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Editorial November 30, 2012  RSS feed

EDITORIAL

Talk to two random people about whether marijuana should be legalized in any form, and you’re likely to get two very different opinions.

One person will likely say that marijuana has great therapeutic value to patients suffering from chronic illnesses. The drug has been known to ease chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patients, boost appetites of HIV/AIDS patients, relieve muscle tension and spasms of people with multiple sclerosis, induce sleep in patients with insomnia and improve symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

By the same token, the other person will argue that marijuana’s therapeutic effects are outweighed by the dangers of recreational use of the drug, as it is considered a “gateway” toward the use of harder and more dangerous substances such as crack, cocaine and heroin.

Over the last decade, the public stance on marijuana has softened considerably. Many states have legalized the use of pot for “medicinal purposes,” meaning that any doctor can write at their discretion prescriptions for marijuana for any patient. The processing and distribution of the drug is regulated in much the same way as other prescription medications.

Now there’s a movement afoot in states—including New York—to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In the last election, voters in Colorado and Washington State approved ballot referendums to legalize the recreational use of “weed.”

The odd thing about all of this is that the federal government forbids the manufacture, sale, and use of marijuana, and many other substances, for any purpose. Will the feds go after these states for legalizing marijuana in defiance of federal law?

We wonder why there is such an impetus now to remove the criminality associated with marijuana. For years, we have seen public service ads and anti-drug campaigns rail against the use of marijuana, and governments across the nation have spent billions on enforcement efforts to keep the drug out of the hands of users and dealers.

Is it really all about public health? What could be more unhealthy than breathing in the smoke of burning paper and leaves? Governments frown on smoking tobacco, citing risks of heart disease and cancer. Could the long-term effects of smoking tobacco really be more dangerous than the long-term effects of smoking marijuana (which is the most common way the drug is consumed recreationally)?

Maybe local politicians are looking to weed as a new way to generate revenue through licensing fees and taxes. Since there has been an all-out thrust against cigarette smoking, which curtailed the hefty amounts of taxes the sale of them created, the idea of legalizing pot is another way to fill the state and city coffers.

Whatever the reason, it seems to be that this nation is moving more toward legalizing marijuana, at the very least, for “medicinal purposes.” Marijuana hasn’t been proven as a cure for anything, but there is no doubt that it makes ill people feel good for a while.

However, we cannot afford as a nation to rush to judgment on marijuana. We must consider all the circumstances before we decide on whether the advantages to pot outweigh the disadvantages to the point that it makes sense to legalize it.