The legalization of marijuana has been a hot topic, especially over the last decade as it continues being pushed up for a vote across America.
Most of the anti-marijuana side cites risks while the pro-marijuana side cites medicinal use, and of course, you also have clowns on the fringes of each position making some pretty wild claims; such as anti-marijuana activists claiming it causes schizophrenia, or pro-marijuana activists claiming it cures cancer. The truth falls somewhere in the middle.
Support from voters for legalization has steadily increased with each election. In fact, most people don’t realize that twenty-three states have already legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use. It’s become a forgone conclusion that federal legalization is inevitable within the next ten years.
I used to stand firmly against legalization because of the obvious health and social risks. Sure, I had tried marijuana in high school, just like at least 38% of Americans had, and even though I knew some smart people who smoked quite often, I always assumed that most people still using it as an adult were probably deadbeats who sat around in their PJs all day playing Call of Duty and eating Cheetos.
But the more research I did, the more ridiculous the anti-marijuana side sounded. Here are just a few examples of the brilliant thinking I stumbled across:
- DEA warns of stoned rabbits if Utah passes medical marijuana
- Nancy Grace: People on pot shoot each other, strangle each other, and kill whole families
How about ESPN NFL analyst Mark Brunell’s recent comments. Side note: You really have to appreciate the irony of an NFL employee worried about brain damage, when football has directly resulted in the brain damage of 1 in 3 players!
There’s really no place for marijuana in the NFL,” Brunell said. “It is harmful. It hurts brain function. It hurts brain development. Marijuana can ruin lives. I’m very much against it.
Or this little gem on Twitter from Drug Free America, followed by an interesting exchange:
What happens if marijuana is legalized? pic.twitter.com/cLc0nsQCcr
— DrugFreeAmerica (@DrugFreeAmerica) February 5, 2014
Prompting the obvious question…
— Tom Angell (@tomangell) February 7, 2014
Instead of citing their “research” they got pissed off that someone doesn’t just accept their wild claims.
— DrugFreeAmerica (@DrugFreeAmerica) February 7, 2014
There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to use marijuana, but instead of citing them. many in the anti-marijuana crowd basically scream that the world will end if just one more person lights a joint. Even if you could list a million reasons why someone shouldn’t use marijuana though, you still can’t list a single reason why they can’t because any reason would be based on how you feel people should behave.
Here are a few reasons why someone shouldn’t use marijuana, and why they are irrelevant:
- Marijuana makes people lazy. It might or it might not, but even if it does, that’s their problem, not yours.
- Marijuana is unhealthy. So is fast food, soda, and a sedentary lifestyle. Are you clamoring to make those illegal too? They have far more impact on health in America than all drugs, legal and illegal, combined.
- Marijuana leads to harder drugs. Correlation is not causation. Some use marijuana and move on to other drugs, while some don’t. On the other hand, some people who drank orange juice eventually went on to smoke crack, but that doesn’t mean one had anything to do with the other.
- Marijuana is addictive. It can be in about 9% of users—just like alcohol, sex, and junk food.
- Marijuana is not moral. According to who? If it doesn’t harm you or infringe on your rights, your opinion really doesn’t mean shit.
The more I looked at it, the more sense I think it makes to legalize marijuana. I know it might sound crazy, but once I explain my thought process, I think you’ll agree.
War on Drugs
I think we can all admit that after over 40 years of trying, the War on Drugs has been a colossal failure. Drug use is more common today despite pouring over 1 trillion dollars to fight it. What do we have to show for this “investment?” We have an overly militarized police force and the largest prison population on the planet—all while crime is at its lowest point since the 80s. (Violent crime is at its lowest point since the 60s.) It doesn’t make any sense.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t advocate the use of drugs, nor do I think we should legalize all drugs. But in the big picture, marijuana poses far less of a threat than any other drug. In fact, it can provide medicinal benefits such as pain relief without the horrible side effects of drugs like opiate pain killers, which doctors hand out like candy these days. Even worse, these doctors know about the side effects, painful withdrawal symptoms, and that they can even lead to heroin addiction, but prescribe them anyway.
The War on Drugs has produced no measurable benefit to anyone except the government and owners of the prison systems. In fact, the only thing the War on Drugs has produced is more criminals.
Our current drug laws serve one purpose—to collect revenue for the government and turn a profit for the prisons. If legislators really wanted to reduce drug use, they would focus on treatment and recovery. Sending someone to jail or prison does not remove their addiction problem, it only makes it harder to get on the right track when they get back out.
I fully support legalizing marijuana, but I also support drug testing, leading a lot of people to ask how I can support both concepts.
It’s a fair question with a simple answer.
I believe in private property rights. Sure, you should be free to use marijuana, but likewise, any employer should be free to not employ you. (Or to fire you.) It’s only fair; if you can decide what goes into your body, shouldn’t they be able to decide what goes into their company?
That’s why drug testing will never go away. In fact, after legalization, it will probably increase. USA Mobile Drug Testing, for example, conducts random drug testing for employers in many states where marijuana is already legal, including Colorado. (Despite what some pro-marijuana supporters who follow USA Mobile Drug Testing on Twitter seem to think.)
The same goes for welfare. If you have money to get high, you have money to support yourself. My plan would look something like this:
- All welfare applications would include a drug test.
- While receiving welfare, all beneficiaries will be subject to random drug testing.
- Anyone who tests positive will be subject to monthly drug testing for the next twelve months.
- Anyone who tests positive a second time will be ineligible to receive benefits for the next twelve months.
- Anyone who tests positive a third time will be permanently ineligible to receive benefits.
Side note: it would probably be a good time to apply that model to all government employees—including Congress and the President!
“My employees would never use drugs!”
I can’t deny that the risks associated with marijuana use are a reasonable concern; addiction, lung disease, anxiety, poor judgment, and impaired reflexes, to name just a few. On the other hand, the risks are no greater than the risks associated with alcohol.
But if you believe that marijuana is some kind of devastatingly dangerous drug, then surely you have a mandatory drug testing program in place, right? Over 94 million Americans have admitted to using marijuana—can you say with a straight face that none of your employees are a part of that group? You don’t have to be a statistician to see that would be a bullshit claim!
Everyone knows marijuana is readily available, and most of us know someone who uses it from time to time. But for some reason, many employers insist that their employees never would.
Maybe they think because their employees seem like law-abiding citizens, they would never break the law by using illegal drugs. We all know that simply isn’t true. Numerous studies show that 75% of illegal drug users (12.9 million people) are employed.
Based on the statistics alone, if you don’t have a drug testing program in place, you either don’t want to admit some employees are using drugs or that you don’t really think it’s dangerous.
I can only speak for my own company, but as long as my employees can complete their work on time and to the standards I expect, I really don’t care it they smoke a joint from time to time. Now, that would be different if I employed people in safety-sensitive jobs; I certainly wouldn’t want a pilot, surgeon, or bomb squad technician sparking up before clocking in because we can demonstrably prove that impairment causes reduced reaction time and poor judgement.
Not much will change
Look, marijuana is not dangerous and is not going to kill anyone, on the other hand, it’s not some miracle cure for anything. It’s just a substance that’s not any worse than alcohol.
Legalizing it will not turn America into a 3rd world country, nor a Utopia. Things will go on pretty much the same as they are now. The only difference is people will have a little more personal freedom.
Is that such a bad thing?