Marijuana criminalization unfair, overlooks potential benefits

Opinions Columnist | Mass Communication Senior

The laws prohibiting the possession of marijuana cause more harm than good and should be relaxed.

For decades, marijuana has been demonized and vehemently fought against in the name of the government’s “war on drugs.” Regulation of certain substances is necessary, of course, but waging “war” on a substance as mild as marijuana is too extreme and largely ineffective.

Do not misunderstand—I am not writing this column so the stoners of Texas State can one day roam The Quad in their Bob Marley T-shirts, freely smoking weed. Long lines of red-eyed potheads with the munchies constantly visiting campus vending machines might benefit the university financially, but there are other, more important issues to be considered in this “war.”

The Texas law punishes the possession of even as little as two ounces of marijuana with heavy fines and sometimes, incarceration. In fact, according to the 2012 FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, drug violations account for the highest number of arrests in the country, even more so than driving under the influence and larceny-theft. Among these drug violations, possession of marijuana accounts for more arrests than any other drug, especially in the South and Midwest regions.

Incarcerations account for a large percentage of taxpayers’ money. According to the Adult Criminal Justice Data Sheet, in Hays County alone it costs $59 to incarcerate one individual in the county jail per day. That money adds up quickly and does not need to be wasted toward those who are in jail for committing crimes as trivial as marijuana possession, especially when the plant has beneficial qualities outside of recreational use. Giving pot a break could pave the way for some serious advances in several fields and would serve to save a large potion of taxpayer money.

For example, a 2012 article published by The Open Neurology Journal claims cannabinoids—the chemical found in marijuana, or the cannabis plant—may be useful in treating certain ailments. Some medical benefits include controlling nausea and vomiting and promoting weight gain in patients with eating disorders or a chronic lack of appetite. Smoking weed is not only practiced by youths who skip class and lie on the couch all day. Anyone from cancer patients to achy grandmas can benefit from blazing it on the regular.

The same article mentions marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug—one that has absolutely no medical value and is harmful to one’s health—which is an obstacle to medical studies. That classification is not accurate. Its profile more closely resembles drugs in the Schedule III category, where potentially addictive drugs with medical uses such as codeine are listed.

Besides medical use, cannabis has another use absolutely unrelated to getting high—hemp. A paper published by a Purdue student in 2002 claims hemp is very easy to distinguish from narcotic cannabis, and has a host of uses that branch out into several different fields.

Hemp can be used for paper products, food, textiles, molded plastics, body care products, construction, livestock feed, medicine and an agricultural barrier to prevent cross-pollination. It has a higher score on the eco-friendliness scale than corn, soybeans and tobacco crops. Even with these benefits, marijuana is illegal and heavily fined, despite the ease with which it can be utilized for purposes other than getting high.

I understand the stereotypes surrounding the marijuana plant. It is easy to disregard the ranting of a dirty-haired hippie proudly waving a joint around, but there is truth in arguments for legalizing marijuana. Even if it is not made legal to the point that alcohol is, the level of aggression with which those who are charged with possession is a waste of time and money.