After 72 years of prohibition, cannabis, more commonly known as “marijuana,” may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The utter failure of the war on drugs by our government has brought the spotlight onto the most abused illegal substance in the United States. With the Marijuana Policy Project reporting over 872,000 arrests for use and/or possession of this naturally grown plant within the previous year, concerns have been raised as to the improvement of the current federal policies on cannabis.
Currently, cannabis is placed on the highest tier of illegal substances ranked by the Drug Enforcement Agency (Schedule I drugs); heroin, LSD, and MDMA (Ecstasy) are a few other well known illegal drugs placed in this same category, while cocaine and methamphetamines are ranked as Schedule 2 drugs. DrugWarFacts.org states that tobacco and alcohol related deaths resulted in the combined total of over 500,000 Americans in 2000.
That same year-and also in every other year-there were 0 confirmed deaths from marijuana consumption. The paradoxical status of marijuana in our federal system is based more on fear than on actual facts since there are very few studies refuting the medicinal benefits of marijuana on the body.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, stated that cannabis could be used for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to stimulate a patient’s appetite, to treat “neuropathic pain” resulting from a trauma or injury or to help treat patients with Multiple Sclerosis suffering from tremors.
Dr. Gupta also mentioned that addiction rates of cannabis were fairly low (5-9%) compared to other drugs in the same or lower schedule such as heroin (23%) and cocaine (17%), further adding the confusion of marijuana’s position in Schedule I.
According to Rob Kampia of the MPP, the U.S. government has spent billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars on disinformation and ad campaigns that have attempted to discredit such purported medical benefits. Kampia also reports that in recent polls, over half of Americans would rather tax and regulate marijuana, which highlights the failure of government attempts at prohibition.
Thirteen states including California and Rhode Island currently have laws that protect and support patients that are prescribed medical marijuana for their ailments; that is more than 25% of all the states. Increasing awareness has also led multiple bills to be introduced to state and federal legislators to allow for personal possession of marijuana in small quantities.
One such bill, H.R. 2943 Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act of 2009, currently awaits deliberation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. If this bill were to pass, federal penalties for possession and use of marijuana would be eliminated, leaving it to the state to decide; this no doubt would be a major step forward in the legalization process.
According to the MPP, the result of taxing and regulating cannabis would result in estimated tax revenues and savings of approximately $10-$14 billion; this is all money that would leave the pockets of drug dealers and cartels. In addition, the government would save approximately $40 billion by ending marijuana prohibition.
Police officers would also have more time to pursue more pressing criminal offenses such as murders and kidnappings. Although legalization is far off, the possible benefits to our society and economy are helping the movement gain momentum. The light is at the end of the tunnel.