Should California Legalize Marijuana?
An upcoming bill could make marijuana legal in California. Could Californians be coming home after work and rolling a joint instead of cracking a beer?
If passed, the bill, A.B. 390, would cause marijuana to be regulated similarly to alcohol. If you’re over 21, it’s okay to smoke, and you can grow up to 10 plants as long as they’re not visible to the public. It still won’t be legal to possess or sell marijuana on school grounds, and of course, won’t be legal to sell to people under 21. The bill would also legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp, a very environmentally sustainable and versatile crop that can be used in cloth, paper, pains, plastics, food, fuel, cosmetics, and many other useful products.
Marijuana has been used for centuries as a healing herb. Today, medical marijuana is helping people cope with AIDS, cancer, nausea, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, migraines, glaucoma, and a number of other illnesses. Many people think marijuana is mainly used to treat serious diseases, but in California, 40 percent of medical marijuana is used to ease “chronic pain”. Marijuana is also prescribed for help with depression and as an appetite stimulant–it seems like more and more people are finding help for their ailments with marijuana, why not make it legal and spare people the trip to the doctor?
Some worry that making marijuana legal will lead to increase use by teens, but countries that have already legalized marijuana, like the Netherlands and Switzerland, actually have lower rates of adolescent marijuana use than the U.S. It’s possible that if we took away the cache¢ naughtiness of smoking pot, fewer kids would be inclined to do it.
Although, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (the DEA), Alaska tried legalizing marijuana in the 1970′s and it led to their teens using it at more than twice the rate of other American teens. Was this because the weed was finally legal?
The bottom line in this debate might be that legalizing marijuana could save California from debt. It costs the state $170 million a year to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people on marijuana charges. According to retired California judge James P. Gray, marijuana prohibition, “doesn’t make pot less available, but it does clog the court system”. Marijuana sales would also bring in taxes, at the rate of about a dollar per joint.
Teens report that it’s easier to get marijuana than buy cigarettes. Even some suburban ‘soccer moms’ are getting on board with marijuana decriminalization–they fear that their kids are buying pot from someone dangerous, and would rather the sale be safe, out in the [state-regulated] open.
More and more research is shutting down claims that marijuana is addictive, or that marijuana is a “gateway” drug. According to one European medical journal, it’s no worse than alcohol or tobacco. Could legalizing marijuana be the answer to California’s financial and social prayers? Or would decriminalizing pot only lead to a lazy, hazy, California munchies epidemic?
Since 1986, marijuana legalization has failed 5 times in Oregon, Nevada, and Alaska. The latest attempt was in Nevada in 2006: marijuana decriminalization polled strong, but ultimately only got 44 percent of the vote. According to a February 2009 poll, 54 percent of California voters support marijuana legalization. To see legalization become a reality, Californians should put down the pipe, get off the couch, and tell their legislators to support A.B. 390.
You can sign a petition telling Governor Schwarzenegger you want marijuana legalized in California.
Visit the Marijuana Policy Project or the National Organization for Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for more information.