Staff Editorial: Prop 19 benefits blow away risks

Since 1990, about 5.9 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges – a greater number than the entire populations of Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming combined. Shocking? I think yes.

This Tuesday, a “yes” vote for Proposition 19 in California will change state laws to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Also called the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, this legislation will allow anyone 21-years-old and up to possess and carry up to one ounce of marijuana anywhere in the state. Additionally, local governments will be authorized to charge marijuana fees and taxes.

Despite what California voters decide, polling among our generation reflects that we strongly favor a change in marijuana law. In fact, the U.S Department of Health and Services state that 54 percent of the population has admitted to using marijuana by age 25.

We ask ourselves, are we better off banning the use of marijuana or legalizing it? Similar to how the Prohibition failed, this long experiment in banning marijuana is bound to fall through. It has been an absolute failure and we must acknowledge that change is necessary. Therefore, it is likely that the present state of pot prohibition will not last any longer.

Regardless of whether or not you approve of the use of marijuana, it is important to recognize the benefits of its legalization. Not only will it provide a new stream of revenues for government, but also it will push for economic growth and it will decrease the amount of drug-related violence.

Many people argue that the risks of marijuana exceed the benefits of legalization. However, marijuana is less dangerous and kills less people per year than alcohol and tobacco. Just like alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana would be regulated too.

Furthermore, people argue that marijuana is a gateway drug. According to a study at the Division of Neuroscience at the Institute of Medicine, “there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

Responsible marijuana smokers present no threat or danger to America. So why are we treating them as criminals? If California is the first state to legalize pot and it works successfully, other states should definitely consider the same legislation.

As a nation we must get our priorities straight. We waste tons of money policing marijuana and worrying about someone smoking a blunt when there are more important issues that should be addressed. The solution is easy: legalize marijuana.