U.S. marijuana policy is dopey

Marijuana ban is alcohol prohibition of this generation (Kansas State U.)

By Cassaundre Braden

Kansas State Collegian (Kansas State U.)

(U-WIRE) MANHATTAN, Kan. — Aug. 2 marked the 70th anniversary of the start of one of the great social experiments in American history. Sadly, the experiment has failed miserably and should have ended years ago.

The first national anti-marijuana law, the Marijuana Tax Act, was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aug. 2, 1937.

Though disguised as a tax, the law functioned as the first federal ban on the possession and cultivation of marijuana. The ban continues in various forms to this day. Now, 70 years later, we can see this program has not prevented the use of marijuana in the United States.

Marijuana use increased after the drug was banned. In 1937, marijuana use was rare in the United States because marijuana virtually was unknown to many parts of the country, according to a study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco.

The federal government has estimated in the pre-prohibition era, about 1.2 percent of the population had tried marijuana by age 35. In recent decades, figures show the range to consistently hover at 40 to 50 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Marijuana is now our nation’s largest cash crop by a whopping margin. According to Americans for Safe Access, an organization based in Oakland, Calif., the 2006 U.S. marijuana crop was valued at $35.8 billion by street pricing, exceeding the value of corn ($23.3 billion) and wheat ($7.45 billion) combined.

Opponents of the drug will argue marijuana would be more widely used if legalized. In the Netherlands, adults are allowed to possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses. Rates of marijuana use are lower there than in the United States.

According to figures collected from both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Netherlands Ministry of Health in 2005, 17.1 percent of Netherlands residents age 12 and older had tried marijuana, compared to 40.1 percent in the United States.

Instead of stopping Americans from using marijuana, prohibition of this herb simply has handed a lucrative market to criminals. With legitimate businesses banned from producing or selling a popular product, gangsters stepped in to fill the void.

With prohibition keeping the price high, there always will be new growers ready to replace each one who is busted. There has been little progress made for the tens of billions of dollars spent seizing marijuana plants and arresting users at the rate of nearly 800,000 per year.

These costs are even more tragic when considering the scientific experts who consistently report marijuana is a far safer drug than alcohol or tobacco — it is less addictive, much less toxic and is less likely to induce aggression or violence. These results were found in a study by Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Norman Zinberg in a Dec. 13, 1968, issue of “Science.” The Drug Enforcement Agency no longer allows the possession of marijuana for research purposes, thus newer studies have not been conducted.

It’s time to learn from our nation’s disastrous attempt to ban alcohol. Instead of the futility and destruction of prohibition, let’s put marijuana under a common-sense system of taxation and regulation, just like alcohol and tobacco.