The Great Weed Debate: Legalize it

Marijuana prohibition is more dangerous than you think.

By Dan McQuade
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 32 | Posted Jul. 13, 2010

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It’s Christmas Eve and I want some pot brownies. Problem is, my dealer got pulled over last night for speeding. The cops found his bowl in the center console. Dumbass.

Now what? Well, I’m out of pot and I got no connections. Shit. I sigh. This is going to be a long Christmas.

Weed smokers are being cited, arrested, locked up. And for what? Something that grows naturally in the earth? Marijuana prohibition needs to end. Now.

In the onslaught of the War on Drugs in the ’80s and ’90s, marijuana legalization was a pipe dream. In fact, anti-marijuana rhetoric has been the most visible drug policy issue in the U.S. since Ronald Reagan. It was only 12 years ago the United Nations held a conference calling for a drug-free world by 2008. Now, though, it’s closer than it has been since the 1970s. California—whose medical program is almost de facto legalization for many—will hold a referendum in November on whether to fully allow it.

Smokers, unite. The end of marijuana prohibition has got to be on its way. Sure, it would be a complicated transition to a legal marijuana market, but just think of the benefits: No more drug corners. No more waiting. No more getting pinched for an eighth. No more guesswork. Just good old legal weed.

Now let’s lecture you for a paragraph. Just because your drug of choice is definitely the most awesome—suck it, beer geeks—doesn’t mean you can go smoking it 24/7. You need to sleep.

It’s not a good idea to wake-and-bake every day, either. Yes, one can smoke enough marijuana to ruin your life (or, at least, lose your job and girlfriend and get fat thanks to a too many days of pot, pizza and Law & Order marathons). Even if it can’t cause an overdose, one can smoke too much weed.

Fortunately, “smoking too much weed” about the worst-case scenario for marijuana use. There’s no evidence it causes cancer, but marijuana smoke isn’t good for the lungs. Driving while high is a bad idea. Pretty much everything else marijuana is blamed for—brain damage and memory loss, crime, a gateway to more dangerous drugs, “amotivational syndrome”—has been debunked. (There’s a whole book on this: Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts.)

So, yeah, weed can make you fat if you consume half the Wawa every time you smoke. Is this something we should be fighting a war on?

Marijuana prohibition is far more dangerous than marijuana. Weed dealers can’t settle their differences through the courts. The media calls it “drug-related violence,” but in reality it’s drug prohibition-related violence. Sometimes innocents are caught in the crossfire. Far too frequently, people (or their pets) are killed by SWAT forces raiding a house where the police believe there is marijuana. It’s impossible to overdose and die on pot, but pot laws kill.

In 2008, the most recent year data is available from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, police arrested 847,864 people for marijuana law violations; 89 percent of those arrests were for simple possession. No, most of those arrested do not go to prison. UCLA public policy professor Mark Kleiman estimates there are about 30,000 people behind bars for cannabis law violations.

Some may not have sympathy for those killed in drug raids or the thousands arrested for weed. After all, they broke the law. But we have to be realistic. Cannabis is much less harmful than both our two primary legal drugs; hell, it’s much less harmful than speeding. These pointless arrests harm the lives of hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding productive citizens. They have to suffer the experience and embarrassment of an arrest and possible criminal record. Some may lose federal funding because of a simple pot arrest. And for what?

There are almost too many arguments against marijuana prohibition. It does tremendous collateral damage. It blocks people from a medicine that works wonders on certain debilitating ailments. It prevents farmers from planting industrial hemp. It festers a black market that allows marijuana to be sold in every high school in the country. It costs a ton. It doesn’t even really stop anyone from smoking pot. You’d have to be stoned out of your mind to want a system that has failed so spectacularly continue.

And then, one day, we can maybe have a second drug celebration event in this town. It’s just a dream, but who wouldn’t enjoy Philly Weed Week?

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Comments 1 - 32 of 32
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1. Anonymous said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:13AM

“I would love a philly weed week :)”

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2. Holly said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:15AM

“This is one of the best articles on marijuana I've read in a long time! Well done!”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:19AM

“Why can't everyone see these issues the way you or I do?”

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4. Jaramiah said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:33AM

“I believe it should be legalized. But, by the time this happens, Another generation will be among us, and most of us will be dead. That, or we can legalize it, and it would help our freaking economy dramatically.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:35AM


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6. Jesus said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:45AM

“ALL 4 LEGALIZATION!! After being arrested myself for possession its not fun fucking pigs ruin all the fun. But i did get that cop back with a giant boulder threw his windshield haha. I hope we liv in a day were marijuana is legal it'd make life worth living.”

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7. bryan brady said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:47AM

“Not only do the laws kill innocent people but the law itself is a violation of Gods Law, Genesis 1:29,30 for both the Jewish and the Christian religion.”

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8. Jonathan said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:53AM

“The problem is, too many smokers and weekend-tokers compalin but don't step up, don't donate to NORML and MPP. I have friends in CA who won't vote for Prop 19 because "it will never pass."

If everyone who smoked, or who simply thinks it's a silly and costly law would just vote and voice their opinion then we could get this done. Get involved.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 10:54AM

“Great article, but you've missed a few key points that would help make this more convincing to the uneducated. These include that cannabis can be taxed and create a source of revenue for state and local governments in this horrible economic time, while at the same time preventing tax payer money from being spent on the prosecution and arrests of non-violent, otherwise law-abiding citizens, and allotting that time to be focused on actual violent crimes that have victims!

It is a personal and rational choice to use a substance with the least physical and mental effects in comparison to even our legal drugs. Tobacco doesn't even get you high. Yet millions daily smoke cigs, and hundreds of thousands die as a result every year. Alcohol can easily kill you from too much consumption. It is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to overdose from the inhalation of cannabis smoke. Finally, legalization takes that money out of the hands of gangs and cartels who introduce violence into the market.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:44AM

“Very well written and with clear, reasonable points. I have always said this law is nothing more than a waste of money. Make cigarette somking illegal!”

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11. Justin said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:49AM

“^^ not only will it create tax revenue just through sales, but it will literally create MORE JOBS which is all they talk about on the news lately. Everyone is bitching about the job market, and for good reason, and one of the best solutions is being supressed.
And dont be modest in thinking that marijuana's medical uses are limited solely to just a few ailments. Cannabis is the most researched plant ever, with over 20,000 studies. ( There is extensive research showing that it can more or less CURE CANCER. How is this being overlooked? ( And millions of Americans are prescribed toxic, dangerous pharmaceutical drugs from depression and related disorders that a cannabis sativa strain will take care of in no time, with the side effects being a healthy appetitie and pure bliss.The drug companies cant afford to let a plant that cant be patented render their entire corrupt industry useless.”

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12. CHRYSTAL said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:51AM


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13. avalon said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 11:57AM

“i might do time in wisconsin for an oz i wish america had better laws i wanna get a passport and leave”

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14. Leonard Krivitsky, MD, DD said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 12:59PM

“Not only Cannabis medicinal plant has remarkable healing properties, not only it is much safer than alcohol, but according to most recent addiction medicine research it may have a place in addiction treatment as an "exit" drug for former alcohol/hard drug/prescription drug abusers. I just attended a very important conference in Los Angeles, where the law enforcement professionals, medical professionals and policy makers all agreed that the so-called "drug war" must come to an end, and most delegates (including myself) were for the legalization of marijuana for personal use. I also made an acquaintance with Dr. David Bearman, a foremost authority on drug abuse and cannabinoid sciences, who is also a passionate supporter of Cannabis Legalization. Cannabis for personal use will be legalized as old misconceptions about this substance gradually melt away and our common consciousness makes an arduous return from the absurdities of Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 to scientific reality.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 01:13PM

“i love weed and they need to Legalize it and it will may the gas and shit go down so ya Legalize that shit”

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16. Primo said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 01:13PM

“Please notify me about the first Philly Weed Week!
Until then, let's keep the conversation going at

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17. pete said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 01:45PM

“I don't use weed anymore because it just
stopped working, the receptor points in my
brain just burnt out like bad fuses in a fuse box.

I took a year off and smoked up a bag but
it only got me high( and low), for a few days
and then it was back to the same null effect.

I ruined the experience of weed for myself as
I was psychologically and physically dependent
on it as a way of self-medicating. I am a
diagnosed schizophrenic and it actually helped
some psychotic symptoms but caused alot of
unwarranted paranoia.

I don't feel that weed is a party drug, it demands
respect, and you cannot treat it like a bag of
cheetos to be consumed for any old reason.
You can take this magical thing called weed
and diminish your experience of it through un-
disciplined use.

It is a shamanistic substance with real dangers
so though I support legalization that does not
mean everyone has the right to consume it. It
will mess up the life of certain people who just
have no business doing it.”

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18. Robert H said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 02:43PM

“Absolutely. But will employers still give you the big middle finger if you smoke pot? Even if it's legal?”

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19. Robert H said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 02:45PM

“@ Pete
I have the same problem...if it's there, I want to smoke it. You should never smoke weed if you are depressed..big mistake.”

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20. pop said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 02:52PM

“Well Pete I don't personally feel weed is a party drug either because once everyone hits it, the party heads to Taco Bell down the road (walking of course) and to bed after that.

Maybe I am being pedantic though.

Hm. Okay.

I don't like to use it as a 'party' drug nor in a place where I am forced socialization. It's more relaxing to do it by myself or in a small group where we can go grab our bikes and hit a trail and just enjoy nature like God intended. =)”

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21. tipsygrrl said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 03:26PM

“Word! Great article, & thanks for including my Philly Weed Week idea!”

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22. 420RallyDriver said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 05:31PM

“Excellent little article. The more press and coverage we can get, the closer we are to winning this ridiculous war.”

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23. Mr. Rogers says... said... on Jul 14, 2010 at 08:52PM

“It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, but just use your imagination and think how beautiful it could be if weed were legal, just imagine.”

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24. Joe from Temple University said... on Jul 15, 2010 at 12:01AM

“I'm a hardworking college student with a 3.84 GPA going into my senior year. God forbid I take a break from studying and smoke a bowl before I go to bed. Who am I harming? Yet I could get busted, lose my financial aid, and not be able to complete school. Does this sound reasonable? Yet I can get piss loaded at a frat party, blackout, and get carried home in a drunken stupor. Doesn't make sense. Fantastic article Dan.”

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25. richardj said... on Jul 15, 2010 at 01:50AM

“I used to smoke tobacco and pot helped me quit , I was at 2 packs a day and went cold turkey from tobacco just with an occasional bowl at night it really helped with the nicci fits and the hand to mouth habit marijuana saved me from killing myself with tobacco”

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26. Anonymous said... on Jul 15, 2010 at 09:07AM

“I worked seven years as a counselor for war vets and disabled people in a cannibis dispensary in California. Many would be suicidal without the soothing, even transformative effects of their daily medicine.
Certainly weed could help many give up more dangerous drugs if they were allowed it.”

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27. Jeremy Woolf said... on Jul 16, 2010 at 03:14PM

“I am Jeremy Woolfs Mother I post his story where I think it might be effective. You can read more on the facebook account I opened on his behalf.‎ 6 months and counting in Cook County jail awaiting trial. Life ruined over MJ charge no priors. Wrong place wrong time. Not even his pot. Nightmare loss of everything he ever had. Legal fees expenses soar out of control. An entire family heartbroken. Jeremy is kind caring compassionate young man this legal system has penalized beyond comprehension. MJ law must change cost is too high for all......”

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28. Anonymous said... on Jul 19, 2010 at 12:12AM

“Legalize it!!!!!!!! PHILLY WEED WEEK...I'll be first in line, lol...”

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29. regs said... on Jul 19, 2010 at 04:58PM

“if you got em smoke em!”

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30. jane said... on Jul 21, 2010 at 06:28PM

“I really hate pot but could care less who smokes it. What was all this fuss about? Putting people in prison for a joint that has cost families income & taxpayers billions & billions of dollars. Why doesn't President Obama fix this? I thought he was going to but everything is hush hush today. I hope I see it leagalized in my lifetime. When I retire I may try it again here & there but doubt it very much.”

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31. Anonymous said... on Aug 22, 2010 at 09:59AM

“Decriminalize hemp. God gave it to us: Genesis 1:29-30”

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32. Anonymous said... on Oct 2, 2010 at 10:46AM

“Philly Weed Week niiiice :]


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