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Alcohol legal, pot not

Claudia Leist, Staff Writer

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Today, anti-marijuana supporters, while well-intentioned, are promoting policies that lead to more violence and disease in our society by arguing that we should keep marijuana illegal. But as long as marijuana remains illegal, profits from sales will go to criminals and drug cartels, and adults will continue to be punished for using a substance that may be less harmful than current legal drugs.

For more than 80 years, our government has spent tens of billions of taxpayer dollars fighting the war against marijuana. However, marijuana prohibition has proven itself just as disastrous a public policy as alcohol prohibition. Despite the similarities between the two, there’s one key difference: Marijuana is safer than alcohol. 

The topic of marijuana legalization has pitted young adults and teenagers against the older generations. While alcohol has been popularly consumed for centuries, the recreational use of marijuana gained its popularity in the 1960s.

It doesn’t make sense that a substance that drastically impairs almost all of a person’s senses and physical capabilities is legal, while one that is known to reduce anxiety and paranoia, help users focus, relieve pain, possibly cure diseases and certain forms of cancer, and boost mood is illegal.

After the Temperance Act was repealed in 1933, signifying the end of the Prohibition, the sale and consumption of alcohol has been legal with certain regulations. The main reasons that a person may be arrested due to alcohol include the selling of it to people under the age of 21 or driving under the influence.

According to research done for the Alcohol Epidemiology Program, “Alcohol use contributes to hundreds of thousands of injuries, illnesses and deaths each year in the United States.”

Even if you don’t drink, alcohol can kill you. An estimated 80,000 deaths per year are caused by alcohol use, and drunk driving is the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), “Alcohol is more toxic, more addictive, more harmful to the body, more likely to result in injuries, and more likely to lead to interpersonal violence than marijuana.” And according to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death. Much like with marijuana today, even under alcohol prohibition most Americans who wanted a drink had no problem finding one.

Marijuana, on the other hand, does not cause overdose deaths and comes with far fewer long-term health consequences. However, selling, smoking or even possessing marijuana is illegal and may put one in jail if one does not have a valid medical marijuana card.

Not only is this policy irrational, it is restricting the nation from having access to a possibly safer alternative to alcohol that can save people’s lives.

“For some of the participants, marijuana enhanced their ability to relax by taking their minds off daily stresses and pressures. Others found it helpful in focusing on the activity at hand,” said Geraint Osborne, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta.

Many look at marijuana as a “gateway” drug, but according to the Institute of Medicine, people who use marijuana are far less likely to become dependent than those who drink alcohol.

As of today, only Colorado and Washington have permitted marijuana for recreational use, and 20 other states have permitted the use of medical marijuana. The Department of Justice recently signaled it will not challenge state laws that regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana.Don’t believe it works? In 2009, Colorado’s medical marijuana industry exploded and caused the state to put regulations in place. According to CDC data on youth drug use, from 2009 to 2011, the percentage of Colorado teens using marijuana dropped more than any other state in the country.

The legalization of marijuana in all 50 states for recreational use would be a controversial but rational idea for the other 48 states who have not legalized it. It is better for people to have a variety of options than to be strictly pressured into settling for the more dangerous alternative due to the fear of being considered a criminal. 

The reality is that by punishing adults who would rather use marijuana for health purposes, we are encouraging them to use alcohol instead, a more dangerous and harmful, but legal, drug. Public policy should be geared toward reducing violence and disease, not maximizing them.

Instead of looking at marijuana as a “terrible” drug and alcohol as a popular beverage, it is time to conclude that they both have pros and cons, and that legalization of marijuana would be the more rational decision on behalf of the United States in its attempts to reduce alcohol related problems in our society.

Special thanks to Sabrina Leung for providing information and statistics.

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About the Writer
Claudia Leist, Highlander Editor

Claudia is a senior who aspires to be a communications representative for a sports team or company in her future. She enjoys learning about world issues...

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Alcohol legal, pot not