Friday, May 8, 2009

Schwarzenegger: Let's talk about pot

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently suggested that his state should have an honest dialogue about legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Currently, marijuana in California is legal for those whose doctor prescribes it to them for medical conditions that they have.

Schwarzenegger, who once used the drug himself, sees the benefits of legalizing pot from the state's point of view: tax revenue. If we legalize pot, California (or any state for that matter) can place a tax on it to gain more dollars for the state's budget. Currently, California faces a $42 billion deficit.

Could legalizing marijuana help California's budget woes? It couldn't hurt. Aside from the expected tax revenue from pot, however, is the argument of whether or not drugs should be made illegal to begin with.

What a person does with their own body should be their own business, so long as it doesn't cause any harm to anyone else. This includes what they do for a living, what they do in the bedroom, and what they consume, among other things. Drugs should be no different: if a person wants to smoke weed, what right does the government have in stopping them?

The only justification a government can make in making any drug illegal is if the community as a whole is at risk of its effects. Cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin are all examples of drugs that can cause serious damage to a community's ability to function.

But pot can be placed on a different level; similar to alcohol and cigarette use, pot causes no problems within the community that these legalized drugs already do. With the right amount of regulation -- including age limits, laws on driving under the influence, and other matters -- recreational marijuana use would be no different than recreational alcohol use. The effects of both drugs are the same; so why do we outlaw one over the other?

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