BY BREEANNA SVEUM
Marijuana has made its way into headlines more than once in recent weeks: New Jersey’s legislature has introduced a bill potentially legalizing medicinal marijuana (becoming the 14th state with a medical marijuana law), a member of the California Assembly proposed legislation making the purchase of marijuana legal (with a hefty fine) for those over 21, and, of course, photos of Michael Phelps, 14-time gold medal winning Olympian swimmer, have surfaced depicting him using a marijuana pipe, prompting investigations.
So, if you’re keeping score, for those in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, that’s two steps forward and one step back.
Still, it’s one step in the right direction for the country as a whole, which is more than can be said for South Carolina Sheriff Leon Lott, who is in favor of continuing to investigate whether Phelps actually used marijuana or whether he was just posing with the pipe.
But whether Phelps’ alleged marijuana use is true or not is irrelevant.
Lott’s investigation is ridiculous and an unnecessary use of taxpayers’ money.
Phelps has already lost an endorsement deal with Kellogg’s and has been suspended by USA Swimming for three months. He has attributed the photo to bad judgment, but denies that he actually used marijuana.
Phelps defies the usual stereotypes about marijuana users.
If the eight gold medals he earned in the Beijing Olympics are anything to judge by, he’s obviously not the lazy, slow, do-nothing, accomplish-nothing pothead that is often portrayed in the movies.
Even President Barack Obama has admitted to using marijuana during his youth. Obviously, not everyone who has used marijuana embodies the stereotype.
So why the criminalization in the first place? Marijuana is not physically addicting (unlike alcohol and cigarettes, which are both legal), you can’t fatally overdose (unlike alcohol), and the physical effects on the body are similar to cigarettes.
The benefits for legalizing marijuana—increased safety in production, regulation, billions of dollars in tax revenue and savings—far outweigh any potential costs.
When Franklin Roosevelt fought to repeal prohibition of alcohol, millions of jobs were created and millions of dollars in taxes were generated.
There is no reason that the same can’t be true for the legalization of marijuana.
The legalization of marijuana, like is proposed in California, would be a multi-billion dollar industry. In California alone, the proposed income would be over a billion dollars annually.
The amount of money saved by no longer having to arrest, prosecute, and jail non-violent marijuana users would also be vast and in the billions of dollars per year range.
The currently illegal sale of marijuana in California is approximately $14 billion per year. If applied to the rest of the country, the potential income is enormous.
With the current economy in shambles, this potential sum could limit or eliminate the need for a trillion dollar bailout from millions of Americans.
Certainly other options are preferable to a continually increasing debt.
There are other benefits to legalizing marijuana: with governmental regulations, like those for alcohol and tobacco, there would be a dramatic reduction in harmful additives in the drug and prevention of minors from obtaining the substance.
With the legalization of medical marijuana in 13 states (possibly soon to be 14), the country is moving in the right direction with the decriminalization of marijuana.
The government just has to realize what a benefit the substance could bring economically, as well as with the safety of the American people.