Should We Legalize Marijuana?

420You know, I’m really not sure.

I’ve gone back and forth with this for a while.

On one hand I get some of the arguments those who support its legalization use, such as it’s medicinal purposes.  And honestly for medical purposes I fully support its legalization—but then that opens the door to my first problem with it being legal.

In this country we have a huge problem with people abusing prescription pills, many of which are obtained legally from a doctor.  What many of these individuals do is network with people that share a similar addiction, locate doctors who they know hand out prescriptions like candy, then they continue to use that doctor to feed their habit.  Many of these individuals also learn what to say to doctors to get the certain kinds of pills they’re after.

So, with the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, I see the same thing happening.

Continuing with the medical argument, what if people take it for anxiety?  Do we allow people to smoke whenever they feel anxious?  Then if that’s the case, what’s to stop people who want to smoke from simply claiming they “felt an anxiety attack coming on” just to get high?

Wouldn’t that mean people could possibly have a reason to be high at work?  School?  Isn’t that a little dangerous?  It’s illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence–wouldn’t smoking weed constitute being “under the influence?”

Something I often hear when it comes to marijuana legalization is “it’s not as bad as alcohol,” and that might be true, but people aren’t advocating the medical use of vodka.  Alcohol is mostly seen as just a substance.  You won’t hear rational people argue that people should drink alcohol for medical reasons.

Someone won’t go to their boss at work and say, “I need a drink, doctor’s orders.”  But if you legalize marijuana that could be something employees begin to say.  Then in today’s society, an employer questioning someone’s medical conditions can be a giant civil liberties lawsuit just waiting to happen.

But let’s say it’s legal for medical uses, but not at work, how would you tell if someone is high or not?  A substance like alcohol has a metabolic process in which it filters through our body–marijuana is not the same.  Someone could have smoked last night and still test positive for its use the next day when they were perfectly sober.

Then say it’s only legal for medical reasons, and you (someone not medically cleared to smoke) happen to be around someone who has medical permission to smoke marijuana.  You get hired for a new job but must pass a drug test before you can start, only you fail the drug test due to secondhand consumption of smoke when you were around your friend—now what?  How do you prove that you didn’t smoke?  This is an extreme example and is unlikely to happen in most cases, but it is possible.

Another issue I’ve thought about is the consumption of marijuana.  Do we limit how one can intake the substance, or do we allow people to consume it any way they’d like?

If you allow it to be smoked, do you only allow it smoked in private residences?  After all, it is possible to get high off secondhand marijuana smoke.

So then do you legalize marijuana but make its public consumption illegal?

I also question the habit of smoking itself.  Not smoking marijuana exactly, but smoking in general.  People who smoke tend to do so out of the habit of smoking, not just the physical cravings for the substance.

Anyone who knows a smoker can almost predict when they’ll smoke.  Often when they first wake up, when they drink their coffee, after they eat, as soon as they get in/out of a car, when they drink, as soon as they get home, right before bed, etc…

Now, I know many will say marijuana isn’t addictive, and they might be right on some levels.  It doesn’t seem to carry with it the same physically addicting qualities of nicotine, but you’re naive if you deny that the act of smoking itself for many marijuana users is a habit.  Just because you might not smoke off and on throughout the day doesn’t mean that there aren’t many smokers who do.

But smoking as a habit is simply handled differently by most than drinking.  At work if you “step out for a smoke” you keep your job, if you “step out for a drink” you’ll likely be terminated.

Then there’s the argument of the millions we spend on incarcerating people who smoke weed and that I will say is ridiculous.  If marijuana is going to stay illegal, it should be treated much like alcohol consumption by a minor—not on equal standing with drugs like heroin and crystal meth.  If they want to keep it illegal and jail those who sell marijuana I could see that argument, but to jail its users is just—stupid.

But honestly what I hear most goes back to that line I mentioned earlier about how “it’s not as bad as alcohol” or “alcohol is worse.”  Whenever I hear that, I don’t hear “Marijuana is good.”  I just hear it isn’t as bad as something else.

I always say to these people, “You claim it isn’t as bad, and that might be true, but why should we introduce legality to a substance just because it’s not as bad as another substance?”  Isn’t that really an argument to ban both substances?

These arguments always produce stats showing the horrible impact alcohol has on our society—the deaths, the illness and the damage it causes to families—but that’s showing why alcohol is bad, not why marijuana is good.

I’m still not sure where I stand, however I do feel people need to take a bigger picture view on this issue before jumping to a conclusion either way.

Because while both sides for and against the legalization of marijuana have their points, I don’t believe we’ve spent enough time viewing the issue from each perspective.  That being said, you can check out a differing perspective from one of my colleagues here, it’s well worth the read.  Where do you stand?

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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