Opinion: High time to legalize weed

Parker Devine, Author

With the  recent legalization of marijuana in the states of Washington and Colorado, the topic of national legalization is becoming more prominently discussed than ever before. California voters voted down the issue in 2008, but it will inevitably hit California voters as well as students of Palo Alto High School again, and will monumentally change to the way we look at legislation regardless of the results.

Because of the lack of necessity of weed regulation, its economic impact and the violence that drug smuggling creates, marijuana is unrightfully illegal and state governments are finally coming around and realizing this.

The first and perhaps the best argument against legalization is that weed is a gateway drug, a drug that will lead to the abuse of more dangerous drugs. However, marijuana is no more of a gateway drug than other substances like alcohol or nicotine and is perhaps even less. According to The Science of Marijuana by Leslie Iverson, only 10-30 percent of regular marijuana users will develop a dependency on marijuana, whereas 90 percent of nicotine users (cigarette smokers and tobacco smokers) develop a dependency.

According Iverson’s studies, marijuana is nowhere near as addictive as nicotine and according to some studies, doesn’t develop a physical addiction at all. Most known “damaging” addictive substances (i.e. cocaine and heroin) are known as physically addictive drugs. Physically addictive drugs create a necessity for the drug. Without it, the addict can go through severe withdrawl symptoms. Unlike physically addicting drugs, marijuana is a psychologically addictive drug. When usage of a psychologically addicting drug is stopped, the addict only goes through symptoms such as cravings.

Therefore, marijuana is not only better for you than nicotine (a legal substance), but also is less addicting and less of a gateway drug than nicotine. Because of this and the fact that both alcohol and nicotine will not be illegalized, marijuana ought to be legalized because of the detriment its prohibition causes to society.

Legalization would also decrease prison over-crowding. According to a 2004 study, 1.4 million prisoners in the United States were held because of drug-related marijuana related charges. That was 55 percent of the total population of prisoners  at the time. With prisons continuing to overcrowd and more and more money being spent on maintaining prisoners, legalization would make room for prisoners who commit more serious violent crimes and decrease total government spending.

Legalization would also drastically decrease drug violence caused by the importation of illegal drugs. This year alone, 500 people have died in Mexico because of drug cartels that transport marijuana. Legalizing marijuana would eliminate the market for the cartels and subsequently eliminate the cartels themselves and the violence they create.

Whether it is unnecessary violence, government spending or even prison overcrowding, the prohibition of marijuana does more harm than it does good. Therefore, the rest of the United States ought to take Washington and Colorado as an example and legalize.