The debate over whether or not marijuana should be legal has been going on for decades.
While the issue may not always be taken as seriously as other controversial debates in the news, it is an important debate that would have a large impact on our society. Should the mind-altering drug be legalized in our country?
Well, when it is compared to another mind-altering drug, advocates for legalization often have a surprisingly strong case.
The legal drug used for comparison is, of course, alcohol.
Alcohol is a very popular mind-altering substance proudly imbedded into American culture. Yet, when compared to marijuana, alcohol seems to be the more dangerous of the pair.
Death from alcohol poisoning can hit a person quickly, whereas it’s not even known if THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, can even cause a fatal overdose.
Beyond that, recent statistics show that over one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities in the country are caused by alcohol. The same percentage holds true in the cases of homicide and assault.
Even ignoring fatalities from drunk driving and homicide, there are nearly 25,000 additional deaths per year in the country caused by alcohol, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Total deaths reportedly caused by the use of marijuana? None.
And it’s not because the drug is illegal. It seems U.S. laws on marijuana are about as effective at preventing use of the substance as the country’s prohibition laws were on alcohol in the twenties.
According to a Time Magazine piece, 42 percent of Americans have experimented with pot. That is twice the percentage as in the Netherlands, where the drug is legal.
As for long-term effects, alcohol again seems to be the more harmful of the two.
According to the DSM-IV, the widely used psychological classification of mental disorders, long term effects of alcohol include a wide range of illnesses affecting most organs in the body, including liver cirrhosis and memory impairment.
Marijuana is known to affect the lungs, but a 20 year study completed earlier this year by the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that pot doesn’t harm the lungs nearly as badly as tobacco.
Going beyond the comparison to alcohol, the legalization of marijuana could bring some positives.
The government could throw heavy taxes on it, like it does cigarettes and alcohol.
It would also ease up an already overrun prison population of a country with more inmates than any other in the world.
We haven’t even mentioned the medical purposes accompanying the drug.
While strict laws and regulations would have to go hand-in-hand with the legalization of marijuana, it seems that people in this country have just as much a right to harm themselves smoking weed as they do drinking alcohol.
Because it seems far less likely they will be harming others in the process.