3 sides of the same coin

     Welcome to a three-way shoot-out at the Circle V Corral. Every month around these parts, verbosity has a high-noon showdown to see who's in charge. Sometimes it just seems like this magazine ain't big enough for the three of us. This month the topic of discussion centers around the legalization of marijuana. Wanna know what verbosity thinks of it? Read on...

side 1

     Call me old-fashioned, but I just can't bring myself to support the legalization of marijuana. Yeah, I know -- I've generally been a relatively liberal guy throughout these pages, but it's just something that's never really jibed with me. Why? Let me tell you...

     I am of the mindset that everytime we grant a new right here in America, it only serves to pave the way for another right to be granted. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing wrong with extending rights to the people. It just seems to me that the legalization of marijuana -- or any drug -- is a step in the wrong direction.

     You may very well say to me, "Jess, what about tobacco and alcohol? They're drugs, aren't they?" To tell the truth, they are in the strictest manner of speaking. However, as prohibition has already proven, the government cannot take away rights without causing a serious stink about the matter. If we legalize marijuana, we're only making it easier to legalize other, more dangerous drugs. Funny, but I don't often hear people calling for the legalization of cocaine or heroin.

     "What about for medical purposes, Jess? There are many circumstances where marijuana can ease the pain of a suffering patient." Point taken. We've spent years finding other ways to sooth the pain of others. Why, in recent years, has marijuana become the ultimate solution to pain relief? Perhaps there are cases in which cannabis can help reduce the pain of a medical condition. However, by allowing prescriptions for marijuana to be filled, we're only making it easier to get it out on the streets. People have been faking prescriptions to valium and other pain-killers for years. Why not marijuana, too, if it's legalized for medical usage?

     "Come on, Jess -- marijuana isn't that bad!" Isn't it? I've heard stats for years that marijuana has never directly caused a death. I think that could very well be the most stupid statistic that I've ever heard. Bullets have never been a direct cause of death, either; it's that pesky loss of blood and brain functions that always gets 'em. I can't see any intoxicating substance as not being dangerous. I have no problem with people who choose to drink alcohol or smoke pot. It's those who say it's not dangerous that bother me. Those who act responsibly aren't the ones we'd have to worry about if marijuana were legalized. It's the people who insist that there's nothing more to a few beers or a few hits than a head buzz. They're the ones to watch out for.

     "Okay, Jess -- here's the kicker. You're a political science major. Surely you must know that George Washington, the father of our country, grew hemp." That's just silly. If all the framers of the Constitution jumped off a bridge, would you?

     I think it's clear that I don't see the justification necessary to legalize marijuana. It's something that I have often debated with myself through the years, but my stance is solidly against it now. As I see it, there's no sense in opening up a floodgate that's been closed for years now. It's only asking for trouble.

Jess still thinks Dr. Dre's The Chronic is a darn cool album.

side 2

     In recent years, the debate over marijuana, sweet bud, chronic, pot, whatever you want to call it, has heated up tremendously, perhaps matched only by that of the burning joint.

Ok, so enough with the puns.

     In all seriousness, the debate over the possible legalization of marijuana has become a key aspect in modern politics. For humour, you have a President who admitted to taking a hit during his (ahem) leisure time in Europe. For a reality check, you have the issue of its legalization for medicinal purposes in California. however you look at it, there's bipartisan support -- and the issue isn't going to go away anytime soon -- one key reason I feel there should be serious consideration regarding its legitimacy.

     Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating actually smoking the stuff, but neither do I feel that legalizing it will particularly encourage the population to light up. Even though it was wrongly classified under the Narcotics Act early on (hence why it is classified with "hard" drugs), there's still over 15% more THC in today's pot than in the 60's. So considering this, why do I still support the possibility of its legalization?

     Much of this comes from the fact that the number of people smoking it is so astronomical already. Every year, there are more than 400,000 cannabis-related arrests, according to the F.B.I. -- and this is only a small percentage of the users and dealers out there. Certainly, this should be weighed heavily in any decision.

     In addition, I'm not in favor of outright, restriction-free legalization, either. If you read last month's Three Sides, you'll notice that I'm not a fan of the tobacco industry. However, I don't advocate making it an illegal drug. Yet I do support making it prohibitively expensive and highly taxed... and I'd feel the same way about pot. In addition, I strongly support legislation that would call for government regulation, requiring uniformity, a standard cannabis, to make it safer. Also, I'd see the need for law that would make the smoker responsible for his or her action, with stiff penalties for problems during his or her "stupor". Studies have shown that driving while on pot is similar to driving drunk, only the THC stays in the blood for 3 weeks as opposed to several hours. Therefore, legislation that would punish a driver for any incidence of the chemical in his or her bloodstream would allow for legitimate recreational usage, while still strongly discouraging irresponsible smoking. Call it red-tape, call it bureaucracy, but it's a whole lot safer than the black market deals, and a whole lot less expensive with regards to American tax dollars.

     In the end, with giant pot-population and the ensuing debate regarding the issue, I think America should at least reconsider the reclassification of marijuana. With appropriate and responsible lawmaking, legalization would save save America both money and headaches. I dunno about you, but when it comes to pot or money, I'd much rather burn the first green than the latter.

Corey doesn't much like "Smoke Two Joints" on the Mallrats soundtrack.

side 3

     In order to deeply and thoroughly consider this issue, I felt it necessary to groove to the tunes of Tom Petty while I wrote. I think that his musical style is a good analogy for how I feel concerning this issue. Kinda mellow, no strong convictions either way. I don't think it would be a good idea to legalize it, but that decision can be left to the politicians.

     Some people (Libertarians) claim that drug legalization is the way to go. Think how much money we could save by not fighting the war on drugs, and we could tax the previously illegal drugs with outrageous rates. To those of us who are fiscally conservative, this sounds very tempting; we could cut spending while increasing revenues. The substances would have to be controlled of course, just as alcohol and tobacco are.

     Others claim that marijuana is a "gateway drug" and that use of it will lead to use of other, "harder" substances. I can understand the logic of this statement. Apparently marijuana legalization would lead to a country of junkies. This theory ranks right up there with the "Domino Effect" in Asia.

     There are other solutions. Amsterdam has a park where any drugs are legal and the police cannot go. This would increase drug use considerably and is, in general, a bad idea. Maybe a solution like what Germany has, where it is legal to posess marijuana but is illegal to buy or sell it. This would keep it from becoming a standard item you could buy in any Walgreen's while legalizing it to an extent.

     Marijuana is not entirely for pleasure, though. Medically it helps patients with Glaucoma and eases nausea associated with chemotherapy. Doctors have to advise patients to try to purchase marijuana on the black market to help them. Arizona recently legalized marijuana for medicinal use. In certain situations I think that it should be prescribed if it is used for a medical condition that could be alleviated by use of the drug. It would be difficult to prevent illegal use from going up at the same time, though.

     All in all, marijuana should be left as is. It is now legal in two states for medical usage. If patients need it, they can go there without use spreading across the country.

Seth can't prove that Tom Petty smokes marijuana.

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