Many reasons to legalize marijuana

With supporters arguing for humanity, petitions are circling Minneapolis calling for a medical marijuana referendum. To be honest, medicinal marijuana is largely just a ploy to eventually legalize marijuana. Rather than just supporting medicinal marijuana, we fully support the legalization of marijuana.

The current U.S. marijuana policy is extremely costly, acts as a detriment to society and greatly exaggerates marijuana’s effects. The policy’s discernible social benefits are few. The benefits of legalizing marijuana would be enormous.

Enforcing marijuana laws costs taxpayers $12 billion annually. Legal marijuana could be taxed and become a revenue stream to fight more dangerous drugs. According to the Office of National Drug Policy, more than 1.5 million arrests were made for drug violations last year. Forty-five percent of those were for marijuana-related offenses. Rather than breaking up families and ruining lives, prisons could be emptied and court backlog could be cleared if marijuana is legalized.

The health effects of marijuana are not positive, but they are not nearly as lethal as cigarettes or as dangerous as alcohol. Marijuana has been demonized as a gateway to harder drugs. However, if marijuana were legalized, the association with illegal drugs would probably lessen substantially. The illegality of marijuana has fostered the link to crime circles. Marijuana should not be considered in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

Not to be mistaken, if marijuana is legalized, it would have to be restricted. Marijuana laws should be restructured to mimic those of alcohol and cigarettes, and be made illegal for minors. Legalizing marijuana makes economic, social and common sense. Canada, our progressive neighbor, has already eased many of its marijuana laws. In addition, 10 states have laws allowing medical use of marijuana. This is not enough.

Former President Jimmy Carter advocated legalization of marijuana in 1977. It is time our nation’s leaders do the same today. It is a policy change long overdue.