A Brief History
Before I dive into all of the reasons why weed should be legal, I think it is important to give a brief history of the legal status of marijuana in America. When this country was founded in 1776 there were no laws prohibiting the use of marijuana at all. There is actually evidence supporting the fact that some of the Founding Fathers even smoked up. In 1840, there are records of marijuana-based preparations being available for medicinal use.
However, in 1913 California, ironically, was the first state to outlaw marijuana, for a surprising reason too: there were too many Mexican immigrants. In Southwestern states at the time, they believed that most Mexicans smoked weed and if weed were illegal it would give them a reason to deport them and protect jobs for American citizens. This was obviously an ignorant and racist law that is un-American and has nothing to do with the actual affects of marijuana.
In 1930, Harry J. Anslinger declared a war on drugs as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and held this position until 1962. In 1937, weed was made federally illegal in the U.S. with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. The act made marijuana illegal because of addiction, violence, and overdose issues, none of which were proven to be linked to marijuana. It is believed that this was the strong effort of lobbyists in the paper industry who feared that hemp would disrupt their dominance in the industry.
Since then, the U.S. government and certain states have established some medical programs and many authority and political figures (including former New York Mayor La Guardia) have recommended that marijuana at least be made medically legal, but in most cases they were ignored. Today, there are a handful of states that allow for the medical use of marijuana and some states that have de-criminalized the possession of marijuana. This is simply not enough.
Even though we know that marijuana has medical benefits, it is still illegal. We know that it helps cerebral palsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma and various symptoms of cancer, not to mention back pain, anxiety, and loss of appetite. The fact that we have not made medical marijuana available to all patients who could benefit from it is pathetic. We have a naturally occurring plant that can relieve unbearable symptoms yet we won’t allow our citizens access to it. America is the greatest country in the world; we pride ourselves with our charity, ambition, and ingenuity; we are supposed to be aware of our natural, self-evident rights but yet we let people suffer because of outdated and ignorant reasoning. This is not very American.
When compared to other similar substances such as alcohol and tobacco, there is no reason why weed should be illegal. Although there was a short period from 1920-1933 when the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol were banned nationally, prohibition was ultimately reversed with the passing of the 21st Amendment. Prohibition was the root of modern organized crime and we still pay the price for it today. In fact, the biggest problem with marijuana is the organized crime surrounding it. Isn’t it funny how history repeats itself? The reason that there is so much violence and robbery surrounding marijuana is simply because our government has chosen to let the criminals control and distribute it, not the law-abiding citizens and entrepreneurs of this great country.
Given our knowledge of what alcohol prohibition has done in the past, how have we kept a less harmful substance remain illegal for this long? The fact that a person can die in one night from drinking too much and it is virtually impossible to overdose on weed is argument enough to legalize marijuana. Then there's tobacco, with all of its long-term fatal effects and yet it is legal while weed, which has none of the fatal effects that tobacco has, is illegal. It is common sense for marijuana to be legal.
Aside from the common sense and medical arguments, there is a huge economical incentive to legalize weed as well. If Proposition 19 passes, California’s entire economy could turn around. Marijuana is a $14 billion-a-year industry in California and it’s biggest cash crop. It is estimated that California would save more than $200 million per year in police enforcement costs and could potentially produce up to $1.4 billion in tax revenue. Not only would there be a major improvement on California’s balance sheet, the bill would lead to anywhere from 60,000 to 110,000 new jobs. In addition, it would attract tourism and new investments. With such a fragile economy, California cannot afford not to legalize weed.
If Proposition 19 passes, it is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the polls are not indicating that the bill will pass. It is important for all of you Californians to get out to the polls and vote in favor of Prop 19. Please go out and vote today and appreciate how lucky we are as Americans to freely choose our leaders and make our own laws. God Speed.