Mary Jane's last dance? Hope not

Many concerned citizens feel that the recent push for the legalization of marijuana is merely a half-baked scheme of the few who have succumbed to "reefer madness."

This is only because these concerned citizens have not fully examined the advantages that legal marijuana has to offer. Supporters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws aren't rallying to justify their next high, but to prevent needless arrests and ensure that marketed marijuana is distributed responsibly.

Perhaps when the average individual thinks of legalized marijuana, he imagines our society going up in smoke. He sees children, teenagers and parents losing themselves in an unmotivated and desolate haze while every American virtue goes by the wayside. Of course, a substance that puts alcohol to shame and robs society of its virtues would threaten any rational person, but it's wrong to assume that legal marijuana would fit that description.

If it were to be legalized, marijuana would have to meet the same standards set for the manufacture and sale of alcohol; only those of a responsible age with valid identification would be able to purchase marijuana or cannabis products. To the dismay of many high school and college students, making marijuana legal would actually make it harder for underage kids to obtain. Shady dealers that sell to anyone for cash will be put out of business by specialty stores - those stores would in turn card anyone who wishes to buy marijuana and restrict their sales.

Marijuana could even be packaged with the ever-familiar surgeon general's warning, alerting consumers to the risks of smoking cannabis products. The myth that marijuana use is more damaging to your body and mind than smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol is long dead and buried, so what is it that the government is trying to salvage? What's left of our moral purity after all the Budweiser cans and packs of cigarettes are empty?

Legalization wouldn't bring about the death of our society or moral corruption, it would allow regulation and control. Local and state governments can close their ears and shut their eyes as tight as they'd like, but marijuana use is not decreasing despite laws designed to punish users.

According to reporter Joe Klein of TIME magazine, America spends $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of "criminals" corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. Even worse, the government dishes out about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5 percent of all drug arrests are marijuana-related. That's a lot of money to be spending on "The War on Drugs," money that could be put toward drug education programs and rehabilitation centers.

The legalization of marijuana would foster regulation and safety, not the lawlessness that many presume. Marijuana usage will be present in the United States regardless of legality; lifting the prohibition would shed some light on the darkened myths and tales enshrouding a typical and often harmless activity. Shall the time come when citizens may speak of cannabis not in hushed tones or in shady alleys, but freely and safely under American law? One can only wonder.

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