Weed Will Save Us All
What can help end the state’s budget crisis? What can also alleviate medical ailments such as glaucoma, nausea, vomiting, pain, appetite loss, insomnia and even autism? The answer is marijuana, and unfortunately it is still illegal in the United States.
Marijuana is California’s biggest cash crop, generating an estimated $14.3 billion dollars a year in black market sales. By legalizing and taxing that amount, the state can look forward to about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue to help combat the $26 billion deficit. Legalization would also create jobs in agriculture, industry, transportation, marketing and tourism. Just as tourists flock to California’s Napa Valley to sample wine, tourists could do the same in marijuana’s spin-off industries and visit hemp farms and coffee shops. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), industrial hemp could rival the $3.4 billion cotton industry in California. NORML estimates that the economic activity generated by marijuana could be as great as $13 billion a year.
Along with all the money we’d be making, think of the money we’d be saving by decriminalizing marijuana. Every year California spends roughly $200 million on enforcement. The money spent goes towards prisoner maintenance, court costs, probation, arrests, raids and prevention. That money could be spent elsewhere, and consider the additional time that would be freed up for law enforcement if our police officers didn’t have to spend so much effort enforcing marijuana laws.
Marijuana’s strengths, however, aren’t limited to making money. It heals both fiscally and physically. The medicinal use of marijuana dates back to 2737 B.C., when the Chinese used marijuana tea as a treatment for gout and rheumatism. Current studies show that marijuana is effective at treating cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, insomnia and countless other ailments. For example, cancer patients undergoing severe chemotherapy become extremely nauseated and can barely hold anything down, not even their medication. Because marijuana is smoked, it is easier to for patients to take medication, and it often leads to a phenomenon called “the munchies,” allowing the patients to control nausea and consume needed nutrients. Marijuana is also a pain reliever that is less addictive than morphine.
In fact the potential benefits of medical marijuana use are so great that the American Medical Association recently reversed its 72-year anti-pot policy and has urged the federal government to do the same. Modern pills often come with nasty side effects. Sure, you can take something to cure your headache, but you risk damage to your liver, and some of these pills even cause depression. There are even nausea medicines that list nausea as a side effect. The side effects of marijuana use, however, are relatively tame. Symptoms are said to include sleepiness, laziness and increased appetite. The stereotype of the typical pothead being dumb and stricken with long-term memory loss is unproven and no clinical studies have yielded solid evidence to suggest so.
Despite all of the economic and medical benefits of marijuana, people still oppose its legalization on moral ground. They cite abuse., but legal drugs can be abused too. There are plenty of over-the-counter medications that are far more dangerous than pot, such as dextromethorphan (DXM), a dissociative hallucinogen found in cough syrup.
Marijuana is a mind-altering substance; it does have the ability to cloud judgment. I am not blind enough to think there is no danger in its use. The dangers associated with it, however, are also found in most prescription bottles. Legalization provides solutions to our problems. The reality is that marijuana won’t be going away anytime soon, so why not at least tax it and reap the rewards? If we already tax more harmful drugs such as tobacco and alcohol, we should do the same with marijuana and not let potential revenue go to waste.
Randy Popiemlarp is a fourth-year public health policy major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.