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To many people, marijuana is still a dirty word. Due to the various lies and myths created by prohibitionists to prevent its use or legalization, some Americans view marijuana as a dangerous and deadly drug.
Following the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, marijuana was classified with heroin and LSD as a "Schedule 1 controlled substance," meaning it has no medical purpose and is highly addictive. Despite the fact that marijuana has been used by glaucoma and arthritis patients to relieve pain, as well as by cancer patients to reduce nausea, the drug is labeled as useless. Also, due to the drug's "munchy" inducing abilities, marijuana has been used as an appetite creator for patients who lack the desire to eat when going through treatments such as chemotherapy.
More addictive drugs like cocaine and opium, however, are classified Schedule 2, meaning they have some medical purpose. These classifications are remarkably out of date and based primarily on old studies, as cocaine was once "miracle drug" of the early 20th century despite later being found to not only be addictive but detrimental to the human body. Marijuana lacks most, if not all, of the dangerous effects of cocaine and opium and has been shown to possess positive health benefits.
If science has found medical benefits, why is marijuana still outlawed? And even if it can't be used medically, why is it not allowed as a "recreational drug" like tobacco or alcohol.
The government often falls back on the dreaded c-word, cancer, to scare the populous. Though, besides having tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, the psychoactive ingredient), marijuana and tobacco smoke are practically identical. Older studies show most marijuana smokers inhale deeper and hold smoke in their lungs longer; therefore pot smoke is ruled to be more damaging than smoking a legal, tobacco cigarette. Over the years, however, marijuana has become more potent through hydroponic growth techniques, shortening the inhale time required to get high. When you compound less inhale time with the fact tobacco is filtered, there is no way to know whether or not a legal, filtered joint is more dangerous than smoking a cigarette.
Even scarier is the gateway drug theory. If you smoke marijuana, you'll be smoking not only crack in a year, but probably dropping acid and selling your body in the bathroom of Denny's to buy heroin. The gateway theory is based mainly on the fact that individuals arrested with harder drugs happen to also be possessing weed majority of the time. Using this theory of association technically means if some crackheads are caught playing Nintendo, Super Mario Brothers is suddenly a gateway drug to crack use.
Even better, you can't overdose on marijuana. Pretty much the only way to die from smoking weed is to get into a car accident on your way to Taco Cabana. Alcohol, a legal drug, cannot only lead to fastfood-inspired car crashes but actually can kill you from over usage.
If not for the medical advantages, marijuana should be legalized because people can enjoy it without many of the dangers commonly attributed to other drugs, both legal and illegal. More should be done to inform Americans about it instead of working on new methods to scare the population into not wanting it legalized. Further research should be done to finally prove how relatively harmless it's always been.