Friday, 4/20 is the official, unofficial, national pot smoking day. This means that we get to talk about pot, if not smoke it today here on addictinginfo.org. As a former pothead, I’m setting up my Cheetos and a dish of peanut butter for dipping, in honor of stony days long gone by. As a liberal, I have no issue with the plant, particularly when mixed in a well prepared gingersnap cookie. As a red-state mother however, there is no chance in heck that I’d risk my kids by using marijuana.
Sad isn’t it? The biggest risk of smoking pot is going to jail, and maybe losing your family. Can you think of any other behavior for which you could go to jail and lose your family that makes less sense? I mean, one might go to jail if they got drunk and drove through a Wal-Mart, or they might lose their child if they beat them with a frying pan and those punishments make sense to me. But jail for pot? Loss of custody over pot? You can get drunk and pass out on the couch every night and you won’t lose your kid, but if you smoke a joint while they’re at school and a DFS worker finds out, your kid could easily be gone (particularly if you’re black).
And so, I don’t smoke pot because I know that the reality is that the biggest risk of marijuana is the law. In America about 800,000 people per year are arrested for marijuana related crimes. According to a team of 300 economists including 3 Nobel Laureates, marijuana prohibition costs the nation about 7.7 billion dollars in enforcement costs. I find this to be absolutely ridiculous in face of the fact that pot is less physically harmful than cigarettes, chewing tobacco, obesity or alcohol. Unlike these vices, marijuana has never once been found as a cause of death. In fact the CDC doesn’t even have a category for deaths caused by marijuana, whereas nicotine, alcohol and obesity all contribute to massive numbers of deaths nationwide each year.
In fact, we all know that some people smoke pot to get better, not just without concern of dying. Marijuana has been shown to have medicinal effects for a number of diseases, but there is no actual way for the system of medicine that exists in the U.S. today to recognize this unless we reduce it from its current classification as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. This classification prohibits us from putting it through vigorous FDA testing to determine the validity of medical use claims, or the proper way to use marijuana so that it can best treat the ailments it most likely has the ability affect. Without this knowledge it is impossible to expect that it not be misused by those who may or may not have medical ailments. Until it is reclassified, and put through that testing by the FDA so that doctors can knowledgeably prescribe it, this pot loving gal doesn’t support the current medical marijuana movement.
I’ll tell you what I do support. I support making it legal in the manner that alcohol is for three reasons. First, this would relieve the judicial system so that they may better devote time and energy to sending probation officers to do their job correctly so little girls don’t sit in tents in their abusers back yards for 18 or 20 years at a time while popping out their rapists’ babies. That seems like a better investment than having that same P.O. stand over some guy’s shoulder watching him pee in a cup over a joint. Second, legalization would also relieve the medical community of this false medical marijuana industry, till the FDA can do its job, while not actually preventing real patients from getting their medicine. Finally, decriminalizing marijuana would be decriminalizing a whole lot of people who you and I love, who use the drug for one reason or another and don’t deserve to have to be criminals for it.
But Wait- There’s more! This is the best part folks: If we decriminalize marijuana and treat it like alcohol we not only unburden our courts, our jails, the medical profession and our loving friends and family – - – That same team of economists that predicted that decriminalization would save us $7.7 billion dollars also predicts that we can make an estimated $6 billion dollars a year in tax revenue! For those of you at home, doing the math, that totals an estimated savings of 13.7 billion dollars, just from decriminalizing the drug and then taxing it like alcohol.
Think about the economic growth that would come with an industry that could contribute 6 billion dollars in taxation! Economist Stephen Easton wrote in BusinessWeek that legalizing the pot could bring into existence a brand new $45 to $100 billion per year industry. Talk about preventing outsourcing, wouldn’t you prefer to keep that new market growth in places like California or Tennessee rather than give it to a Colombian drug lord?
I sure as heck would.
I’d also like to be able to smoke a joint once in a while, without vilification. I’d like to kick my feet back and get no more inebriated than any other mom on cocktail night with the girls, pay taxes on my high, munch down something ridiculous, laugh a little, have some fun and do it all without a hangover. I don’t feel dirty or wrong or bad for wanting that. I don’t think the people I know and love who use this drug for recreation or medicine deserve to feel that way either.
The fact is, that most Americans agree with me, and a good many of them will be partaking in the use of marijuana in illegal and pseudo-legal ways this Friday. It’s too damn bad we aren’t charging taxes on their celebration of this event. I can think of a few drug lords in South America who are certainly raking it in, hand over fist in fits of violence, and that disturbs me. It makes me ask what the motivation is to keep this drug illegal and who is pushing that agenda.
I’m gonna bet it’s the either the rich drug dealing murderer in Columbia or the guy who owns all those prisons filled with Americans who make the mistake of getting caught with pot. No one else has the incentive. Everyone else wants to get high, or at least stop wasting time on those who do.
My youngest kid is six. Unless things change here in America, it’ll be 2024 before I feel comfortable partaking in my favorite holiday and risking the criminality of a harmless high. In the meantime, for those so inclined, take a puff for me. Happy 4:20 to those who celebrate, to those who sit it out, and to those who proved that none of us should have to sit it out.
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