The Cost of Marijuana
I identify with the label "not a drug user." But I did try several of the popular drugs when I was in my early twenties. I couldn't tell you now whether I was curious or trying to fit in with my boyfriend and his crowd, probably a little of both. It was interesting to experience the effects of marijuana and a few other "social" drugs. I was reckless back then, probably still borderline suicidal, believing that my life didn't really impact anybody anyway, so why not take some chances? Marijuana was the only drug I used fairly often in my pre-parent years.
As a parent, I've had to see my kids through their teens and now twenties, be sensitive to their culture and their choices while also being a moral example and ethical role model. I turned into a pretty conservative person, all things considered, but I have never had a problem with the kids using marijuana. I made lots of parenting choices that weren't politically correct or mainstream, but I felt that they were appropriate for my family's unique needs and circumstances. Both kids suffer from anxiety disorders, and after they reached the age of 18, I decided that a little marijuana, especially near bedtime, was helping them manage their intense emotions, and it seemed a lot less dangerous than adderall, the legal option.
Now that recreational marijuana is legal here in Oregon, the street dealing has all but dried up. The state collects 25% tax on sales. Most importantly, all cannabis products are lab tested and labeled, so consumers know exactly what they're using -- a VERY important impact of legalization. I can go into a dispensary and choose the product highest in CBD (the drug that reduces pain) and lowest in THC (the drug that produces a high), and see if it helps with my arthritis. I haven't done it yet, but I can, and probably will at some point.
The War on Drugs has cost this country billions of dollars every year, many lives, and hundreds of people added to the roles of public assistance because with a felony conviction, they are unemployable. On average, 700,000 people are arrested on marijuana charges every year in the U.S. The War on Drugs has actually increased the drug traffic from Mexico, because it's apparently safer and easier to get Mexican drugs than to produce them here. The War on Drugs has increased the teen use of marijuana and more dangerous drugs because teens naturally want to rebel, and legal stuff isn't dramatic enough. The War on Drugs has added significantly to the homelessness problem, because so many people self-medicate rather than having legal options, and without oversight, addiction is rampant. Enforcing marijuana laws contributes to racial inequalities -- a disproportionate number of African Americans suffer the consequences of these laws.
What are we doing? Why are we willing to ruin so many lives, waste so much money, and add to the degradation of society, just because we have decided on an inaccurate, ideological stance that current drug laws are appropriate. They're not. The whole list of Schedule 1 drugs needs to be revisited. Marijuana doesn't belong on that list, and we'd save a fortune, and keep an awful lot of pot smokers out of jail and eventually off of public assistance, if it were treated the same as alcohol and tobacco. Legal marijuana use will make people more willing to talk to their doctors about it and make more informed choices.
We need tax reform. Let's face it, we need a lot of changes if we want our country to remain free and democratic. But starting with the tax code isn't the answer. We need to look at the underlying reasons for excessive spending in areas like jails and prisons, and revise the laws to more appropriately reflect our dedication to freedom, to personal responsibility, and eventually to fiscal success. The enforcement of marijuana laws is a huge drain on our social resources. Don't we have better places to spend our tax money?
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Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.