana is worth the money and effort spent, whether our jails should be filled with marijuana “criminals,” and if states have the right to legalize weed without the federal governments consent. Whether you look at it from a human rights standpoint, a states’ rights standpoint, a Federal spending standpoint, or an economic standpoint, weed is a topic that is in our political and cultural limelight, and isn’t disappearing any time soon.
So, why is weed illegal? Let’s start with a quick history of marijuana. (You can skip the end and I will summarize the history of pot, because it’s been around since long before Jesus, and it has a long history.)
Marijuana use dates back to 2737 B.C., when Chinese emperor Shen Nung had its “medical” use recorded. By A.D. 500, marijuana had spread through India and Africa, and although some recorded its medical uses, it is believed that people who used weed back then used it recreationally. They just liked getting’ baked. Muslims loved it, because alcohol consumption was banned in the Koran. Fast-forward to 1611 and the English landed in Jamestown and started growing tobacco and marijuana. In 1890 in the Southern United States, Marijuana in the form of hemp was replacing cotton as the major cash crop of choice. During the 1920s marijuana really started to gain popularity in the Northern United States cities as a recreational drug, believed to be an outcome of the alcohol prohibition at the time. At this time, marijuana was perfectly legal and not considered a social threat in the least bit—authorities had no problems with the “tea pads” (pot cafes) in the major Northern cities.
In the Southwest states, racial prejudice against Mexican immigrants led to the first anti-marijuana laws being passed in the United States. In California, promotion by the pharmaceutical industry that saw marijuana as a competitor led to weed laws being passed. In Utah, some crazy Mormons** enacted a prohibition solely based on their wacko, absurd religious beliefs. By 1930, the majority of states had passed anti-marijuana laws for one reason or another. Most of these laws were complete bullshit and had no actual health reasons for enactment, as in 1930 cigarettes were being endorsed by doctors—nobody gave a shit about medical science back then, apparently. Regardless, marijuana laws are strictly upheld in the United States, and the negative connotation of marijuana—which stemmed from racism and religious extremism— brings us to the marijuana debate that I mentioned earlier.
**(No offense to any Mormons reading this)**
*Currently, several states have legalized the medical use of marijuana or even the use of marijuana for recreational use (for fun). Even more states have decriminalized marijuana possession—this means that instead of getting arrested, you just get a ticket. The Federal government, however, still regards marijuana possession to be 100% illegal. This brings up the age-old debate of States’ rights, the same issue that led to the Civil War. Do individual States have the right to decide if marijuana is illegal in that state? Likewise, should the Federal government have power to control the daily and personal lives of its ~300 million citizens?
*Many doubt if keeping marijuana illegal benefits anyone at all. After all, just because it is illegal, doesn’t mean it is difficult to obtain. Over 83 million Americans have tried marijuana—that’s more than 1/4th of the population! The laws are not stopping any individual from obtaining marijuana. If you want to smoke pot, nothing is currently stopping you. Also, a large portion of convicted criminals who are in prison, are there because of marijuana possession or intent to sell. The cost of enforcing these laws is so large that it is undeterminable, but Harvard Economics professor Jeffrey Miron told CNN in 2005 that the legalization of marijuana would result in $14 billion (yes, with a in cost savings and tax revenue PER YEAR for the Federal government.
Another factor to think about is national security. Currently, because of the laws in place, the majority of marijuana obtained and used in the USA is from cartels in Mexico. This situation is funding the violent cartels, perpetuating the crime and violence along the USA/Mexican border. Many argue that if people were able to openly grow marijuana in their backyard, Cartels would lose their main source of funding.
It’ll be fascinating to see if this prohibition on marijuana will be upheld in the upcoming years. As it is looking now, marijuana will be gradually but steadily legalized, eventually reaching legalization at the Federal level. All evidence points to the legalization of pot benefitting our society as a whole, so it’s really not a big deal. After all, if you are really against marijuana use, then I have a very simple answer to your worries. Don’t use it. Let others live their lives how they want to.
The arguments against marijuana legalization (and my thoughts on those arguments in parenthesis) are as follows:
*Marijuana is perhaps a gateway drug. (And evidently alcohol is harmless, and not an addicting substance or gateway substance at all)
*Driving under the influence of marijuana, may be increased. (Assuming no laws against driving while high are passed, which obviously would be unrealistic)
*To some, the use of marijuana is morally wrong. (Seriously, if you don’t like weed, then don’t smoke weed.
*Marijuana legalization may increase the number of children using. (So the only reason people aren’t giving their kids pot now is because of the laws in place against pot? Um, wrong… they don’t give their kids pot because that’s fucking stupid, not because the government tells them not to).
*More criminals will be on the streets. (No, because criminals are those that break the law–if there aren’t laws against marijuana possession, then the current people who are considered “criminals” just because they enjoy weed would not be criminals. #Logic #CommonSense)
*Marijuana may cause physical damages to some users, such as lung damage. (Lots of things cause physical damage, like alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy food, spending too much time on a computer, etc…what’s your point?)
*Marijuana may cause physical damages to nonusers through secondhand smoke. (Again, lots of things are harmful. Pot isn’t even proven to be harmful. Regardless, welcome to planet earth.)
*Marijuana can have negative mental and psychological effects. “Pot makes you stupid”. Making it legal does not mean that it’s negative effects are any less dangerous.(1/4 people in the USA already smoke pot or have smoked pot. Making it illegal doesn’t stop anyone from obtaining it and using it. People have smoked pot from the beginning of time. No substantial and credible scientific evidence against moderate pot use has ever been published.)
I’ll end this with a quote from President Barack Obama, when asked about Federal pot law enforcement—“We have bigger fish to fry.”