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Op-Ed: Why pot should be legalized in America

By Abigail Prendergast     Jul 12, 2011 in Health
Marijuana has often been the subject of controversy. What usually stirs people's emotions in regards to this substance is based on ignorance, propaganda and bias.
Marijuana has gone by many names and has been seen in several lights ranging from being looked at as a creative god-send to being perceived as the root of all evil. Usually those who find cannabis to fall into the latter category are subscribed to the false aesthetic that the substance will have adverse effects on those who use it. The fact of the matter is that marijuana, weed, pot or whatever you call it, is one of the least harmful substances known to man.
Scientifically proven to be less toxic than tobacco cigarettes and alcohol, cannabis merely lulls your brain into a relaxed, less inhibited state. Of course, like with any other substance how much goes into your system dictates how much you will be affected. For example, a couple hits from a pot pipe won't keep you confined to a couch laughing like an idiot like smoking four whole blunts would.
One of the most misleading statistics used by the prohibitionists is that more chemicals means a substance is more dangerous. This notion is flawed as there is no direct association between the amount of chemicals something has and its level of toxicity. Even with the 420 chemical elements within it, marijuana pales in comparison to your morning cup of coffee in that respect. The cup of joe you guzzle down before you go to work contains 1,500 chemicals, which is over 1,000 more than pot.
Cigarettes are also used as a futile way to ward off stress and one will be smoked after another unlike with cannabis, which is - unless you're a complete stoner - essentially a way to relax at the end of a long day in a similar way others use a glass of wine for a cathartic effect.
Another cause for debate is that people think if someone had too much pot in their system they would get into the car and run into a telephone pole. That notion makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine as people who drink alcohol and have common sense will not drive or designate a driver to take them home. Why can't the same be said for someone who wants to get high on marijuana?
The fact of the matter is that cannabis was outlawed due to the fact that hemp was a threat to the paper mill industry. Back in the early 1930s before the Marijuana Tax Act - which was essentially a cover up for making pot illegal - was put into place, a device known as the decorticator was invented. This mechanism was created to turn hemp into paper more efficiently and at less cost than wood. Since many of the big name business men and politicians at the time had much stock invested in paper mills, they felt obligated to launch a smear campaign against marijuana.
The chauvinistic bigots also felt the need to not only utilize the 1936 film Reefer Madness to propel their agenda, but also to take advantage of the current racist mindset of the time and claimed cannabis was the drug of choice for Mexicans and African Americans. Exploiting minorities and propaganda and making the general population believe that marijuana was making the young, impressionable high school students go crazy and kill children was the ultimate ticket to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
While this act didn't criminalize pot directly, it essentially banned marijuana when those who were able to hand out the licenses required for sellers to legally distribute the substance did not do so. Since creating the law requiring such a license, cannabis was then considered a licensed source and the federal government earned regulation rights over it.
Over the next few decades a further stigma was attached to marijuana when it was referred to as a "gateway drug" or a portal of sorts to using harder substances such as cocaine and heroin. This notion has been disproved time and time again and just goes to show that criminalizing marijuana (or any drug) is solely the result of corporate and political ignorance and greed.
However it seems odd at best that such a mentality is within the collective mindset of the government. After all, like with cigarettes and alcohol, selling not only marijuana but any currently illegal substance would greatly benefit the economy. The government can get money from the taxes placed on it and would save billions of dollars a year on the pointless war on drugs.
Usage would spike for a time, but then dwindle back down to the point before it was legalized. In fact, it is highly likely even less people than that would ultimately be using it.
In the end, it is up to the individual to decide what they can and cannot do to their own body. The government has no right to dictate how grown adults can live their lives. It sends a message that those in power can revoke the ordinary citizens of their rights one by one. And by instilling fear into the hearts of the people that is exactly what they are doing.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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