“So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed, we’re just havin’ fun and we don’t care who sees!” This is the opening line of the popular song “Young, Wild and Free,” from rappers Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg. The anthem predictably champions marijuana usage, and I can think of few people who are better to create such a song.
It appears, too, that Wiz and Snoop’s sentiment is with popular support.
Reuters wrote on Sept. 8, 2011, “Overall, 8.9 percent of the U.S. population or 22.6 million Americans aged 12 and older used illicit drugs in 2010, up from 8.7 percent in 2009 and 8 percent in 2008, according to the survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Marijuana use appeared to be fueling the increase, with some 17.4 million Americans — or 6.9 percent of the population — saying they used marijuana in 2010, up from 14.4 million or 5.8 percent of the population in 2007.”
Given the rise in marijuana usage, we have to question: why hasn’t marijuana been completely legalized yet?
I can personally say most of my friends, who are around the age of 20, support the legalization of marijuana. So either most of my friends are simply stoners, or there is a real shift occurring in views regarding the popular drug. After all, the previously cited Reuters also states, “Marijuana is increasingly becoming the drug of choice among young adults in the United States.”
At the very least, critics will opine marijuana has to be detrimental to one’s health. After all, cigarettes are time and time again lambasted for its terrible effects on one’s lungs.
Then again, NPR reported on Jan. 10, 2012, “Smoking a joint a day for up to seven years doesn’t hurt lung function, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. They came up with that number after following more than 5,000 people for 20 years. The results were just published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In fact, those occasional pot smokers actually had improvements in some measurements of lung function. That might be due in part to the stretching involved in the deep tokes typical of marijuana use. By contrast, both past and present cigarette smokers had impaired lung function.”
Beyond even just individual impacts, a Time Magazine article from April 02, 2009 posits that perhaps we need to take a closer look at the economic benefits of legalizing marijuana.
“We spend about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5 percent of all drug arrests are marijuana-related. That is an awful lot of money, most of it non-federal, that could be spent on better schools or infrastructure — or simply returned to the public.”
The article goes on, “At the same time, there is an enormous potential windfall in the taxation of marijuana. It is estimated that pot is the largest cash crop in California, with annual revenues approaching $14 billion. A 10 percent pot tax would yield $1.4 billion in California alone. And that’s probably a fraction of the revenues that would be available — and of the economic impact, with thousands of new jobs in agriculture, packaging, marketing and advertising. A veritable marijuana economic-stimulus package!”
Of course, economic benefits shouldn’t always be the trump card, though it should be a hefty consideration. But we need to consider that this drug seems safe relative to ones that are currently legal. Additionally, the notion that the legalization of marijuana would open the door for other drugs like heroin or meth seems without foundation. After all, when the prohibition on alcohol was lifted, there wasn’t a massive push for these same, “hard” drugs to be let out on the streets freely.
We can be sure of two things: 1. The marijuana debate will continue to rage on ferociously, each side touting moral, secular, economic and statistical arguments and 2. Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa will continue getting high, living young, wild and free.