With nearly 70% (by numerous accounts) of Americans supporting legalization of marijuana, it would be hard to believe we are still having this discussion. Except for the obstruction of drug companies, alcohol companies and for-profit prison systems.
Make no mistake, all US prison systems make profits in some way. Someone is always getting paid and you are always the one paying in numerous ways. You pay for police, you pay for trials, you pay to keep people locked up because they cannot afford cash bail money, you pay for a public defender if they cannot afford a lawyer, you pay the six figure incomes of many thousands of judges. You pay when a person is convicted and imprisoned for years for non-violent drug possession charges.
You also pay by loss of your own civil rights. You pay in the form of increased social tensions, division, resentment and anger when specific minorities are accused and convicted at a rate 2.5–4 times higher than all other races.
You pay when a family must receive public assistance because the primary income earner is jailed or imprisoned for an offense less dangerous than your weekend beer binge.
You pay when children lack performance in school because they are distraught because their parent is absent from the home. More so if that parent is victimized while incarcerated with more violent offenders. Or when the parent is released, changed, unable to find adequate employment because of their prison record.
You pay when police plant evidence, point guns at non-violent, possibly innocent “suspects” and employ abusive tactics to gain a “confession”. You pay when a person is proven innocent after years in prison.
You pay for more expensive pharmaceutical medications, which are legal while less effective and carry side effects which can damage internal organs, cause addiction, cause depression and even kill.
An estimated 88,000 people a year die due to alcohol-related causes every single year in the US. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdose (combined legal and illegal). Know how many people have ever died as a result of cannabis (marijuana) overdose or organ damage? None. Absolutely zero.
Many people complain about the cost and political expediency of paying to treat an opiate overdose, which may include not only Narcan but being placed on a mechanical ventilator in ICU. Opiates are well know to cause intestinal blockage, which can result in intestinal rupture. These things can happen with normal prescription doses. Many elderly people with acute or chronic pain are hospitalized every year with these complications. Know how many people suffer these complications due to cannabis use? None. Absolutely zero.
Opiates are known to suppress respiratory function which can worsen medical condition and outcomes for those with acute or chronic respiratory disease (asthma, COPD, cancer). Research on cannabis shows evidence of improving lung function for those with chronic respiratory disease.
Opiates and pharmaceutical antidepressants are know to cause chronic fatigue and weight gain, even when they have not taken the medication for many hours. By contrast, cannabis has been proven to reduce body fat (not advised for weight loss) and unless a person is actively relaxed due to recent use, does not cause chronic fatigue. Some users of specific strains report increased energy and creativity.
Alcohol use results in known liver damage. So does high dose or chronic acetaminophen use. Multiple research studies have shown likely liver protection from damage for cannabis users.
Numerous drugs including opiates, alcohol, anti-inflammatory medications and others have shown a correlation to increased risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Cannabis research shows promise of decreasing risk of these conditions and Alzheimer’s patients have shown increased cognition with cannabis use.
A recent corporate news report has claimed increased traffic accidents in 4 states which have legalized cannabis use at some level. However, correlation is not causation. Even the biased report could not determine a direct relation. The report also did not specify other factors involved, such as concurrent cannabis and alcohol or other drug use. The report completely bypassed the fact that there has been no corresponding increase in traffic accidents in the other 26 states that have legalized cannabis at some level. So their statistics are completely against them.
You have probably seen reports which have shown documented clinical evidence that cannabis has multiple medical uses to treat seizures, cancer (at least as an adjunct), anorexia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, PTSD, anxiety, depression and with other possibilities arising. Though even if cannabis was not shown to have so many direct treatment possibilities, it reduces risk of complications from so many other medications that legalization makes practical sense.
We have all heard the reports of police seizing property without even the need to press criminal charges. In many cases, that property is permanently seized and never returned if a person is found in possession of even minor amounts of cannabis, as little as one joint. This is not a new thing, it has been happening in some places as far back as the 1980’s and spread across the country. If it happened to you, they could take your house, your vehicles, jewelry, weapons, everything in your bank account, savings, retirement and stock portfolio. It would then be up to you to prove you are innocent of a crime which you have not been charged with. Who gets it? The police or sheriff’s department that seizes it.
You can easily see why police, prison corporations, pharmaceutical companies and alcohol companies very actively oppose cannabis legalization. Not to mention the politicians that are in their pockets. If a substance with so many medical and recreational uses could be grown in your own yard or as a house plant, they stand to lose many billions in revenue each and every year.
While some claim that this would cause a loss of jobs, sales and tax revenue, states which have legalized cannabis have shown the opposite to be true. New jobs and businesses have been created. Colorado just passed $1 trillion in tax revenue since legalizing cannabis, which then helps improve funding for education in that state. Meanwhile they are spending billions less per year on pursuing, arresting, jailing and incarcerating non-violent drug offenders. Overdose incidents have decreased, meaning less spent treating consequences of overdose. Violent crime rates have dropped. What should be obvious is that more families are staying together, rather than being separated by incarceration.
The only rationales being used to keep cannabis illegal are repeatedly debunked myths of it being a “gateway drug”, causing brain damage, irresponsible behavior, psychosis, cancer, lung damage, etc. Not only have these things been debunked but cannabis has, as noted above, been shown to have applications preventing or treating these conditions.
The time for nationwide legalization of cannabis is now. In all states and at the federal level. Should it be unrestricted access? No, common sense should absolutely apply. Common sense does not include assigning sole rights of production to corporations. It should allow for individuals to grow at home, with limits on production without a commercial license. It should be no different than growing your own tobacco or brewing your own beer for personal use. Some would claim a license should be required, yet do not insist in a license for the tobacco or beer as I just mentioned. It is literally less innocuous than either of those.
We talk about having freedom in this country. Yet we have laws restricting growing a weed. How free is that?
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