Letter to the Editor: Yes to legalizing marijuana

In response to Elsa Van Leurven’s letter “No to legalizing marijuana” (05/26/16), I will not spread the word to defeat legalizing marijuana, instead I will do the opposite.

To begin with, marijuana is not a gateway drug, there is no scientific consensus that shows that marijuana is a gateway drug. I know people who use marijuana, people who use it for medical purposes and those who use it for recreational purposes, and none of them have moved on to more dangerous drugs, nor are they addicted to marijuana. 

When in comes to your statement “is marijuana less harmful than cigarettes?” In my opinion, and I’m sure many others would agree, yes, marijuana is less harmful than cigarettes. We all know cigarettes are addictive and contained hundreds of dangerous chemicals, with many of them known to cause cancer, along with other health issues such as heart disease, COPD and emphysema, yet cigarettes are available for sale to the public to adults 18 and older (except for Hawaii and soon to be California).

The same applies to alcohol, while many of us drink responsibly, there are those who are alcoholics, and long-term health effects for them include cancer, liver disease and pancreatitis, yet alcohol is for sale to the public. Why should we treat marijuana any different?

If anything, we should treat marijuana the same way as alcohol. Why prohibit marijuana just because it can result in more car accidents? People already drink and drive, and unfortunately many are involved in car accidents that results in injuries and death, but it doesn't stop alcohol from being sold to the public. There are already laws that make it illegal to drive a car while being high, as well as drunk or under the influence of other narcotics, it's all classified under driving under the influence.

As to her claim that medical science says it can cause permanent brain damage to those who use marijuana under the age 18, I’ve read articles that stated the same, but I’ve also read articles that stated under the age of 16 as well as under the age of 21. The only consensus is that it does cause permanent brain damage, but no consensus on the age. In either case, the places where it is legal to buy marijuana, one must be 21 years of age or older; with that said, I don’t see any problem with an adult who wants to use recreational marijuana. Nobody is forcing them use marijuana, the same way that nobody is forcing people to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.

If marijuana is legalized in California, I don’t think it will make it easier for teens to get it; it already is easy for teens to buy and use marijuana. I know that from personal experience; on my first day of high school, somebody came up to me offering to sell me marijuana (among other drugs) and I declined because marijuana and drugs never interested me, but from that first day of high school, I knew if I ever changed my mind, I knew it would be easy to acquire. In addition, during all four years of high school, I knew classmates who used marijuana on campus during snack or lunch and show up to class high, as well as knowing others who would drink alcohol and show up to class buzzed (and on a few occasions see them drinking during class). This was over ten years ago, I can only imagine how much easier it is for teens nowadays to have access to marijuana. 

I sure do hope marijuana is legalized in California because it will mean more income for the state. Look at Colorado, in 2015, Colorado made almost $1 billion from the taxes placed on marijuana. In Washington state and Oregon, they are also making huge amounts of money from the taxes. Sure California has a $3 billion surplus, but did you bother to research why that is? California was hit hard by the recession, and there were budget cuts all across the board. If California legalizes marijuana, it is estimated that California will make $1 billion annually, meaning those budget cuts won’t be necessary anymore, and the list of assembly bills you mentioned will not be necessary. Imagine that, an estimated $1 billion annually; if California plays it's cards right, they can use a portion of that money to go back into public schools and the Cal State system, as well as other departments and public services that will benefit the residents of California as a whole. We already tax alcohol and tobacco, why not do the same on marijuana if it becomes legalized in California?

One last thing, your statement of, “wouldn’t it be nice if the churches, Christians, and those who care about others, especially our youth, stand up as a ‘light to the world’” reminded me of the temperance movement that led to the 18th Amendment. If you recall, the 18th Amendment established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States that lasted thirteen years, and look at how that turned out. The 18th Amendment was repealed and even during the prohibition years, alcohol was still widely available; let’s not repeat history. 

Spread the word to legalize marijuana.

Guillermo Vazquez