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Volume 71, Issue 80, Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Opinion

Legal pot would bring jobs, benefits

Nick Somarakis
Opinion Columnist

It is commonly referred to as hemp, grass, reefer or ganja, among other names. It is a depressant, causing effects similar to that of alcohol, and it is currently outlawed in the United States. It is marijuana, and it should be legal.

There are too many social and economic benefits that would result from the legalization of marijuana to ignore. 

The legalization of marijuana would be the beginning of a billion-dollar industry. Thousands of jobs would be created for the production, advertising, marketing, sales and distribution of legal marijuana. Establishments would be erected where people can smoke and purchase legal marijuana -- as in Holland -- and farmers would have a new cash crop to cultivate. Industrial hemp would be grown specifically for energy, paper, rope, clothing and other uses. 

Legalizing marijuana would also have profound social benefits. It would bankrupt drug dealers who make money off the illegal sale of marijuana and other drugs by removing one of their most sought-after products. It would help protect consumers by ensuring that the marijuana is not laced with any chemicals or additives that may harm the body. 

The sale of marijuana to teens would decrease because vendors in a regulated system would have an incentive to sell only to people of age, whereas drug dealers are willing to sell to anyone.

"Approximately 25.5 million people reported last year marijuana use," according to the White House Drug Policy Web site. Therefore, the billions spent on criminalization and use prevention are not stopping marijuana use.

"An estimated $4 billion is spent on arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for marijuana offenses," according to the Justice Policy Institute. The money spent on criminalization of marijuana could be spent on other types of crime prevention, or the government could reallocate that $4 billion to other purposes such as Social Security, higher education grants or even tax cuts. A new hemp tax could be created just like the taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and increase government revenue without any higher taxes. 

Marijuana is as addictive as alcohol but less addictive than cigarettes. It is impossible to overdose on marijuana, but you can overdose on alcohol, and the sensation received through marijuana use resembles that of alcohol consumption. Marijuana should be made legal since there are similar drugs available legally, including alcohol and cigarettes.

Texas should be the first state to legalize marijuana. We would have the benefit of having our farmers be the first to grow hemp and the factories in our cities the first producing it. We would have the first businesses created to distribute it, and the headquarters of the hemp industry could even be right here in Houston. 

If Texas could be the birthplace of a billion dollar industry, the state could get thousands of new jobs, get a new cash crop for our farmers, get new taxes coming in without raising taxes in other areas and lower the amount of money spent on crime prevention and prisons and bankrupt drug dealers. What is the benefit of keeping marijuana illegal?

Somarakis, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at nick_som1@hotmail.com.

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