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The Case for Marijuana Decriminalization

Published: Sep 18, 2013

Kurt Melville
Guest Writer

It’s been dark for hours as you anx­iously wait for your text mes­sage tone to sound. Checking every thirty sec­onds doesn’t help either, but it’s a habit at this point.

Your phone lights up and you scram­ble across the room in des­per­a­tion, only to real­ize that it’s your mom, mak­ing plans for next week­end. A half-hearted response is issued – you’ve got other things on your mind.

You return to the pas­sage of time that is video games, home­work or what­ever. Suddenly your phone is alive again, this time with the news you’ve been wait­ing for: “All good bro, come thru.”

“Cash money,” you think to your­self, expect­ing every­thing to go as planned, now that the always daunt­ing step of actu­ally get­ting a hold of your drug dealer has fin­ished. So you get into your car and head over to their place and — wait! Is that a cop behind me? No, it can’t be. Or can it? Ahh, what­ever he turned.

Now that your heart is in your throat and your blood pres­sure is spik­ing, it’s the per­fect time to find a dimly lit address in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood. Throw down a sketchy park­ing job and you’re in, right? Not even close.

The mar­i­juana you just bought puts a huge tar­get on your back from local, state and fed­eral law enforce­ment agen­cies. This is the result of a Nixon-era crack­down on drugs. Due to reg­u­la­tions in the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), mar­i­juana was put in a cat­e­gory with some of the harsh­est restrictions.

According to the CSA, to be con­sid­ered a sched­ule one drug, the sub­stance is con­sid­ered to have a high poten­tial for abuse, no cur­rently accepted med­ical use in the United States, and raise a seri­ous ques­tion about how safe the com­pound is for med­ical use.

Yet some­how mar­i­juana doesn’t fit into this cat­e­gory at all. Twenty states, includ­ing Michigan and the District of Columbia, have passed mea­sures that allow med­ical mar­i­juana to be pre­scribed to patients who seek alter­na­tives to med­i­cines like nar­cotic painkillers, which have much more seri­ous abuse issues than marijuana.

In his CNN doc­u­men­tary Sanjay Gupta, showed the great heal­ing poten­tial for mar­i­juana as med­i­cine, with one par­tic­u­lar child suf­fer­ing from hun­dreds of seizures a week, to being able to get down to two or three a week. For peo­ple wor­ried about med­ica­tion safety and over­dos­ing, I have but one piece of advice: hide the cookies.

But seri­ously, most peo­ple real­ize that it’s really just polit­i­cal. It’s very sim­i­lar to the way in which the gov­ern­ment tries to reg­u­late moral­ity with respect to mar­riage equal­ity. Although I believe equal rights for all Americans are a LOT more impor­tant than get­ting high, I still think no gov­ern­ment body has the right to inter­fere with a per­sonal choice like this. If the gov­ern­ment wants to ensure the safety of using mar­i­juana, I would sug­gest fol­low­ing the exam­ple set by a num­ber of states: get your hands sticky and reg­u­late it instead of ban­ning it altogether.

Decriminalization is an impor­tant inter­me­di­ary step towards legal­iza­tion too, and its creep through­out the coun­try is start­ing to build speed. Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Flint are a hand­ful of Michigan com­mu­ni­ties that have passed decrim­i­nal­iza­tion mea­sures, which basi­cally result in a ticket for mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion. The police are putting less peo­ple in jail too, cost­ing the tax­pay­ers less every year.

As these efforts start to sway pop­u­lar opin­ion it will be impor­tant to put pres­sure on our elected offi­cials. Don’t let them for­get who will be pay­ing taxes for the next 50 years.

If in the future mar­i­juana becomes legal­ized, non-smokers will have no need to worry. There are restric­tions already in place regard­ing the usage of the highly legal­ized drug alco­hol and mar­i­juana would be no dif­fer­ent. Plus, it’s not like some­body is going to force you to smoke their weed. Stuff’s expen­sive, man.