Apr 202008
 
Authors: Ian Bezek

While I always enjoy Cheba Hut’s parties, 4/20 is hard to celebrate while hundreds of thousands of innocent people are locked in jails across America for mere marijuana possession.

It is absolutely asinine to continue to ruin people’s lives by banning a virtually harmless drug.

I, personally, have never used marijuana and have no intentions of trying it — caffeine is my drug of choice — but I deeply empathize with my fellow students who are fined, lose their student aid, and even end up in jail for innocently having fun.

I say innocently because our government’s own experts have found marijuana to be less harmful than alcohol. In all five aspects of the drugs they ranked — including the amount of intoxication caused, the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and the amount of dependence a drug created — alcohol was more harmful than marijuana. Nicotine was also found to be far more harmful than marijuana by these researchers.

Even caffeine, a drug that no one is trying to outlaw, causes more withdrawal symptoms and creates a higher level of dependency in its users than marijuana.

Marijuana smoking is no more dangerous than tobacco smoking, and the government’s unending claims that marijuana is a so-called “gateway drug” have largely been disproved.

As it is impossible to overdose on marijuana, no one has died from its direct usage, unlike alcohol, which causes deadly blood poisoning along with spates of violent crime and vehicle crashes.

The prohibition of marijuana is bad enough, but once you consider how vindictively marijuana users are treated by the justice system, it gets even worse. For a so-called crime with no victims and no harm to the public at large, a fine would seem to be the most appropriate form of punishment.

Instead, we throw hundreds of thousands of marijuana users into prison. Considering that it costs upwards of $20,000 a year to keep a person in prison, this is an outrageous waste of our taxpayer money.

We also waste the valuable time of our police force — more people were arrested for marijuana use than all forms of violent crime last year. Former Denver Police Department Officer Tony Ryan came to speak at CSU last fall and explained why he supports drug legalization. It is unreasonable to force our cops to go track down people getting high on their couches while rapists and arsonists remain at large.

Throwing innocent people in jail also has numerous social ill effects. For one, when parents are thrown in jail, it deprives children of a normal upbringing.

Jailing innocent people also makes them more likely to become genuine criminals in the future. When in jail, it causes a person to lose their current job and create a gap in their work experience that makes finding new prospects hard upon leaving jail. Instead, many prisoners associate with their fellow inmates and end up becoming part of a life of crime.

Just as alcohol prohibition completely and utterly failed in spectacular fashion, marijuana prohibition has been one of the most boneheaded policies of our government. People had already realized this decades ago — marijuana was legalized in many states in the early 1970’s, but Richard Nixon, in his never-failing wisdom, cracked down on pot again.

Since marijuana prohibition makes no logical sense, it is important to look at what entrenched interests benefit from this irrational policy. Politicians get to win religious voters by playing up their fears of drug users, the noxious for-profit prison industry makes a killing, and gangs make ridiculous profits selling a plant at obscene prices.

Marijuana should be legalized immediately; its prohibition only benefits special interests such as gangs and prison companies while harming society at large.

Ian Bezek is a sophomore economics major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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