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Column: A vote for pot

Laws exist out of self-interest--that is clear. We create government in order to serve the values of the majority, which translates into laws protecting us from one another.

But should we have laws that aim to protect us from ourselves? In my opinion, absolutely not! I should be able to do whatever I want to do to myself, so long as the only person I harm is myself. Here the definition of harm gets a little hairy, as there are numerous exceptions and interrelated scenarios, but basically it extends to direct physical and monetary harm, with perhaps the greatest exception being that of large-scale emotional harm, directly manifesting itself in physical and/or monetary harm (think slander/libel).

Yes, if I were a single parent and I killed myself, it may monetarily and thus physically harm my three children. However, this is an indirect harm--it may not be morally "right" but nevertheless it should be legal. As an aside, the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no protected "right to die" under the due process clause of the Constitution (I always thought it would be hilarious if a man got the death penalty for trying to kill himself).

The individual should be entrusted to sort out the moral issues not involved in direct physical or financial harm, so as to prevent the government from completely being Big Brother.

Besides, by regulating morality, we don't remove the actual "bad"-we only remove the choice of the bad. I don't claim to know how to eradicate what we deem to be morally wrong, but clearly, as we still have crime government regulation of morality doesn't do the trick.

What the government should do is ensure that we do no harm each other. Marijuana smoking does not harm others or have a clear negative impact on society and may not even harm the user.

First of all, marijuana in moderate usage has not been proven to be harmful to the body. I encourage you to read Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts by Lynn Zimmer, and John Morgan for more information on this reality.

Secondly, marijuana legalization would free up money and resources currently tied up in the "war on pot." Rather than using this money to spread lies about a drug we should know more about, we could spend the money on education or medicinal research to allow us to better understand the drug's effects.

So, what does our government know that we don't? Surely there must be some negative consequence to legalizing marijuana.

If we legalize marijuana, maybe it would hurt the economy. Think of all the jobs involved in the "war on pot" that would be lost. But, also think of all the jobs that legalizing marijuana would create. From domestic growers to retail sales, it would really just be a redistribution of wealth and jobs from one sector to another. Economists call this concept creative destruction.

Okay, perhaps certain industries pay off the government to keep marijuana illegal. In fact, marijuana was criminalized first in the 1930s when Dupont Chemicals and Hearst Paper launched a propaganda smear campaign against hemp to prevent relatively cheaper hemp-paper from hurting the tree-paper industry. But I really doubt this is an issue today, as few people even know about the real cause of anti-marijuana legislation.

Basically, I cannot think of any good reason as to why pot should be illegal. Marijuana in moderate use doesn't have clear long-term effects on the body, it doesn't sponsor terrorism or cause people to be violent--at most, there is a weak statistical association. From my observations, it seems that the moderate marijuana user only inflicts harm on himself--specifically the over-consumption of junk food.

The government is simply standing by an outdated policy of doing what it has always done in order to repel change, uphold the status quo and, moreover, try to be our parents. It needs to get over the motivation of ruling this aspect of society.

But hope remains. In Nevada, a ballot initiative was voted on Tuesday that, if passed, would allow the police to spend more time going after violent criminals, instead of hunting down nonviolent marijuana users.

The initiative would: 1) Eliminate the threat of arrest for adults who responsibly use and possess up to three ounces of marijuana; 2) Require the state government to implement a system whereby adults could obtain marijuana through a legally regulated market, rather than from the criminal market; 3) Allow seriously ill patients to obtain marijuana at a lower cost than non-medical users; and 4) Impose common-sense restrictions that the voters demand, such as imposing penalties for driving dangerously while under the influence of marijuana, smoking marijuana in public and providing marijuana to minors.

Leave it to the underbelly of American morality to propose some of the sanest legislation to date. I encourage other communities to follow suit.

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