The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Marijuana rights should be left for individual to decide

In the last few years, states have begun to take on the “marijuana question” during voting. This question asks, “Should marijuana be legalized  — to a point —  and regulated.” It seems that popular opinion has been swaying toward the side that exclaims, “legalize it.” States such as Washington and Colorado have recently legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. Others say that marijuana is a “gateway drug” of sorts, and legalization of the plant will only lead to widespread drug abuse. So, which is it?

Studies that compare marijuana use to tobacco use are not uncommon. They have shown that marijuana use is far less harmful to one’s lungs than smoking cigarettes. So what? It is well known that tobacco use is legal for all citizens over the age of 18. Cigarettes are especially notorious for their link to lung cancer. The connection is so well documented that cigarette packages are required to be labeled as dangerous products that may cause cancer. Even still, with these obvious dangers lurking, the legality of tobacco and tobacco products is not denied or even really challenged.

So, what does marijuana do to you? The answer is, essentially nothing. The “high” feeling produced is the only real “side effect” of marijuana use. It has been found that marijuana is not likely to cause long-term brain impairment, nor is it physically addicting. The physiological effect that marijuana has on one’s lungs is much less severe than that of tobacco. Essentially, weed is just not nearly as awful to your health as tobacco is.

But, if the health bit isn’t your problem, then let’s focus on the rights issue. Since we can clearly ascertain that marijuana is not extensively harmful to anyone’s health, should it not be left up to individuals to decide whether or not they use it? Certainly, drugs like heroin and cocaine can cause overdose, death, etc., and thus are rightly banned. But marijuana is — in layman’s terms — harmless. As an adult, you have certain rights to your body. If you have a choice between tobacco and marijuana, the healthier choice is the latter; if this is the case, then why are grown men and women prevented from making the decision for themselves?

There is absolutely no reason to continue the costly “war on weed.” It is a natural drug that is less addictive than tobacco and alcohol — two legal substances. Instead of punishment, let it generate taxes and revenue. Rather than hinder our freedoms, let it be something that can help our economy.

Let’s replace jail time with a bit of peace and quiet. There’s no need to hurt those who are not harming others. It’s time to get over the fear and move toward a more free, and likely more safe, state of being.

Jeri Cosgrove is a third-year English student with a concentration in creative writing