The Drug War Debate: What Are We Arguing About?
Plenty of people in Hawaii have strong opinions about the prospect of legalizing marijuana. Some cite the medicinal benefits while others express health concerns related to marijuana use. Some believe that legalizing marijuana could help Hawaii get out of debt and others are afraid it will only create more problems. Here is what opponents and supporters are saying about possible risks and potential benefits of legalizing marijuana.
Those opposed to legalizing marijuana may say…
Marijuana is a gateway drug. They argue that if marijuana becomes legalized, more people will smoke it and in turn, more people will become interested in trying other “harder” drugs.
Marijuana increases your risk of cancer. THC itself is not considered a carcinogen. However, the smoke from burning marijuana has potentially carcinogenic chemicals, similar to some of those found in cigarette smoke.
Marijuana is addictive. Some residents worry that if marijuana is legalized and, as a result, readily available, there will be a higher risk of addiction. And with increased addiction, some fear that increased crime will follow.
Those in favor of legalizing marijuana may say…
There is no proof that marijuana is a gateway drug. In fact, some supporters argue that marijuana is a healthier and safer alternative to harder, synthetic drugs.
Marijuana has documented medicinal benefits. While it is not a cure for any disease, it does treat symptoms – such as nausea, pain, and loss of appetite – related to more severe illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Marijuana has not been proven to be physically addictive. Former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders explained it this way: “Marijuana is not addictive, not physically addictive anyway”. While it can be argued that people become psychologically addicted, those that cease using marijuana do not face severe physical withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction.
Revenues from legal marijuana could pull Hawaii out of debt. It is no secret that Hawaii is currently deep in debt. Legalizing marijuana would make it possible for the state to collect taxes on marijuana sales. A study conducted in 2007 by University of Hawaii-West Oahu professor, William Boyd, found that approximately $33 million a year in tax revenue and savings could be generated by the legalization of marijuana. There would be less money spent on enforcement and court costs, and more money generated in taxes. This money could then be used to support other public programs, particularly those – such as education – that have recently faced significant cuts. In a Star Bulletin article, President of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, Pamela Lichty, explained, “A policy of taxation and regulation would raise enough money to pay for all the adult education programs and the A+ children’s program combined, or run all our public libraries”.
The state must weigh the scientific facts, potential consequences, and patient benefits as well as financial factors when making decisions about Hawaii marijuana laws. In time and through future marijuana-related legislation, perhaps, we will find an answer to the question: Do the benefits of legalizing marijuana outweigh the possible risks?