The debate over the legalization of marijuana is hardly new, yet recent events in California – including Governor Schwarzenegger’s signing of a bill that reduces penalties on those found in possession of the drug – have launched it back into the spotlight. With the vote on California’s Proposition 19 looming, which would legalize and regulate use of marijuana in the state, we’re hearing more the pros and con of using cannabis. It’s no secret that people use marijuana for recreational and medicinal means, and here we’ll take a look at five myths surrounding the drug. It’s interesting to note, too, not everybody who supports passing Prop 19 is part of the cannabis culture.
1) To legalize marijuana use just invites more crime.
If you research the motivation behind making use of cannabis legal, you’ll find these measures proposed are designed to reduce criminal activity. Presently, it is illegal to grow, use and distribute marijuana with the exception of certain conditions. Yet, sales of the drug number in the billions with people buying dime bags from dealers. Legalizing pot would allow communities to regulate sales and use of the drug, treating it like alcohol, and help minimize profits to drug cartels. When one considers how federal prohibition of alcohol failed in the early twentieth century, making this drug legal is one step toward gaining lost revenue and allowing law enforcement to focus on more important problems.
2) If you start smoking pot, eventually you’ll move on to cocaine or meth.
Anti-marijuana pundits often argue weed is a gateway to heavier drugs. About twenty years ago, the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released a report claiming marijuana users are 85% more likely to try cocaine as opposed to non-users. Organizations such as NORML have since debunked the report, reminding people that 83% of users do not use cocaine at all. While it cannot be said that all users of coke, meth, and heroin, did not start with weed first, to allege that marijuana sets the pace toward hard drug addiction is incorrect.
3) Marijuana has no health benefits.
For cancer and HIV+ patients, use of marijuana assists in suppressing nausea brought on by chemotherapy, and helps stimulate the appetite. Past medical studies have also implied stimulation of the immune system in a few cases.
4) People who smoke pot are losers.
A common stereotype of the marijuana smoker is the “Cheech and Chong” persona. Because these guys look shabby and are always surrounded by pot smoke, this is how all smokers behave, right? It will surprise you to know marijuana users come in many sizes and races, and income levels – some are successful, some are middle or lower class, but at the end of the day they are no different from people who abstain. The world was shocked, for example, to see pictures of swimmer Michael Phelps using a bong. Whether Michael is a regular user is debatable, but consider his many gold medals to call him a “loser” is kind of a stretch! Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin, also, have enjoyed decades-long careers in entertainment
5) People who want marijuana legalized are trying to recruit new users.
This is a common fear, and it’s understandable. However, it is far from the truth. People who want legalization are interested in protecting the rights of those who choose to use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes. Cancer patients want to be able to buy prescriptions without enduring social stigma or risking persecution. People who grow marijuana want to do so without feeling they are constantly in danger. To allege that making cannabis legal will result in thousands of new users rushing out to buy weed is akin to saying every person who hits his 21st birthday heads to the nearest bar to get wasted. It doesn’t happen with everybody. Those who don’t smoke will likely continue not to do so.
Before you come to a decision on making weed legal, research the issue from both sides. The movement to decriminalize pot is not about making it easier for minors to obtain the drug, it’s about helping communities to achieve different goals for improvement.
Photo by Bart Everson, under Creative Commons Use.