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Why stop at medical marijuana?

BY JUSTIN SUGG | OCTOBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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Our esteemed Editorial Board — of which I am a member — advocated medical marijuana’s legalization on Oct. 9. In an interview with Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, he talked with passion about the need to legalize medical marijuana but hesitated to support recreational use. He said Iowa was not ready to legalize recreational marijuana, and the Editorial Board agreed.

I agree Iowa should legalize medical marijuana, but only because everyone should be able to use it.

That’s not to say I believe marijuana has limited medicinal benefits. In fact, I have very personal reasons to advocate medical marijuana use. My mother suffers from glaucoma and has terrible headaches from the pressure. Many times she goes without sleep from the pain and takes large doses of ibuprofen to little avail. She hesitates (rightly so) to take stronger medication because of adverse effects. Marijuana is known to reduce glaucoma pressure and could effectively treat my mother’s ailments.

Doctors at the UIHC recently replaced nearly my father’s entire aorta. The hospital had to extend his stay because of chronic wasting. He lost more than 50 pounds. An appetite stimulant like marijuana or its derivative, Marinol, could’ve reinvigorated his appetite and expedited his recovery.

Marijuana has significant medical benefits, but that’s not the only reason to legalize it.

I call marijuana a commodity, because that is what it is. There is nothing inherently wrong with the substance. Most evils associated with marijuana are ones our prohibitionist culture has thrust upon it.

Marijuana made up more than 60 percent of Mexican cartels’ revenue in 2006, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. I’m not among the chorus condemning the drug war as a failure, but I do believe decriminalization would undermine narco-terrorists more than increased police and military activities.

Drug traffickers gain all their money and power through the monopoly they maintain in the black market. The United States should break up that market with market forces. Competition from legal markets would draw revenue away from the cartels and thus diminish their power.

Marijuana’s health risks are quite minuscule, especially compared with controlled substances currently available. Last week’s editorial pointed that out, so I won’t discuss it much here. Marijuana opponents will also bring up the dreaded gateway effect: Marijuana use leads to much harder drugs.

The Institute of Medicine concluded there was no evidence linking marijuana use to harder drug use in a 1999 study and debunked the marijuana-as-a-gateway myth.

Marijuana’s legalization could also produce fiscal benefits. A study cited in Forbes magazine estimated the United States would save $10.7 billion through legalization and bring in $31 billion in revenue. That’s only through taxing and licensing. There’s a whole industry that could blossom as a result. Iowa City already has two hookah bars (that only serve tobacco), but just think how many could open if pot were legal. That’s marijuana tax, licensing fees, and corporate tax. And I know the City Council’s been looking for a dry alternative to the bars.

Perhaps the biggest reason to legalize marijuana is in our Declaration of Independence, whose preamble states people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Marijuana legislation violates at least two of those rights. We should be free to choose whether or not to smoke pot.


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