Marijuana should be treated as a disease, not as a crime
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President Obama’s popularity is slipping, and his grip on the country is slowly dwindling. Desperate times seem to have called for desperate measures, forcing Obama to appeal to the 55 percent of Americans who support legalizing marijuana. While his words about treating pot as a “public health problem” may just be rhetoric, he is right: it is time that America decriminalize this victimless crime.
According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 55 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana with laws that support limited recreational usage for adults over the age of 21. Similar laws were passed in Washington and Colorado and more of these laws seem to be on the way. Florida’s Supreme Court approved a medical marijuana ballot initiative for November, and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. hope to add a legalization measure to the city’s ballot this fall.
These initiatives echo a shift in American values. While people over the age of 65 still oppose legalization, young Americans, ages 18 to 34 support legalization by a 49-point margin.
This youthful revolution presents an opportunity for politicians: hop aboard the legalization train, and pick up some new voters. While liberals have often fought for legalization, conservatives have fervently opposed it. However, in January, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a staunch conservative, asserted the need to enact legalization in his address at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
The public recognizes a reality that government has been too backwards to accept. Marijuana illegality played its part in the utter failure of a trillion-dollar drug war, the extreme overcrowding of prisons, and the lack of rehabilitation for true drug abusers. Addicts need rehabilitation, not years in prison. According to a Pew study, it costs the United States an average of $30,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate, but America spends only an average $11,665 per public school student. The attitude is that it is more important to fight inevitable drug use by some harmless users than to foster a future for America’s youth.
The economics of marijuana legalization simply make sense. According to a study by the Cato Institute, legalizing marijuana would save the government nearly $9 billion annually, and would raise tax revenue of the same amount. While that does not make a dent in a deficit of over $17 trillion, in a country willing to cut food stamps for 850 thousand citizens in return for a measly $800 million, $9 billion in new revenue would be well worth it.
Just like prohibition, making marijuana illegal will not stop people from using. In fact, the United States is the number one country for illegal drug use. The “public health problem” should be fought with rehabilitation and utilized for its major economic value.