By Tristan Turner
As with all drugs, I have nothing but contempt for marijuana. To me, the consumption of any substance that causes any level of inebriation, addiction, intemperance or long-term health issues should be avoided diligently. I loathe Marijuana – so why do I believe it should be legalized and federally regulated, like tobacco?
There are many assumptions placed on both marijuana use as well as marijuana users. I would not be filling my role adequately as a social commentator if I did not pursue challenges to our collective assumptions.
First and foremost, allow me to break the assumption that only ruffians and hooligans consume this substance. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 44 per cent of Canadians have used marijuana at some point in their lifetime. I would hardly consider half of our nation’s population to be criminals; however, it appears our current laws have an antithetic perspective.
Another predisposed assumption is that the legalization of a substance immediately spurs its consumption. This, again, is a fallacy. According to a study published in the Social Sciences Journal: “[US] States and regions that have maintained the strictest criminal penalties for marijuana possession have experienced the largest proportionate increase in use.” Additionally, if I may draw a comparison between the contemporary prohibition against marijuana to the past prohibition of alcohol in the United States, many studies show that as a result of prohibition, in most regions, alcohol consumption either stayed the same or increased as a result of new laws against the drug’s consumption. I believe this to be an analogue for the levels of marijuana use; Were it to be legalized.
Additionally, it is a rampant assumption that marijuana is so damaging to individuals’ health that it should not be legalized for recreational use. However, the vast majority of objective studies on marijuana has deduced that it is exceedingly safer than alcohol and cigarettes for the consumer. Alcohol and tobacco are more toxic, more addictive, and more harmful to long-term health than marijuana, and alcohol use is more likely to cause injuries and lead to violence. Also, it is nearly impossible to die of an overdose of marijuana, as it has never been recorded as ever happening. Yet death by alcohol poisoning is prevalent.
What about the cost to society for prevention and health treatment resulting from marijuana use? To cite an assessment published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, health-related costs for alcohol consumers are eight times greater than those for marijuana consumers, and those for tobacco consumers are forty times greater than those for marijuana consumers.
If generally in society we view the consumption of alcohol or cigarettes to be an accepted social norm, then why do we take such an aggressive stance towards marijuana – a substance that in many cases has been proven to be less of a detriment to human health?
So, if there is no reason to keep marijuana illegal, is there reason to legalize it?
Yes. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse: Canadians spend up to $1.3 billion policing and persecuting the marijuana industry. This expense would obviously disappear after legalization, freeing up your tax dollars to be spent on dealing with actual crimes of consequence, such as violent crime. Furthermore, the US Drug Enforcement Agency estimates the value of the Canadian black market marijuana industry to be worth $19-21 Billion dollars. Since regulated marijuana would be taxed at an enormous rate, it would provide a tremendous amount of tax revenue for our nation, taking money out of organized crime and gang warfare, and putting it towards our children’s education or other social programs.
As with many things in our society, the prohibition of marijuana is based on decade-old assumptions and void of any support in factual evidence.
It turns out the majority of Canadians agree with me. An Angus Reid poll showed that 53 per cent of Canadians believe marijuana should be legalized and federally regulated.