Editorial: Government must legalize marijuana
War on Drugs a waste of resources.
Storrs, Conn. - This declaration, "Marijuana should be legalized in the United States," has long been a contentious issue. Social values, health concerns, economics and politics are all at work in the debate over legalizing marijuana.
The war on drugs has been a misguided and unfair attempt at regulating illicit drug use. During this campaign, which costs an estimated $35 billion a year, according to the Washington Post, marijuana was lumped into the same category as such hard drugs as cocaine and heroin and labeled as equally dangerous and addictive. Countless studies have refuted this and although chronically inhaling marijuana smoke is not unlike tobacco in potentially causing lung damage, marijuana has been linked to no deaths in the United States. Meanwhile, two completely legal and easily obtained drugs, tobacco and alcohol, caused 435,000 deaths and 85,000 deaths in 2000, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In 2004, there were 1,745,712 state and local arrests for drug abuse violations in the United States, 39.2 percent of which were for marijuana possession, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Washington Post reported that a study by the Sentencing Project estimated $4 billion a year is spent on these arrests and prosecutions. The study also found African Americans made up about a third of all marijuana related arrests, but represent only 14 percent of marijuana users.
Aside from locking up more minorities in already crowded prisons and using up valuable law enforcement resources, the leaders of the War on Drugs are now targeting college students. Students with drug convictions can now lose their federal financial aid according to a federal law on the books. Students For Sensible Drug Policy reports on their Web site that 200,000 students have already lost their financial aid as a result of this law.
Economically, it would benefit the government to legalize marijuana if it were taxed properly. The demand would increase in the short-term but could be controlled by the amount of tax. Worry about marijuana being a gateway drug is unsubstantiated. The San Francisco Chronicle, citing The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, estimates roughly 100 million Americans have tried marijuana at some point and 15 million use it regularly. For the majority, weed is no more a gateway drug to cocaine or heroin as beer is to hard liquor.
The legalization of marijuana is by no means a new or shocking concept. What does continue to be shocking, however, is our government's unwillingness to re-evaluate its drug policies and recognize the inefficiency and unfairness of imposing such unreasonable punishments. Decriminalization of the drug state by state is a start but it should lead to legalization.
Our society and government have wasted enough resources. It is time to solve this "drug problem" and focus on more important priorities.
Staff Editorial - The Daily Campus - University of Connecticut