Years ago when my city-bred teen nephew came to visit Grandma here on the farm, he discovered native cannabis in the field! “Whee,” he thought, “I’ll send this home to my friends and we’ll do marijuana!” Poor lad. He didn’t know that local cannabis is a lousy smoke. More important, he didn’t know that Grandma was watching; his package never even reached the post office.
It’s not my nephew’s story or our beautiful wild cannabis that inspires me now to argue that we should legalize marijuana. No, I put this shocker forth today because evangelical leader Pat Robertson just said, “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol.” Now Rev. Robertson is not my favorite resource, but if he encourages legalizing marijuana, then maybe many of his evangelical followers might follow suit. I can hope.
Personally, I never enjoyed using pot. I nearly choked when I once tried to smoke it, and when friends and I tried marijuana brownies? We fell asleep.
So why should this infamous plant become legal in Iowa – and the whole USA?
It would be more honest. Marijuana is not as dangerous to health as alcohol or cigarettes. First cause of death in the USA is cigarettes, and alcohol’s just down the list. Marijuana doesn’t seem to have killed anyone yet. (Center for Disease Control) In 2008 legal pain killers killed 15,000 people, no marijuana deaths.
Marijuana doesn’t cause the damage that alcohol does. Too much alcohol can make people do crazy things – drive stupidly, beat wives, or leave children unattended; marijuana just puts them to sleep.
And the money we would save! Money now spent apprehending marijuana users (read the sheriff’s reports in the Journal-Express) and the money spent on keeping them in prison.
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson also urges legalizing marijuana. He says the federal government arrests over 800,000 people annually on marijuana charges. He reports that legalizing would save $8.7 billion and could generate that much in tax REVENUE. (That’s almost 18 billion!). And we would no longer be supporting those who now make millions in the marijuana drug trade. It would be cheaper to buy marijuana over the counter at drug stores, liquor stores, or groceries; restless teen-agers and sneaky smugglers would lose their market.
Plus, we could use dollars saved and earned here to provide more drug rehab for victims of much more dangerous addictive drugs like nicotine, alcohol, or methamphetamine.
And here in Iowa, wow! We could grow hemp – a botanic cousin of marijuana and a fiber crop so important during World War II that they created a film, “Hemp for Victory.” In the continuing epidemic of fear about the cannabis family, hemp is illegal. Unfortunate, because it’s an environmentally friendly plant that could give us the ultimate cash crop, producing more fiber, food, and oil than any other plant on the planet.
I don’t encourage smoking pot. Though less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, or too much food, marijuana is not without harm. No, I want us to take necessary precautions, get our thinking gear in order, and legalize marijuana. Then we could figure out how to spend the extra billions our new policies had generated! (If you’d like to know my sources here, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org)