Marijuana legalization should be early priority

The economic crisis may be a powerful case for legalization.

In the midst of an economic crisis not seen in this country since the Great Depression, President-elect Barack Obama should turn his attention to legalizing marijuana as an alternate means of generating revenue.

In a speech delivered to students at Northwestern University in 2004, Obama declared “I think the war on drugs has been a failure, and I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws.”

Whether Obama has changed his stance since being elected president on Nov. 4, decriminalizing the drug could conceivably save the government $7.7 billion a year without wasting much-needed funds policing and prosecuting marijuana activity and, in fact, generate close to $6 billion in profits — if taxed at a rate comparable to cigarettes and alcohol, according to CNN’s official Web site.

In a study performed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2006, approximately 46.9 percent of college students and 56.7 percent of young adults, ages 19 to 28, reported using marijuana for most of their lives.

It’s time to stop punishing civilians for pursuing a lifestyle choice by calling it a crime.

“Thing for me is, [keeping marijuana illegal] ruins tons of people’s lives,” said a parole officer for the city of Philadelphia, who asked that she not be named. “Let’s face it, at 17, young people do stupid stuff. Possession of pot is a mark on their record that can hinder them from doing something with their life because they were charged with drug possession.”

According to the Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s Web site, 200,000 students have lost their financial aid due to a conviction of marijuana possession.

“Honestly, alcohol is 10 times more dangerous [than marijuana],” the parole officer said. “Fights on marijuana [don’t] happen. Very rarely do you see people fist fighting after smoking a joint. It’s a relaxation tool. Most people who smoke pot use it in a normal way. It’s something to do, just like there are a thousand bars packed every weekend. I can’t see someone sentenced to state time for smoking weed. It’s insane. Focus more on crack, PCP and heroin. Stop this crap.”

Obama’s belief in change may have very well been the catalyst that garnered so much attention from young voters. The next president would set a strong precedent in eliminating the prohibition of marijuana. This action would suggest that he is willing to challenge the status quo in order to repair our damaged national economy and ego.

Political science professor Michael Hagen, basing his opinion off a general social survey measuring the support for legalizing marijuana from 1973-2006, said “while support for legalization in 2006 was certainly higher than in the 80s and 90s, it is still the case that barely one third of the public [supports legalization]. With all the other challenges the new president faces, I doubt he’ll want to take this one on.”

It doesn’t have to be in his first 100 days in office, nor in his first term, assuming he’s re-elected. However, to remove the stigma placed upon the stoner’s fountain of youth is a necessary action for a country desiring the kind of change that’s been promised.

The bottom line is, the United States has much larger evils to conquer than some seeds and stems.

Tom Rowan can be reached at

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