Is it time to legalize?

The statistics on death rates I pulled out yesterday are most commonly used to justify something other than changing the strategy on terror: they’re used to support the legalization of marijuana. In fact, yesterday when I was researching death statistics for my post on terrorism, I had a hard time finding a site citing death statistics that wasn’t hosted by a marijuana advocacy group.

I have to admit, these pot legalization advocates are nothing if not persistent. Have you ever heard one of these guys call in to a radio talk show? You can’t shut them up. They’re almost as bad as the “free Columbia” people. Heck, if they had been this organized back when they were in high school, they might have actually graduated!

They do have a point, though. Compared to alcohol abuse, marijuana is almost benign. There’s little evidence even of the lung damage you might expect from repetitively inhaling a caustic substance. For something that appears to cause so few problems, we certainly go to amazing efforts to restrict its use. In fact, the biggest risk associated with marijuana use is probably the violence and law enforcement activity related to its being criminalized.

This is not to say that if it was legal there would be no risks associated with being a pothead. Somehow it’s always seemed to me that marijuana slows down your mental functioning, so it wasn’t too surprising to find a WebMD article citing Canadian research that seems to support this observation.

Like any drug, pot can be addictive. While there’s debate about just how addictive, there’s no question that a dependence on marijuana is a bad thing. But bad enough to outlaw it? Addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, or gambling is associated with much more devastation, but those things are legal.

The biggest tragedy is the banning of marijuana for medical use. For a drug with so few side effects, it’s almost comical that its known benefits are generally withheld from those undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from AIDs. Most arguments against medical marijuana suggest it’s a slippery slope. A slippery slope to what? Massive outbreaks of the munchies?

Personally I don’t like pot. I tried it a few times in college and I always woke up the next day with a massive sore throat (okay, if it wasn’t already certain, now I’ve clearly abandoned all political ambitions). Personally I don’t care what others do with the drug in the safety of their own homes/dorm rooms. But if the rest of America can’t bring itself to legalize it for recreational use, they should at least have the heart to let doctors use it to help save lives.

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