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Friday, October 16, 2015

Legalization: What Has Marijuana Learned From Alcohol?



When considering the legalization of products previously said to be dangerous, I think positive and negative lessons can be learned from the Prohibition era of alcohol. Marijuana is the primary drug to compare to alcohol for this topic as it reaches the repeal stage of its life cycle. There is a slow progression towards it becoming legal to use after several years, decades even, of resources being dedicated to stop its proliferation. Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have already authorized recreational use. The process began with medical use similar to how wine was allowed for religious use. There may not be a religious reason to use marijuana but the health benefits to patients suffering from pain, difficult radiology treatments and improper nervous systems are well documented. Marijuana has been found to help patients through their most difficult times both physically and psychologically. Alcohol is also taught to have health benefits. Some say a glass of wine, periodically, is good for the heart. It is possible that some substances in moderation are actually good for us and it is excess at which they can become destructive. So reflecting on the situation today, we can see that some form of regulation is always necessary but absolute restriction may not be fair to society as a whole.

          During the time of prohibition, alcohol was controlled by organized crime units who opposed the law. The legislation created to remove public access to alcohol did not mean the demand to have it diminished entirely. Bootlegging and the black market began and grew at a similar pace, if not faster than law enforcement. Marijuana distribution is a known service across the United States. Even with it being illegal, some of our favorite musicians, movie stars and athletes kept the drug in the public’s eye and popular. People would sell in their local communities as if it were as common as tobacco. Sometimes prosecutors and police officers would punish violators to the fullest extent and other times users would simply get warnings. The variations of discipline are subjective to say the least. It seems that eventually a democratic government will always respond to the population it serves. Meaning what the people clamor for will be given to them in due time. It just takes time to assess the actual benefits versus the dangers and study the long-term effects for the betterment of all involved.

          Now we can move away from the criminal element and consider how these decisions affect the omnipresent topic of our economy. As illegal substances are still pursued, any money spent on those efforts is not taxable. In the case of alcohol there was production, bottling, transportation and the direct sell to the user who knew that this was against the law. The makers of the beverage knew it was against the law. Every intermediary in that process knew it was against the law. There was still a market for it and therefore a way to make money. No one in the course of that transaction worked for free. Marijuana has a process it goes through today. Somewhere it is grown, harvested, bundled, transported, packaged and distributed. Again, with all parties involved aware of the risks being taken. Why is it so important to have the after-effect of its usage that one willingly ignores the consequences of breaking the law? These were potential billion dollar industries that the government could not lay any claim to without making an adjustment. In fact, they spent money for training and equipping a workforce to combat it in both eras. With acceptance of the demand and legalization, there is a huge growth of a taxable product market. As users no longer have to hide and be mysterious, purchasing will go up. Alcohol experienced an increase of the average user after the government endorsement.

          More importantly, with government regulation people may actually have access to a safer and more natural product. One could never be sure that the product you purchase through illegal means is actually good for you. How could you? The purity of the substance as well as its condition prior to your possession is always in question. The government can step in and be sure that if its voters want something then they can provide it a better way. Is the problem prevention from use or it is public safety? Those that want it will get it by whatever means they have available to them. So legality is not the concern of a constant user. I assume sustainability would also be enhanced with government intervention. Once a product is approved, does a new sector develop to try the once illicit item? This is usually the case with alcohol, as scores of young adults begin to drink at age 21. Those habits continue as long as they never have a really bad experience. There are some people who do not decide to start however. I cannot be sure of how marijuana will be received but it may be similar. There could be an age limit and tolerance level established to what is rational from a governing body. 

          In conclusion with the legalization of marijuana almost inevitable, I think there are reasons to prevent it and reasons to accept it. The main cause of prevention would be to continue to discourage the use of a dangerous substance. Even now, alcohol usage is a leading contributor to deaths and physical ailments of all kinds. To promote responsible consumption is not a concrete deterrent. This leads to the reasons to accept it. As stated earlier, the product whether legal or illegal will be sold and purchased. The least we could do is allow it to be retailed and distribute those resources to other causes. Think of the results of lower income taxes, better roads, improved schools and emergency personnel that are less busy all from the money that states could use from lawful marijuana profits. Usage may be at an all-time high, I cannot help the pun there, but will it have the same trend as alcohol. Already there are less cigarette advertisements. We have learned the lessons from smoking and what it can lead to. So maybe marijuana will not be as popular. Maybe people will try it and discover it is not for them. Maybe those who really need it will be helped by this latest advancement. All I know is that we can never be sure until we take the time to find out.

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