By Egberto Willies / Daily Kos
America needs a paradigm shift when it comes to how it deals with products that affect our moods, psyche, and our overall well-being. We must do so based on data instead of ideology, and deprogramming many will be difficult. But marijuana must be completely decriminalized.
Houston cannabis activist Ashley Miller appeared on Politics Done Right to bring awareness to many issues about marijuana, aka weed, aka cannabis. Her first goal was to dispel the notion that there are any valid reasons why marijuana is illegal. Second, she hoped to activate Americans both locally and throughout the country. As one listens to all the arguments and discourse about marijuana, there can only be one conclusion: the product should not be illegal.
Here are some interesting facts about alcohol.
- 2,000+ Americans die every year from alcohol poisoning.
- 1.4 million alcohol-related acts of violence are committed each year.
- Nearly 10,000 people are killed annually on U.S. roadways for alcohol-related accidents.
- Alcohol is involved in more homicides across the United States compared to other substances, like heroin and cocaine. In fact, about 40 percent of convicted murderers had used alcohol before or during the crime.
- An estimated 37 percent of sexual assaults and rapes are committed by offenders who were under the influence of alcohol.
- Roughly four in 10 child abusers have admitted to being under the influence of alcohol during the time of the offense.
And here are some interesting fact about opioids.
- Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
- Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
- An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
- About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
- Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.
- The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
- Opioid overdoses in large cities increased by 54 percent in 16 states.
And now, the facts on marijuana:
- here are no recorded instances of anyone dying from a fatal dose of marijuana alone.
- A survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzed insurance claims for vehicle collisions filed between January 2012 and October 2016. The IIHS researchers compared claims in states that had recently legalized marijuana (Colorado, Washington, and Oregon) with claims in similar neighboring states that hadn’t.
They found that over that time period, collisions claim frequencies in the states that had legalized marijuana were about 3 percent higher than would have been anticipated without legalization. The researchers characterized that number as small, but significant.
- A second study, published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), found no increase in vehicle crash fatalities in Colorado and Washington, relative to similar states, after legalization.
Reliable data that associated violent crime to marijuana was hard to come by because even government studies tended to tie cannabis use with alcohol. What is clear is that marijuana legalization did cut violent crimes in states that implemented the change.
It is also clear that of the three substances (alcohol, legal and virtually unregulated; opioids, legal and regulated; and marijuana, illegal most everywhere), marijuana is the least dangerous. So the question is: Why is it that weed is illegal? One cannot help but make calculated assumptions.
What would happen if marijuana was immediately decriminalized nationally? The results from the states that have done it are a net positive. That said, it is easy to see several forces colluding to keep marijuana illegal.
Counties would make less money in penalties and fines. They like to brag about low taxes as they use draconian law enforcement to make up revenue that should be made from taxes.
The prison industrial complex would lose quite a bit of business. It’s not only that they would lose those convicted of marijuana offenses, but as the herb is legalized, the reduced violence means that other associated crimes are reduced as well. That means less incarceration.
Most importantly, however, drug companies would likely lose big. Why? There are many ailments where marijuana in one of its many forms may be preferable. As all the proven uses of marijuana go mainstream, it cannot help but impact pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines.
Anyone who doubts that those realities are on politicians’ radars doesn’t understand how the country works. Thousands of lives have been destroyed by ridiculous marijuana laws. Because many value money and ideology over humanity, thousands more lives are likely to be destroyed before real change comes. It is up to us to enlighten others—and to force the change.