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EDITORIAL: High time for change


For years, the DEA has listed pot as a Schedule I drug, but it should be legal for all uses


For the past two decades, states and cities across America have legalized the use of marijuana for not only medical use, but recreational purposes. Despite those changes on the local and state level, the federal government continues to categorize marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

This causes marijuana to be surrounded by misleading stigmas that pose issues socially and scientifically.

Americans’ opinions about marijuana are changing. We think the federal government’s stance on it should reflect that.

It’s time we, as a country, embrace the legalization of marijuana for all uses.

According to Pew Research Center, 53 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, while 69 percent believe alcohol is worse for their health than pot. Michigan is among the 28 states with laws permitting use of medical cannabis. Eight other states have legalized recreational use of the drug.

States who have legalized it for recreational use are beginning to witness the financial benefits of regulating and taxing the sale of the drug. Colorado is a great example of a state that is reaping some benefits of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. The state took in $53 million in tax dollars from marijuana sales in the first year of legalization. Washington made more than $250 million in excise taxes in 2014, and legal pot sales in the U.S. were reported at $5.4 billion in 2015.

History has shown that prohibition does not work.

Like the prohibition on alcohol, the country’s war on drugs, namely marijuana, has been ineffective at limiting the public’s access to it. Spend a weekend on this college campus and it becomes obvious that pot is not hard to find. If people want to smoke weed, they will.

The war on drugs has cost the U.S. more than $1 trillion since 1971 and has created an illegal black-market marijuana industry.

Instead of spending billions of dollars trying to stop marijuana use, the Drug Enforcement Administration should spend its resources combating the country’s opioid-addiction crisis — America’s real public health concern.

Prescription opioid and heroin overdoses killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. No one has overdosed on pot.

The DEA maintains its stance that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision. Researchers have found that marijuana has medical benefits for cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic pain, but there is not a lot of research on long-term and other recreational use.

This is, in part, because the DEA has controlled much of the marijuana research done since pot was listed Schedule I in the early 1970s.

This is why it must be taken off the Schedule I list. We will never know all of the potential benefits and risks of marijuana until the DEA stops limiting access to conducting research.

In the meantime, thousands of American lives are being incarcerated on simple marijuana charges every year.

U.S. law enforcement agencies arrested 620,000 people nationwide for possession of marijuana in 2014, according to data released by the FBI. Possession of marijuana charges made up 44 percent of all drug-related arrests that year.

In many cases, minorities are particularly targeted by law enforcement. A 2013 study by the ACLU concluded black users in Colorado were 3.75 times more likely than whites users to be arrested for possession of marijuana in 2013.

It’s time we think openly about marijuana and stop mislabeling it. The benefits of legalizing it far outweigh the risks.

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