In my opinion, our federal government's policy on marijuana is absurd and a waste of resources – and I don't even smoke the stuff. Thankfully, a few of our representatives in Congress agree. On June 23, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), along with four other Democrats, introduced a bill that would essentially end the federal war on marijuana.
According to the Huffington Post, the bill, titled the "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011," would treat marijuana like alcohol on the federal level, allowing states to regulate the drug as they see fit.
I feel this bill would end decades of hypocrisy in drug regulation in the United States. Most people don't know that alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are all medically classified as drugs. Yet, we as a society consume those substances every day.
It's true, marijuana can harm your body. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana intoxication can cause impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, as well as difficulty with learning and memory. These side effects can last weeks after the initial usage, and those that use marijuana every day may face these side effects consistently.
Although the dangers of marijuana are no more than those of tobacco and alcohol, we have defined its use as deviant and illegal. Despite this, the same report states that according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009, 16.7 million Americans aged 12 or older used marijuana at least once in the month prior to being surveyed, an increase over the rates reported between 2002 and 2008. According to USA Today, as a nation we have spent $1 trillion on the "War on Drugs."
The Los Angeles Times states that marijuana legalization is a nonstarter with the Obama administration because "research shows that marijuana use is associated with voluntary treatment admissions, fatal drugged driving accidents and emergency room admissions." That all may be true in regards to marijuana, but it is also true in regards to alcohol. We as a society glamorize alcohol and its consumption, while we criminalize those who use marijuana.
I am an individual that typically promotes government regulation – the government is a body we elect, and I think it is important they serve the people and regulate certain areas of our economy and society. However, the current marijuana laws do not make sense. It criminalizes a drug that does no more harm than its legal counterparts. And I cringe to think of the money wasted on enforcing these laws; money that could be invested in our community, rather than our prisons.
I have nothing to gain from this legislation. I choose not to smoke marijuana. But the billions of dollars wasted and the hypocrisy of marijuana laws in this country should be put to an end – and I thank these six Representatives for starting that dialogue. This bill will not pass the House; it won't even pass committee; yet nonetheless, it represents a fundamental shift in thinking in regard to the "War on Drugs," a war that was lost the day it began.