Marijuana Prohibition Harms Public SafetyOctober 25th, 2012
In this year’s presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, no one broached the subject of the War on Drugs. To many politicos, it’s viewed as a silly wedge issue. However, public support for the decriminalization of marijuana is at an all-time high. Three states, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, are considering fully legalizing it through referendums on this year’s general election ballot. A recent Gallup poll found that 50% of Americans support marijuana legalization.
For all of the Americans behind bars for using a substance which harms no one, it’s more than a silly wedge issue. For the disproportionate numbers of African Americans, Latinos, and other groups that are profiled and jailed for something the past three presidents have admitted doing, it’s simply much more serious. When one considers that America jails more people per capita than most dictatorial nations around the world for policies that largely fall under the category of a health issue, legalizing marijuana rises to the point of a moral imperative. Marijuana prohibition causes mainstream people to substitute their use with alcohol, which is more dangerous. In order to make America a safer place, ending prohibition is crucial.
1920 Called, It Wants Its Prohibition Back
It’s a widely accepted fact that alcohol is substantially more dangerous than marijuana. In fact, alcohol is arguably one of the most dangerous drugs. People on alcohol wreck cars and kill others. Some go into violent rages and harm their family members and friends. Despite all this, American society accepts the fact that prohibition of alcohol did not work; it caused the rise of gangsters like Al Capone and did nothing to slow down use and abuse. Instead, Americans have embraced education as a solution to alcoholism.
When the same logic is applied to marijuana, some will say it’s a “gateway drug” that will certainly lead to heroin addiction. However, there are no studies that conclusively prove that people who use marijuana will be helplessly compelled to try the really crazy stuff. Most people who try marijuana do not go on to become addicted to other, harder drugs. In fact, alcohol more significantly impairs someone’s judgment and makes it more likely that said person might try drugs such as prescription pills that interact with alcohol. Prescription pills in combination with alcohol are a leading killer in America. There are no known marijuana fatalities in the history of the world. That’s something that can’t be said about taking aspirin or eating apples.
Legalizing Marijuana for Recreational Use Reduces the Social Costs of Alcohol Abuse
A recent study demonstrated that states which have decriminalized marijuana to some degree have experienced a 9% drop in traffic fatalities. Researchers found that marijuana prohibition causes some people to substitute their use with alcohol when out on the town to avoid the chance of arrest. This increases alcohol abuse in people who otherwise might have opted to smoke marijuana.
When we see drunk driving fatalities, we have to wonder what might have happened if the driver had smoked marijuana instead. Would they have even felt like leaving the house? Would a tragic fatality have instead turned into a night on the couch with Cheetos?
Criminalizing marijuana endorses alcohol use as an alternative. How many families have been torn apart by violence due to alcohol abuse? Meanwhile, prohibition enriches gangs, international drug cartels, and terrorist organizations while putting law enforcement officers at risk. It turns urban areas and real estate along the US border into war zones. Children are caught in the crossfire between gangsters and militarized police.
It’s important to reiterate that alcohol should not be prohibited despite the risks, because the act of its prohibition harmed public safety and did not reduce its use or social costs. Even if marijuana were seriously harmful, prohibiting it would be ineffective policy. However, it’s not seriously harmful, and repealing its prohibition will improve public safety.
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