It’s that time of year again, where many people flock to their lighters in celebration of 4/20. However, this is illegal in most places in the U.S. and there’s no good reason for that. The popular opposition is entirely fueled by outdated moral codes with no practical explanation beyond the beliefs of some people far in the past.
It is inexplicable that alcohol is legal, but marijuana is not, despite marijuana being significantly safer to consume than alcohol. Just sit outside a dorm on a breezy Saturday night and wait for the ambulances to come pick up the students with alcohol poisoning.
People can become very ill and even die using alcohol, but there has never been a single death attributed directly to the consumption of pot. And while it’s hard to argue that inhaling smoke is good for you, cigarettes are legal and also much worse for you due to the ingredients. Marijuana is also much less addictive than both alcohol and cigarettes.
So, if there’s no good reason for marijuana to be illegal, why is it illegal? Well, the misguided morality is one thing, but there is also the factor that it makes money for the U.S. for-profit prison system.
With marijuana being illegal, prisons can easily fill up to the brim, making more money for the people who own the prisons as more government funding is directed toward prisons with more prisoners and the mass incarceration allows for extremely cheap labor otherwise illegal.
Companies are allowed to exploit prisoners as if they were slaves, forcing them to work for practically nothing under the guise of punishment. Punishment for, in many cases, smoking or selling marijuana.
This imprisonment is also disproportionately directed at black Americans, who are up to eight times more likely to be arrested for the use of marijuana than a white American. The criminalization of marijuana is an excuse to search for people to arrest and this search is usually directed at black communities.
The police are sent to search for people to arrest and enslave for a victimless crime while the actual protection of people takes a backseat, as this method is more profitable for the for-profit prison system.
But, it’s not more profitable for the general population. In states where marijuana has been legalized, the economy has been stimulated and the state experiences a betterment in terms of quality of life because of it. It allows the government to regulate the growth of marijuana and ensure safe working conditions and truthful ingredients that cannot be guaranteed if marijuana is illegal. It allows businesses to grow, stimulates the economy, employs people, and, most importantly, stops the unethical imprisonment that is destroying livelihoods and damaging communities.