Friday, November 18, 2011

Decriminalizing Common Sense: Why Marijuana Ought To Be Legal

For over 4,800 years, marijuana has been safely used to treat a "whole host of gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia, [and] headaches" (i). The ancient doctors prescribed marijuana because it had proven to be a safe and effective herbal treatment. Today, marijuana is also widely used as a recreational drug comparable to tobacco and alcohol. Unfortunately, this time-honored substance is considered illegal by the U.S. government. Despite abundant evidence of the benefits of marijuana use, those who partake continue to be prosecuted as common criminals. It is high time for marijuana to be officially recognized as the safe, medicinal substance that it is. It ought to be at least as legal to buy, sell, possess, and consume as tobacco and alcohol.
Over the last few decades, marijuana has slowly returned to its rightful status as a useful and legitimate herbal treatment for various ailments. Those who suffer from chronic nausea and vomiting have much to gain from a daily marijuana regimen. In studies conducted in New Mexico, researchers found that, "More than ninety percent of the patients who received marijuana...reported significant or total relief from nausea and vomiting" (ii). With such a high success rate, it is no wonder doctors are clamoring for the right to prescribe marijuana to their patients.
The government has tried to characterize marijuana as a dangerous drug by declaring that marijuana smoke causes cancer. However, most of the carcinogenic chemicals associated with marijuana smoke come from the paper it is often rolled with. Federal statutes outlawing the possession of marijuana "paraphernalia" like pipes and bongs constitute the prime reason why marijuana is smoked through a tube of paper rather than via other methods that filter out most of the carcinogens. Furthermore, if marijuana were legal, users could opt to consume it in tea form, which is totally non-carcinogenic (iii).
Indeed, a reasonable person is hard-pressed to find reasons why marijuana should continue to be classified as a Schedule I drug, since it is demonstrably less addictive than nicotine and causes significantly less harm to the body than alcohol. Despite the proven health risks, these two latter substances remain legal while the former is falsely labeled a dangerous narcotic. However, a growing chorus of respected voices in the medical community is now speaking out in defense of marijuana. The editors of the prestigious British medical journal, Lancet, have stated, "The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health...It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat...than alcohol or tobacco" (iv).
The much-maligned miracle of marijuana has been denied for far too long by the U.S. government. For the sake of the suffering, and for the sake of those who choose marijuana as their recreational drug of choice, the time has come for a real reevaluation of U.S. marijuana policy. Rather than the dangerous, community-destroying menace it has been made out to be, marijuana has been proven to be not only safe for human consumption but also beneficial for those who seek to tap its medicinal and recreational usefulness.
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Josh Smith is a telecommunications data analyst and aspiring writer. He is a regular contributor to the political debate on [].

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