Marijuana poses less of a threat than alcohol

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Imagine: the flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream blended with the refreshing taste of … marijuana? In a recent interview, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the masterminds behind Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, supported the idea of adding marijuana to their list of ingredients in states where cannabis has been legalized. To those of you shaking your heads — don’t be so quick to judge. In the last days of February, it seemed as though many were backing the Vermont-based entrepreneurs.

[ MARIJUANA DOES MORE HARM THAN GOOD – DESPITE WHAT YOU MAY HAVE HEARD ]

On Feb. 25, Washington D.C. mayor Muriel E. Bowser furthered her ardent pro-legalization efforts by passing Initiative 71, a bypass that decriminalizes cannabis for recreational use. Just five days later, German scientists Dirk W. Lachenmeier and Jürgen Rehm published a major study on the realistic dangers of different drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol. According to a study published in Scientific Report, marijuana is 114 times less dangerous than alcohol. Studies that emphasize the benign nature of marijuana, as well as the economic potential the drug has, have made it impossible for both federal and state governments to ignore the legitimacy of legalizing cannabis for recreational use.

According to The Washington Post, seven out of 10 Washington D.C. voters expressed their endorsement for the legalization of marijuana in November. Bowser responded to this overwhelming majority, announcing that the city government would legalize marijuana for recreational use. The passing of Initiative 71 was met with serious contempt by Republicans in Congress, who threatened to jail Bowser for using federal funds to permit a Schedule I drug. President Obama was quick to rectify the situation by diminishing the validity of Republicans’ threats. Obama added the word “Federal” to his budgetary plan, which allows state and city governments to legally create individual marijuana legalization and regulation plans.

These localized plans, established in states such as Washington and Colorado, have proven to be successful. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, marijuana taxation produced an average of $5.7 million each month in the year 2014. Bowser has designed a very reasonable and efficient plan similar to that of Colorado, in which there are laws and restrictions placed on the amount of marijuana that is deemed legal, the age at which citizens can purchase marijuana and the amount of marijuana citizens can grow in their homes. The jurisdiction over marijuana is even stricter than that over alcohol — marijuana can only be consumed on private property, and there will be no public areas for marijuana consumption. In addition, individuals who are caught smoking or selling marijuana in public will face jail time and fines, while businesses that allow patrons to use marijuana on their property will have their business licenses and certificates of occupancy revoked.

The taboos surrounding marijuana come from a time period when science and politics were not advanced and the adverse effects of drugs were not substantiated. Lachenmeier and Rehm’s study compared margin of exposure — the ratio between the amount of a substance that is legal and the amount usually consumed — for different drugs to determine their degree of destruction on the human body. When the MOE of marijuana is compared with that of alcohol, the detrimental effects of marijuana are negligible. The MOE for alcohol is dangerously close to one, meaning humans consistently drink the amount of alcohol that toxicologists have deemed lethal, while marijuana is the reverse — humans typically ingest one-hundredth of the lethal dose.

At this point in American politics and science, almost every argument against marijuana can be countered with facts. Marijuana is not dangerous to humans, and marijuana does not cause an increase in crime. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Data, after the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the overall crime rate dropped 10.1 percent, while the rate of violent crime dropped 5.2 percent. If cannabis is not significantly detrimental to the human body, it does not have any correlation with increased crime rates and it could reduce the national debt, then what is there to argue about?

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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