August 28, 2009 – In part one of this series we took a look at a couple of the key figures whose campaign of lies and propaganda helped stoke anti-marijuana sentimenthumboldt_jail_prisoner among the American public. There were many more. Lawmakers who eventually voted to outlaw marijuana had little factual evidence to assist them in making their decision. The case that was layed out before them had almost no basis in fact. In part two we will look at the cost of marijuana prohibition, not just in dollars, but in destroyed lives.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as of 2008 there were 2,310,984 prisoners were held in federal and state prisons, or in local jails. 20 percent of those were incarcerated for drug offenses. The latest DOJ statistics show that one in eight prisoners in the U.S. are jailed for marijuana-related offenses, at a cost of more than $1 billion a year.

The most recent FBI figures estimated that 786,545 people were arrested on marijuana charges in 2005. That number doubled in just over a decade. The vast majority, 696,074, were charged only for possession. The remaining 90,471 were charged with the sale or manufacture of marijuana. That includes people who were growing pot only for personal use.

Let me be clear, I am not attempting to portray marijuana as a totally harmless drug. But it is abundantly clear that it has less of a detrimental effect on its users than alcohol, or even tobacco.

Time magazine in a report last month said a study by the British medical journal, Lancet, showed that one in every 25 deaths worldwide can be attributed to alcohol. Alcohol-related causes of death included accidents, violence, poisoning, mouth and throat cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, suicide, stroke and several others. There are more than two million deaths reported annually as a result of alcohol.

The only single substance on Earth that causes more deaths than alcohol is tobacco. Worldwide more than 5 million deaths are attributed to tobacco use every year. 443,000 of those are in the U.S. alone, at a cost of $193 billion.

In comparison marijuana has never been listed as the official cause of even a single death. Not one. Ever. It is impossible to overdose on marijuana. Marijuana has not be proven to cause phyisical addiction, although it is true that some people do become psychologically addicted to the drug. Like alcohol, marijuana can be used responsibly and in moderation, or it can be abused and become the focus of some users’ lives. The vast majority of users however say they have no problem using the drug and then putting it down for long periods of time, or quitting altogether.

More than 40 percent of all Americans say they have used marijuana at some point in their lives. 18 million people say they have used pot within the last year. Despite claims that marijuana is the primary “gateway drug” and leads to the use of harder and more dangerous drugs, most drug users report their first experience was with alcohol or tobacco. 60 percent of marijuana users say they have never tried any other drug.

The point is yes, some people do use marijuana irresponsibly. Yes, some do go on to use other drugs. But there is clear evidence that alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous than marijuana. Most marijuana users lead very normal and productive lives. Far more so than alcolhol users. So why continue the charade that marijuana is such a threat to public health and safety? A marijuana possession conviction on an individual’s record can do far more harm to them than the drug itself. A person sent to prison for simply smoking marijuana will face consequences in their future that can utterly destroy their lives.

What about cost of enforcing marijuana laws? Government figures reveal that we spend more than $10 billion a year. Yet there is no less marijuana available now than there ever has been. In fact in most areas of the country it is readily available at most times. A recent study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that 40 percent of American teenagers say they can get marijuana within an day. 25 percent say they can find it within one hour.

Statistics from police departments around the country show that on average police find marijuana in only around one in every fifteen vehicles they search. This is valuable time and money being wasted that could be spent enforcing far more serious crimes.

Marijuana is the fourth largest cash crop in America. By some estimates marijuana grown in the U.S. has a street value of around $50 billion. What if the drug were laegalized, regulated, and taxed? Instead of spending billions yearly fighting an unwinnable battle we could be reaping huge tax revenues. Those funds could be partially used for drug education and rehabilitation programs.

Keeping the drug illegal solves absolutely nothing. Those who wish to smoke it will smoke it whether it is legal or not. Some people will drive under the influence of marijuana no matter what its legal status. Teens will still have access to it. There isn’t a single element of marijuana use that be shown to be kept in check by continuing its prohibition. In fact legalization and strict regulation could cut down on many of the problems that may be caused by marijuana.

The bottom line is that the cost, both monetarily and in the damage done to people’s lives who are arrested for simply smoking marijuana, is far to high to continue to justify. It is far past time for our nation’s marijuana lwas to begin to be based on facts, not deceit and misinformation. Source.

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