I've been hanging around Slashdot (yes, i'm a nerd, fuck off), and i came across the story about Anonymous threatening Mexican drug cartels for kidnapping one of their members. Now, aside from the fact that this is a highly unlikely and unusual story in the first place, the comment section quickly descended to the whole "War on Drugs" thing. I admit i might be a little biased on this matter, but i always was pro marijuana legalization. Well, not always, but you get what i mean.
So, one of the commenters wrote a lengthy post that is so true that i will just quote the (almost) entire post here. Have a nice read, folks.
As for your "less incentives for the drugs to come here in the first place" plan, I agree wholeheartedly. Legalizing marijuana would be a phenomenal step in social management, as well as reducing the financial support we give to entities we can nearly all agree should not be profiting from us. I don't think it will "drop the value of all those illegal [drug] runs to zero", since we have pharmaceuticals crossing both the Mexican and the Canadian borders on a daily basis - apparently, it's orders of magnitude cheaper to ignore the patent-based monopolies in the US and acquire (supposedly) the exact same chemicals quasi-legally over the border; at least, that's what the spam in my inbox seems to indicate. Not just for "V1@GR@", but a wide array of prescription medications, everything from pain pills to antibiotics.
Marijuana has been clinically proven to be less physically damaging than either tobacco or alcohol (both of which are legal, albeit age-restricted), even with long-term usage. It keeps the (consuming) population docile, and it's incredibly cheap. Taxing it sounds like a great idea, but even just decriminalizing it would hit the drug cartels harder than sending 100,000 troops down to shoot at them, and it would hurt them where it matters: in the wallet. Why import it from Mexico, when it's so much less expensive to get it (literally, even) from your own back yard?
Marijuana grows in just about any conditions, that's part of the reason for the nickname "weed". Outlawing it is akin to outlawing carbon dioxide; how do you stop it? It has taken decades of strenuous effort to get rid of most of the "naturally occurring" cannabis growing alongside our nation's highways, never mind in a planter on someone's back porch. Criminalizing marijuana has simply given the cartels a (in effect, government-granted) monopoly on its production and distribution.
Patty Hearst and the paper industry were responsible for outlawing marijuana in the first place, because it was an economic threat - it's cheaper to make paper from marijuana than from trees. An acre of cannabis produces more paper than an acre of trees, because you can harvest every month instead of every few years. An acre of cannabis also produces more oxygen per year than an acre of trees - and it grows faster than the trees, with much less maintenance required, making it a much more renewable resource with a smaller carbon footprint. Add in the fact that you can grow hemp in a field with other plants, whereas trees pretty much exclude anything except grass, and the hemp seems (from an objective view) to become much more economically viable and environmentally friendly than many other products.
Hemp fiber is extremely versatile, and can be used to make all kinds of things that are currently made from less renewable resources - paper, clothing, rope, and even plastics and bio-fuels have been made from hemp. For example, replacing cotton with hemp would increase production by several orders of magnitude - cotton requires an entire growing season to become usable, whereas hemp is mature and ready for harvest in a much shorter time, allowing multiple "growing seasons" in the same amount of time; in addition, the cotton is confined to boles, whereas nearly the entire hemp plant is useful for its fibers.
As for its use in "self-medicating", it is interesting to note that "industrial" hemp has so little THC in it that it's barely measurable - you could smoke an entire industrial hemp plant and only receive a headache and burning lungs for your troubles. I don't recommend requiring that property in the legalization, mind you, because I believe that its medicinal properties far outweigh any negative arguments. While I have heard of people smoking too much and passing out, I have never read a news article claiming someone died from an overdose of marijuana. Ever. I have on my refrigerator a newspaper clipping where a man was arrested for walking into a convenience store to use their microwave to dry out his stash, but I have never heard of someone smoking marijuana and then robbing a liquor store. Alcohol leads to more domestic violence in this country than one would think possible, yet I have never heard of someone getting stoned and then beating their wife to death because "her" dog peed on the living room carpet. Again. Potheads do some really ridiculously stupid things, but I've never encountered one who could be said to be violent due to their use of marijuana.
Poor judgement? Sure. "Obtain twinkies" rates higher than "pay electricity bill" sometimes, you know how it is.
Violent anti-social behavior? Not so much. Hitting people takes effort, man.
Voted "most likely to sit on the couch"? Absolutely. Hey, dude, you got any potato chips?
Better still, if we had a legal option for "getting high", one that doesn't come with an annoying and debilitating hangover the next day, then people might choose not to pursue the illegal options (read that as "the dangerous ones") such as cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin - you know, the ones that make people violent, or that kill the users outright. They might also choose marijuana as their "legal drug of choice", instead of (for example) alcohol, leading to comparatively healthier and less violent recreational drug usage (Go ahead, tell me alcohol isn't a recreational drug, or that it doesn't cause violence. I have a truckload of reading material for you; why don't you start with Googling "Correlation of Alcohol and Domestic Violence").
Why bother with the expensive stuff that can kill you and/or get you arrested, when you could use an inexpensive, legal, and relatively safe alternative?
Why risk being being arrested for domestic violence, when you can toke up with your spouse, sit on the couch, and giggle while discussing deep philosophical issues such as whether anything would happen if you were driving your car at the speed of light and then turned on your headlights?
Speaking of driving, I'm not suggesting that we get rid of any of the safeguards we have in place - operating a motor vehicle should be done while clean and sober, full stop.
If it weren't for the legal issues, and the fact that pharmaceutical companies can't patent it, marijuana would be hailed as a wonder drug. Despite these perception issues, it is used in several states to combat cancer (or more accurately, the side effects of cancer treatments), AIDS, and mental illness.
So, with all of these positive things to say about this plant, and very few negative things associated with it, why has our government spent absurd amounts of money trying to not only criminalize, but actually demonize it? Perhaps it is a matter of being "too cheap (or too prevalent) to tax"? Or perhaps the government employees making all that money "fighting the war on drugs" just don't want to find new jobs. Despite this, this drug is still amazingly prevalent in our society; I defy you to name somewhere in the US that one cannot simply buy a bag from someone within a few miles of any given urban location.
Why criminalize something that pacifies its users, making them less likely to commit violent crimes? Why criminalize a substance whose users are more docile and easier to catch if they do break a law? Most importantly, from a capitalist viewpoint, why grant a monopoly to organizations outside our control, allowing them to amass power and wealth because of senseless and puritanical regulation on our parts?
Couldn't have said it better myself.