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Viewpoint: It’s legalization time

BY AARICA MARSH

Published January 24, 2013

In the United States, a marijuana user is arrested every 42 seconds. With that many people arrested, imagine the even greater number of people who are associated with someone who was once incarcerated for using, possessing or growing pot. It could be anyone: perhaps it was your college friend just having some weekend fun or your great uncle with stomach cancer who was once locked up on possession charges. Maybe it was you who was arrested and suffered the consequences of the outdated U.S. marijuana laws. What are the police really solving by busting these users? Are they actually creating a safer and freer country as they have been telling us for years?

Approximately half of all drug busts in the United States are pot-related with 87 percent of these arrests being for the non-violent possession of marijuana. Because most of the drug arrests are non-violent offenders, their time spent in correctional facilities is often more injurious than beneficial. Instead of being “rehabilitated,” many of the nonviolent citizens actually become more aggressive and spiral deeper into the criminal system. In order to survive, they must mimic the ways of actual violent offenders surrounding them. To solve this issue, the federal government must reclassify or totally eliminate marijuana — and potentially other drugs — from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s controlled substance list. Drug offenders need authentic rehabilitation, not seclusion or repeated exposure to violence.

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug with no use for medicinal purposes and high potential for abuse. It occupies this category alongside more dangerous drugs such as heroin, LSD and crack cocaine. It’s ridiculous that pot is classified as a higher risk than extremely addictive drugs like cocaine and oxycodone.

By classifying weed as a Schedule I drug, people who have exposure to the drug may believe the government is implying that other drugs have similar side effects. This, however, is deceptive and dangerous. Compared to pot, the other drugs in the Schedule I class are extremely dangerous. More than one-third of U.S. citizens have tried marijuana with no reports of addiction or death. Furthermore, as of the November election, 18 states and Washington D.C. now have marijuana-friendly legislation. The majority of the American population recognizes the harmlessness of THC. Why can’t the federal government?

“Marijuana should be legalized for many reasons, but the most important reason is because it is a civil rights infraction,” Miles Gerou, president of Eastern Michigan University’s chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, said. “There is too much fact to show that marijuana is relatively harmless, and certainly not lethal, to keep putting good citizens in jail for making healthier choices than the legal recreation drugs offered in our country."

Though many Americans have come to the same conclusion, the federal government refuses to budge. THC is still described as more dangerous than Xanax, morphine, oxycodone and many other legal substances in the United States. So instead of rolling up a doobie I should pop a pill, right?

Wrong. It’s outrageous to believe that weed is more harmful than the subsequent drugs in lower class schedules. The idea that marijuana is a “gateway” drug is also absurd. In most instances, people experiment with nicotine or alcohol before trying marijuana. Therefore, the two most commonly used legal substances in the United States are the first gateway drugs into the illicit substance community.

For decades, marijuana has been wrongfully labeled amongst our society. The time for change is now. Much of our country has legalized pot in some way, which alludes to the majority of American’s acceptance for pot. Our right to use marijuana in a similar way we use tobacco and nicotine needs to be recognized. The first few steps have been taken: marijuana prohibition is slowly ending state by state. Now it’s time to tackle the federal government and their illogical classifications. It’s legalization time.

Aarica Marsh is an LSA sophomore.