Monday, November 28, 2005


Original Chimes Article Here

Prohibition costly, violates rights

Since 1937, the federal government has waged an unfair war against a segment of the American population. A 60-year ban on the use and possession of marijuana has violated the individual liberties of American citizens who enjoy the recreational and medical benefits of the drug. Not only has this war been created largely out of blatant lies about the side effects of the drug, it is also taxing the wallets and purses of American taxpayers.We believe that the responsible use of marijuana should not be an issue that the federal government should concern itself with. The use of this substance should be one’s personal choice, and we call for the complete decriminalization of the substance.

As Christians, we believe that it is morally wrong for someone to put a harmful substance into one’s body. Our bodies are temples of God, not to be abused by things such as marijuana. However, living in a society such as America, individuals should be free to have their own moral convictions, provided the rights of others are not infringed upon. If we were to create a society based on our personal morals (keeping in mind that our bodies are temples of God) we would also have to ban more harmful substances like tobacco, alcohol and Big Macs. It is not the government’s job to regulate our individual liberties, rather its job is to protect them.

The war on marijuana not only violates our rights as free Americans, but it is pointless and costly.

With all arguments about individual liberty aside, we can also see just how much this unfair war against marijuana users is hurting society. Every 45 seconds, one American is arrested on marijuana charges. In 1997, 695,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana related charges. Forty-four percent of those in jail on drug charges are marijuana arrests. For every individual in jail for marijuana, taxpayers pay $25,000 a year.

Despite all this effort by the government to deter marijuana users, use is still incredibly high. The American Civil Liberties Union found that 32 percent of voting adults have smoked marijuana during their lives; 18-20 million smoked marijuana in 1997. One half of high school graduates have tried marijuana at least once.

In addition, the war on marijuana has assumed a racist dimension. While blacks and Hispanics make up only 20 percent of the users of marijuana, they comprise 58 percent of the marijuana arrests in 1995. In New York, for instance, 71 percent of those arrested for marijuana charges were non-whites.

Contrary to popular opinion, marijuana is less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. Alcohol kills 105,000 Americans each year. Tobacco kills 365,000, and second-hand smoke alone is responsible for 53,000 deaths. Caffeine kills 2,000 a year and aspirin 500. There is no evidence that anyone has ever overdosed on marijuana, or that marijuana has been directly responsible for any deaths. Although marijuana is linked to cancer of the throat, lungs and neck, it does not penetrate the lungs like cigarettes do, therefore there is less risk.

Although it is hard to objectively measure the addictive qualities of a substance, many scientists believe that marijuana is less addictive than cigarettes, alcohol or even caffeine. Furthermore, marijuana does not kill brain cells or promote violent behavior; alcohol does both.

Advocates of keeping marijuana illegal will often use the “gateway” argument. According to this argument, those who use marijuana will later move on to more dangerous drugs such as heroin or cocaine. This is based on research that indicates that most heroin and cocaine users started with marijuana. However, most marijuana users do not move on to heroin and cocaine. Furthermore, the same research indicates that heroin and cocaine users also used alcohol and tobacco before harder drugs.

With these myths dispelled, one can see that there may be many benefits to decriminalization. With a legalized version of the drug, users will be safer from the side effects of accidentally using “laced” marijuana. In buying the substance from a licensed dealer, users can be assured that the substance they are using has been regulated and deemed safe. In addition, sales of marijuana through local merchants can be taxed, unlike sales through an average street dealer. This can provide an influx of cash for the government, rather than an outpouring of funds to arrest and imprison these “criminals.”

In addition, with regulated selling, street dealers would largely be put out of business, making the streets safer for everyone. Marijuana-related crime would all but completely die out, saving about $7 billion of taxpayer money. Police could then concentrate on catching rapists and murderers, as opposed to harmless marijuana users.

Some may argue that decriminalization of marijuana may lead to more widespread use. We would like to contend that this is not necessarily the case. Several studies, conducted by organizations like the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and the Bureau of Tobacco Control and Biometrics have shown that in states where the penalties have been drastically lowered for marijuana possession, the overall rate of the use of the substance has not increased. The California State Office of Narcotics and Drug Abuse has found that “the reduction in penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use does not appear to be a factor in people’s decision to use or not use the drug.”

Whoever wants to use the drug is going to use it, regardless of what the law says. Millions of American marijuana smokers will attest to this.

The war on marijuana not only violates our rights as free Americans, but it is pointless and costly.

No comments: