Marijuana: A case for legalization
More than 100 million people in this country have tried marijuana at some point. More than 28 million will do so this year. It will not make them dangerous or more interesting. It should not make them criminals.
Marijuana’s critics cite proven negative effects of heavy use: loss of concentration and short-term memory, poor educational performance, decreased drive and ambition (the “amotivational syndrome”), impaired motor skills, damage to the lungs and circulatory system, increased anxiety and paranoia, and, in extreme cases, psychosis. Defenders acknowledge these problems but note that the overwhelming majority of users are not heavy users. Most people who smoke marijuana do so as most drinkers drink alcohol — on an infrequent or quite moderate basis.
The greatest harms associated with cannabis are not the effects of the drug but of our drug policies, which vary widely from state to state. In Alaska, possession of up to four ounces of the drug (more than enough for a hundred joints) in one’s residence is legal, as is possession of fewer than 25 plants. In Texas, possession of less than two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor, which can mean as many as 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. In practice, it usually draws probation, but it’s not “just a ticket.” A kid can be tossed out of school or lose a college loan or scholarship. A parent can lose custody of a child or be barred from subsidized housing. And conviction for a drug offense, even a misdemeanor, can make it extremely difficult to land a job — forever.