The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.

Western Courier

Consider legalizing marijuana

Jessie Matias

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the U.S. According to over 40 peer-reviewed studies, compiled by ProCon.org, marijuana can help relieve stress, relieve physical pain, help mentally ill individuals be more functional and so on. It doesn’t have any of the detrimental side effects most prescription drugs have — like risk of stroke and death — and its use has been proven, by University of California, San Fransisco (UCSF) and others, to be safer than alcohol or tobacco. Even a large number of Republican lawmakers have come out in support of medical marijuana after it’s been proven that in many cases, the safest treatment for a disease like glaucoma or epilepsy is marijuana.

Beyond its obvious medical benefits, marijuana is safer and more effective than other pain killers. Studies by UCSF and the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies show the plant is particularly effective against neuropathic pain, a type of pain that involves nerve damage. Opiate drugs — the drug prescribed to those who suffer neuropathic pain — can be highly addictive, which leads individuals to use marijuana in order to avoid the risk of addiction or fatal overdose. Another medical benefit is the so-called “munchies.” In states where medical marijuana is legal, marijuana is prescribed to patients suffering from AIDS or going through chemotherapy for cancer, seeing as the plant has appetite-inducing effects and can also stop nausea. Not only that but, according to reporting by CNN, it is also helpful for people who suffer from depression, a mental illness that can decrease your appetite and affect your ability to sleep.

Numerous stories of parents who treat their sick children with marijuana oil drops have gained controversy on the internet in the past few years. According to Time Magazine, roughly 100,000 children in the U.S. have intractable epilepsy — a treatment-resistant category of the disease characterized by uncontrolled seizures — and for some of these parents, medical marijuana has been the most successful treatment. These parents, according to reporting by CNN, are obtaining marijuana not only by moving to states like Colorado and Oregon to obtain it through legal means, but some are running the risk of getting in trouble with the law to obtain it in states where its medical use remains illegal.

Let’s talk economics: Acco-rding to Fortune Magazine, after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, the state not only topped $1 billion in tax revenue by 2016, but also created over 18,000 new jobs. A study conducted by a Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron found that the U.S. government could save billions of dollars by ending the War on Drugs or at least legalizing marijuana. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Statistics, American taxpayers spend more than $1 billion each year incarcerating citizens for marijuana-related crimes.

Which brings me to my next point: The national decriminalization of marijuana would end the many arrests made over the plant each year. According to FBI crime statistics, marijuana has accounted for nearly half of all total drug arrests made in the US over the past 20 years. And according to the DOJ, a large portion of the U.S. illegal drug market is managed directly by Mexican cartels. Those who argue that marijuana creates more criminals fail to realize that it is the “War on Drugs” that create criminals. Fox News’ John Stossel spoke about the issue of drugs and violence saying, “People who get high are rarely violent. The violence occurs because when something’s illegal, it is sold only on the black market. And that causes crime. Drug dealers can’t just call the cops if someone tries to steal their supply. So, they form gangs and arm themselves to the teeth.”

Some law enforcement officials — like Retired Deputy Chief Stephen Downing and Retired Detective Sergeant Neil Woods — are calling an end to the prohibition against cannabis by creating a group known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Neil Franklin, a 33-year veteran police officer from Maryland, told Stossel, “Drugs can be — and are in many cases —problematic, but the policies that we have in place to prohibit their use are 10 times more problematic.” According to the DOJ, drug gangs are one of the main causes of violent crimes in the U.S. These crimes, according to the Foundation for Economic Education, can cost innocent civilians their lives. As posited by Time Magazine and The Washington Post, the nationwide legalization of marijuana could bring down the number of violent crimes committed by gangs significantly.

Many of those who oppose the legalization of marijuana argue that the plant could be a gateway drug, although there is no proof of that. In fact, research conducted by the National Institute of Health has revealed that the vast majority of marijuana users don’t go on to use hard drugs. Many are also concerned about marijuana causing a good deal of harm to your lungs in the act of smoking it. But research from UCSF has revealed that smoking marijuana could actually improve the health of your lungs. And even if that was a legitimate concern, marijuana can be consumed in other ways, like oil drops.

Almost the majority of Americans have smoked marijuana at least once in their lives, according to Pew Research Center. Even our presidents have been doing it. President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama both admitted to smoking marijuana when they were younger, although Clinton claimed he didn’t inhale it. To me, it is illogical that a plant so widely used and has so many benefits remains illegal.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Consider legalizing marijuana