America, it is time to rid yourself of the stigma associated with marijuana. The benefits outweigh the cons, and the drug needs to become a viable and legal option for consumers across the country.

Let’s start with the cons for those of you reading who have already begun to roll your eyes. The obvious complaint being the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug. Of course it is. Every drug is a gateway to something else. The measurable trait to understand how dangerous a path it could put people on is to dig into two components. Cost and dependency tendencies. Cost is important, because if the financial impact of using the drug becomes too high, the user will seek out a cheaper substitute. The more expensive a drug is, the more likely someone seeks out an alternative. This alternative is often dangerous, and more addictive.

That leads us to the second point. If the dependency of the drug is high, then the user is going to become reliant. The dependency is often based on how addictive the drug is. The more addictive the drug, the more dependent the user is, and the more likely the user continues to use, and eventually abuse the drug later on. That is key. The slippery slope is when dependency slides into addiction and then falls to abuse. An abuser of the drug is a dangerous person in our society. They can cause harm to themselves, and those around them.

Examine marijuana based on the points that were just laid out. In comparison with other drugs, the cost of marijuana is on the low end of the spectrum. This means that users are likely to remain marijuana users and not pivot to an alternative. Now, the dependency factor. Marijuana has been proven to be considerably less addictive, if at all. This is especially true when compared with other drugs. The lack of addictive traits leads to less dependency, and less abusers.

Think of the current landscape. Alcohol and prescribed pills consume our lives. Let’s review both against marijuana.

Alcohol is reasonably priced, and comparable to the cost of marijuana. Most times it is cheaper. The breakdown between alcohol and marijuana comes with the dependency factors. Alcohol users are highly dependent. Clinical studies have shown that alcohol users can quickly become addicted to the drug, and therefore, have a higher tendency to abuse and misuse the substance. This is shown with crime data. You can go beyond the obvious, which are injuries and deaths related to driving under the influence. Take notice of the amount of crime with regard to domestic abuse when under the influence. A considerably high number. There is much more of an inherent danger using alcohol in society versus marijuana.

Prescribed painkillers are not priced reasonably, and unlike alcohol, have safeguards preventing users from renewing their supply. This is already a recipe for disaster. We know a product with a high cost and barriers to purchase will lead to users seeking out alternative methods. Remember this leads to an unsafe, and likely more addictive substitute at a lower cost. Now, let’s take into account the dependency factor with pain pills. There is a tremendously high level of dependency on the drug. This cannot be understated. The dependency is rapidly leading to countless addicts, and many abusing and misusing the drug. In fact, the rise of this is faster than any other epidemic of its kind in America. Higher than alcoholism, and even higher than the rise of HIV.

That takes us back to marijuana. Low cost, low dependency, and low addictive traits. That keeps users away from abusive behaviors, and lessens the likelihood they use the drug as a gateway to cheaper, more dangerous substitutes.

Americans have shown they have a desire to unwind at the end of the day. What’s your vice? We find most Americans do this with tobacco/nicotine, and alcohol. Why? They are the legal methods out there to use when looking for an escape mechanism to lessen your stress and relieve the burden. We’ve talked about alcohol, but it is important to note that cigarettes and nicotine are more costly than alcohol, more addictive, and more dependent. The only pro with cigarettes and nicotine is crime is reasonably low if nonexistent based on users abusing the drug.

However, while the subject matter is alcohol, and nicotine, it is important to understand the health effects when compared with marijuana. Both are considerably worse. Alcohol drastically deteriorates the functionality of the liver, and can lead to a realm of possible illnesses. It also impairs brain function over time. Nicotine is proven to cause cancer because of carcinogenic additives in cigarettes. Again, significantly worse health problems than any of those that marijuana could cause over time.

Finally, think of the pros of marijuana. This is best when compared with the other three drugs discussed in the piece. It can calm nerves and help decrease stress like all three of the drugs. It can reduce pain and lower pain receptors like the others. It can help aid in one’s need to unwind or decompress at the end of a busy day. It can be used socially if needed. The difference is what happens to someone using marijuana a few hours later, the next day, or over long periods of time versus any of the other three.

A few hours later, someone using marijuana does not become violent, or a danger to society, like alcohol. Impairment deaths and injuries from vehicles driven by people under the influence of marijuana is incredibly low. Domestic abuse and other crimes are all but nonexistent.

The next day a marijuana user does not face adverse effects from a hangover, such as alcohol. They do not have dependency needs like an opiate pain pill. And, they don’t have the addiction needs that nicotine delivers.

Finally, over long periods of time, marijuana users don’t face liver or brain problems like alcohol abusers. They don’t deal with cancers like nicotine abusers do, and they don’t have adverse health problems that pain pills provide.

So, how is it that marijuana isn’t legal? Well, first off, a war on drugs in the 80s and 90s drastically stigmatized marijuana for all the wrong reasons.

More importantly, follow the money. Big tobacco, alcohol, and pharma are all publicly-traded companies that are profitable juggernauts in the American business world. The lobbying power these three industries have is monstrous, and why would any of the three want to invite another person to the party that they’ve been throwing for generations? Especially a party goer that is safer and healthier. They know they stand to lose tremendous profits once marijuana becomes legal across the country. This is why big tobacco companies, like Philip Morris, have jumped into the marijuana industry. This is why alcohol companies like Diageo (Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Don Julio, Guinness) have begun to experiment with drinks infused with marijuana. Beverage companies like Coca Cola have done the same. Finally, you see big pharma fighting off lawsuits daily that are proving their complicit actions in distributing opiates while disguising the pitfalls of the drug.

It is only a matter of time until marijuana is accepted, and legalized nationwide. This is when we as a nation will begin collectively ridding ourselves of the dangers of alcohol, nicotine, and opiates, and replacing the vice with a responsible consumption of marijuana. The numbers will be the proof over time.

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