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The burning question: Legalize marijuana?


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Illustration by Jennifer Kearney
By David Schultz & Scott Patterson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 3, 2005
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Blame drug suppliers, not users.

Marijuana shouldn't be illegal because it is dangerous (it's not), and it shouldn't be illegal because it's a "gateway drug" (it's not). It should be illegal because of what it does to Latin America.

It is an undeniable fact that every time someone buys marijuana, they are helping to fund a horrifically bloody civil war in Latin America that's been going on for decades. Thanks to Americans' drug money, it shows no signs of stopping.

Tom O'Connor, a prominent criminal justice professor at North Carolina Wesleyan College, states on his Web site that 90 percent of the marijuana in the United States is from Latin America.

This high demand has given rise to several suppliers, the most vile of those being the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia).

FARC is a drug-funded terrorist organization that is so out of control that, according to O'Connor, they don't even try to conceal their kidnappings anymore; they simply refer to them as "taxes. " This is what America's quest to get high has wrought.

One could make the argument that if marijuana were legal, it would be sold by legitimate businesses who wouldn't buy it from Latin American drug cartels, but this is incorrect for two reasons.

First, legalization wouldn't stop the flow of illegal marijuana into the United States; if anything, it would make it flow faster and harder.

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David Schultz
columnist

This is because legitimate businesses, if allowed to sell marijuana in America, would have to follow all of the U.S. business laws that the drug cartels laugh at. The price of legal marijuana would then skyrocket compared to its illegal counterpart.

For example, would you buy American-made marijuana from RJ Reynolds at $300 an ounce, or would you buy illegal Latin American marijuana from RJ the drug dealer at a tiny fraction of that price?

Enough people would choose RJ the drug dealer over RJ Reynolds that it would make legally selling marijuana a non-profitable venture and the drug lords would keep on laughing maniacally all the way to the bank.

Second, this argument assumes that the companies who choose to go into the marijuana business (and I'm not talking about landscaping) will refuse to purchase their product from the cartels. This is giving profit-driven entities way too much credit.

The history of Americans buying products from companies who procured their wares in less than savory ways (oil, coffee, cotton, et al.) is long and disgraceful. Just as Exxon and Unocal buy oil from Saudi Arabia and pretend not to notice the decapitations, marijuana companies will buy from Latin America without a second thought.

Marijuana should stay illegal because America shouldn't throw in the towel in the war on drugs, not when that would be a huge boon to some of the most despicable people on earth.

Instead it should end its futile and punitive war against drug consumers in the north and take the war to the real enemies - the drug suppliers down south.

David Schultz is a senior majoring in political science and philosophy.

He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

The legalization of marijuana is long overdue.

The mere fact that there is no reason to keep the drug illegal is reason enough to legalize it. Just look at the most common arguments put forth by the "marijuana is the devil's harvest" enthusiasts.

First, it is contended that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that often leads to heroin, cocaine or other, harder drugs. Anti-drug advocates use the fact that most users of heavier drugs have tried marijuana as proof.

Ridiculous. By this logic, the same argument could be made to make alcohol illegal, because a vast majority of heavier-drug users consumed alcohol before moving on to harder drugs.

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Scott Patterson
columnist

Second, physical damage done to users that abuse the drug and other dangers would be increased.

Hypocritical. According to the editors of the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, "It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat ... than alcohol or tobacco."

Furthermore, a federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine states, "Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range tolerated for other medications." Cigarettes are legal in this country, so clearly the effects of the smoke are not enough to justify prohibition.

The strongest case for marijuana legalization, however, is sheer economics. According to the NORML Report on Sixty Years of Marijuana Prohibition in the U.S., the arrest and prosecution of more than 700,000 people on marijuana charges (close to 90 percent of which for possession alone) cost taxpayers between $7.5 billion and $10 billion annually.

If marijuana were legalized, not only would taxpayers no longer have to pay for such needless processes, but private firms would also spring up, sell marijuana, turn a profit and return tax revenues to the government. Just as cigarettes and alcohol generate enormous tax revenues, marijuana would do the same.

And for those concerned profits are going back to drug lords in Colombia, don't be. As it stands, marijuana bought today already drives demand that supports Latin American terrorist organizations such as FARC, but legalized marijuana will curtail this demand.

Think of legalized marijuana in terms of the oil trade. Currently, the United States is heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil, which is widely seen as a huge problem. But had the Middle East been, say, Canada, no such problem would exist, and instead of constantly seeking to diversify, America would have been satisfied in dealing with its laid back neighbor to the north.

The same goes for marijuana. As new companies emerge, of course they will look first to Latin America, but the political consequences of such an action will soon catch up to them.

The result: a massive search to diversify, which, unlike oil, is accomplished much easier in the field of marijuana. Then, over time, marijuana will be produced domestically, and the power of the Latin American drug cartels will diminish.

Thus, keeping marijuana illegal is absurd. We must legalize marijuana immediately and begin "reefing" the benefits today.

Scott Patterson is an international studies senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu



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