When will we legally light up?

Marijuana lit up the 70s, stayed true through the 80s, is still smoked today, and is probably always going to be around, whether we like it or not. So why is Canada waiting to legalize it?

There has always been a big stink around marijuana being a ‘gateway drug.’  People say its users will be more likely to turn to meth, crack, heroin and all those other life-altering drugs – but that’s never been proven while there are many benefits to cannabis that have.

If two countries that have been through more turmoil than our peaceful nation can legally light up, why can’t we? North Korea grows pot along their railways and Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize the plant, but Canada’s two attempts at simply decriminalizing possession have been just depressing.

In the end, what really gets me going, is it’s not hurting anyone and it’s not going anywhere. Someone who suffers side effects of chemotherapy, someone with glaucoma or PTSD  can benefit from weed. So could our country’s revenues. Many regions that have legalized the drug saw a reduction in crime, helping with over-crowded jails. Yet we’re still stuttering at the idea of making it legal, like alcohol, which by the way caused almost six per cent of all global deaths in 2012, according to a global status report on alcohol and health (2014), put out by the World Health Organization.

Canada may not be on board yet, but the smokey path to a weed-friendly world is being paved longer and longer in the United States, with four states having fully legalized the plant.  As of now, marijuana is legal in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, as well as Colorado and there’s a lot of buzz about who will be next, many predicting most of the country.

The fact is that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can walk into a pharmacy and pick up synthetic heroin to ease their pain legally, form an addiction and become an addict tomorrow – but in most places, we’ve completely banned a drug that can prolong life.

People love to say that if we had the cure for cancer tomorrow, the world would be a better place, but most places have shunned the very idea of something that decreases suffering in cancer patients and can in some views extend their lives. On the other hand, there’s an entire industry around alcohol, which, according to the Autumn 2014 Canadian Drug Summary by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, leaves you with an “increased risk of several types of cancer (e.g., cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, breast and digestive track), diabetes, cirrhosis, pancreatitis,” and those are just a few of the long-term effects it can have.

Aside from that and the many other health-related benefits the plant has, since the legalization bill passed in Colorado, more and more benefits are becoming clear. According to a six-month status report released by the New York Drug Policy Alliance, after six months of legality, there was a 10 per cent decrease in overall crime in 2013 and a five per cent drop in violent crime. The report also said, “according to the state’s department of revenue, the first four months of legal marijuana sales have resulted in $10.8 million in taxes.”

According to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, the state could save US$12- to 40-million over the span of a year by reducing criminal penalties. “Over the last decade, the state averaged more than 10,000 arrests and citations every year for minor marijuana possession at the levels now legal in the state,” according to the Center. Lastly, Governor Hickenlooper put $10 million nto furthering the research on medical marijuana, looking into proper dosing, potency, conducting trials, etc.

If just a short six months can bring forth this much positive advancement for a state whose own governor was originally against the idea of legalization, imagine what a country-wide, or even legalized world could open the doors to. Many people say if enough time is put into researching marijuana, it could be a cure for cancer – who knows until we give it a shot?

It does of course have some negative aspects. I’m not denying that.

Every drug has its side effects – some people experience minor side effects even from things like Advil, or anything else you get over the counter to ease pain. Many pills can cause nausea, dizziness or loss of appetite.

Much like these things, pot can cause short-term memory loss when you’re high, affect your concentration, trigger anxiety in some users and reduced lung capacity. But that simply brings us to the human rights aspect. It should be within our rights to choose whether we are okay with taking that risk or not. Even so, in comparison to cigarettes and alcohol, the negative aspects of cannabis seem insignificant to me.

So many people drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, two things that do more harm than good and end and destroy lives daily. But smoking a joint at the end of a long day is illegal? If it’s their choice to smoke cigarettes, which the National Cancer Institute website says causes an estimated 443,000 deaths in the United Stateds each year, including approximately 49,000 deaths due to exposure to second hand smoke, or drink alcohol, which according to the World Health Organization is the world’s third largest risk factor for premature mortality, disability and loss of health and results in 2.5 million global deaths each year, then why are we so staunchly against smoking something that you would have to consume a substance that virtually cannot be taken in a lethal dose?

We live in a country that is beloved by all for our vast amounts of freedom to do as we wish, within reason.

So let’s move forward on something that has been tested and proven to be relatively harmless and can help in so many ways.

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