When Chris Kelly introduced a bill in the Missouri legislature last week, it opened the door to make Missouri the third state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
If legislatures pass the bill as proposed, the law would impose a 25 percent tax on pot, set up a system for licensing growers and retailers but create exemptions for people who grow their own. This percent doesn’t even include the existing tax rate that purchasers of the drug would have to pay.
In effect, the bill would commercialize a product. Forbes Magazine estimates Colorado, which introduced legalized recreational marijuana Jan. 1, will make more than $130 million in tax revenue this year.
$130 million! That is about the amount Gov. Jay Nixon proposed cutting from Missouri universities and debt restructuring in his 2013 state of the state address. From an economic standpoint additional tax revenues makes smart business sense, especially at a time when the U.S. economy still sputters along.
Of course, money can’t be the only reason to legalize a drug that could be harmful. Recent research reported in Psychology Today indicates heavy marijuana use can negatively impact an adolescent brain, but no one is advocating the legalization of pot for teens.
Certainly, more research could put people’s minds at ease. If marijuana is legalized, we must determine whether a regular user’s abilities to drive are impaired when under the influence of marijuana. We must also definitively determine the addictive qualities of the drug as well.
Already 20 states offer marijuana for medicinal purposes although it remains a Schedule 1 drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s website, justice.gov. Defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use,” the drugs in this category are heroin, LSD, peyote, ecstasy and marijuana. Marajuana should never be classified with hardcore drugs such as LSD.
To find something harmful in some states but helpful in others is quite contradictory. People should not have to move out of a state in order to get the medication they need. Medical marijuana must be available to patients in every state in the nation, including Missouri.
If we authorize marijuana’s use now, there is no reason we can’t repeal its legality if science sheds additional light. When cocaine was discovered in 1862, it was legal for more than 50 years until health officials and legal authorities raised concerns. In 1914 it was banned, and no one compellingly argues for its legalization today.
It may be a tired argument, but if our country continues to sell cigarettes, a product that aids in the death of 443,000 people per annum and has been proven to cause countless illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then there is no reason not to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana will not change anything for those who do not use weed, and it could improve the quality of life for those who would want to. America is built on a willingness to allow for diversity in many things. The option to smoke or not should be in the hands of the individual not a group of people who are scared by something they don’t understand.