Legalization of drugs should be based on evidence

The legalization of marijuana has been a controversial topic in the U.S. for many years.

Many Americans believe marijuana should remain illegal, but the argument over which drugs should be legal and which should not remains unsolved.

But perhaps Americans and the government should question why marijuana is banned in the U.S. while other equally, if not more, harmful drugs remain legal.

Marijuana is a mind-altering drug that can be smoked or ingested. The chemical compound THC is absorbed in the body and delivers the high that users describe. Users can experience paranoia, memory loss and lack of coordination as a result of the THC. Because of these symptoms and the term mind-altering, many view marijuana as something to deem illegal.

Though America campaigns against smoking tobacco, companies are still allowed to sell cigarettes to the public. The same applies to alcohol. The media advertises alcoholic products constantly, yet alcohol is also extremely dangerous when abused. The CDC reported that 24,518 deaths in 2009 were related to alcohol abuse, not including accidents, homicide or the 15,183 people who died from liver complications as a result of alcohol consumption.

Comparatively, for marijuana, the International Classification of Diseases found in a 2009 study of 2,436,652 deaths and their causes, that marijuana use caused none of those deaths directly.

So why are two substances that are leading risk factors of death readily available to those of age, while marijuana is illegal to public use and, in many states, illegal even for medical use?
Clearly, a law will not stop those who desire to abuse a drug from doing so.

Like alcohol or cigarettes, marijuana can become harmful if abused, and legalizing marijuana would not improve the health of society.

But it could decrease the amount of drug trafficking and arrests. It could also bring in a hefty profit.

According to the Huffington Post, Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that marijuana legalization would save an additional $6 billion per year if the government taxed marijuana at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco. With our poor economic status, it would seem like a good investment.

But legalizing marijuana is of little importance. Rather, the way we establish criteria for what substances are illegal should be reevaluated to reflect up-to-date research.

If people are informed about marijuana, they can form their own beliefs about its effects and how to avoid its abuse.

All drugs have their consequences and it is important to differentiate between them and rationalize their legality based on sound evidence.