Legalize weed: the time is right

March 16, 2009 — by Gautham Ganesan and Mary Mykhaylova

If legislation proposed by Democratic assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco is signed into law, any Californian over 21 would be able to legally purchase, and be taxed for, marijuana from specialized vendors.

Despite significant opposition mounted largely by Republicans, who claim the bill will lead to an increase in substance abuse, the legalization of marijuana would be more positive than negative.

In addition to the publicity that will be generated and merchandise sold as a result of Michael Phelps’ inevitable move to the Golden (Green?) State, the move to legalize the drug would generate an estimated $15 billion annually in state revenue to alleviate the budget crisis, funds that would otherwise go up in smoke. While marijuana legalization bills have been proposed frequently in the past, this particular bill makes significant sense in light of the state’s bleak economic situation.

Over the past 20 years, the number of people incarcerated across America for the dealing or possession of marijuana has more than doubled from 400,000 to nearly 900,000. The legalization of marijuana would not only diminish organized crime and drug dealing but conserve millions of dollars in penal funding.

With alcohol and cigarettes legal and widely sold, the continuation of marijuana abolition is rather ludicrous. According to psychiatrist Dr. Igor Grant, heavy marijuana usage does not result in long-term brain damage, whereas even mild-to-moderate alcohol consumption most definitely affects cognitive functioning. Yet severe consequences remain in place for the dealing and possession of cannabis, while booze is not only widely purchasable but glorified on television and elsewhere.

Moreover, in the long term, nicotine and alcohol alike have addictive effects on their users, while marijuana contains no addictive substances. So while thousands of alcohol and cigarette abusers are on social welfare with liver diseases and lung cancer, it remains illegal for a young adult to smoke marijuana.

The legalization of marijuana would also provide individuals who seek to use it for medicinal purposes yet may or may not receive prescriptions for it, easier access to the substance. Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy often suffer from loss of appetite, a problem that could be easily combated with help from the appetite-stimulating cannabis.

Apart from the financial gains the state will gain, keeping marijuana illegal is exceedingly hypocritical because of its non-addictive nature. Voters need to recognize this and support Ammiano’s proposition. So move over, golden poppy, it’s time California had a new official state herb.

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