Let's be more like Canada, eh?
Canada announced plans to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by July 2018, proving again they are the U.S.'s cool next-door neighbor.
The move to legalize the recreational use of pot fulfills one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign promises. While medicinal marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001, this would be an unprecedented move for a large, industrialized country. It's also something the U.S. should consider.
Even if "But Canada is doing it" isn't a good enough reason to throw your support behind the legalization push in the U.S., there are plenty of other compelling cases to make for legalized recreational pot.
1. For one, more than half of Americans support legalization.
A 2016 Pew Research study found that 57% of U.S. adults (and rising) believe marijuana should be made legal. 37% believe it should be illegal.
2. The idea that pot is a "gateway drug" is not entirely accurate.
It's not actually a gateway drug, at least in the way your D.A.R.E. classes suggested. Yes, regular users are more likely to try other drugs, such as cocaine, than those who don't smoke marijuana, but there's not a whole lot of evidence that it's because of pot.
3. Enforcing marijuana-related violations is expensive, and resources could be better used elsewhere.
According to a 2016 report from Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, almost 600,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in the U.S. Add on the costs of keeping people behind bars and the court system, and it's clear this is a mess.
4. Legalization would add tens of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy overnight.
A 2010 CNBC article pinned estimates at a somewhat vague figure of anywhere between $10 billion and $120 billion per year. That's some serious cash, which leads to the next point...
5. There's a whole lot of tax revenue to be made off legalized marijuana, and there are a lot of government programs that could use the extra cash.
6. Test cases in states like Colorado and Washington show that it doesn't actually cause an increase in crime.
While Denver has experienced a slight uptick in crime in recent years, there's nothing to suggest that it's due to the state's marijuana legalization, with "marijuana-related" crimes making up less than 1% of all offenses.
7. It's less dangerous than a lot of other things that are legal, so hey, why not?
Excessive alcohol use is responsible for an estimated 88,000 deaths each year. Cigarettes are responsible for more than 480,000 deaths annually. Prescription drug overdoses make up another 25,000 deaths. But marijuana? There's not a single reported case of someone overdosing on marijuana, and indirect effects (it can impair your ability to drive, for example) can be avoided.
8. And speaking of those other drugs, many are a lot more addictive.
Cigarettes, opioids, alcohol, and caffeine are all more addictive than marijuana. While some people report getting "addicted" to marijuana, 91% of those who have used it do not.
9. And finally, the continued "war on drugs" directly and indirectly leads to thousands of deaths in the U.S. and Mexico each year at the hands of violent cartels.
Legalizing marijuana could take power away from violent drug cartels, reduce illegal border crossings, and save countless lives.
Only time will tell if the U.S. follows in the footsteps of our neighbors from the north, but hey, there's a bunch of reasons why we probably should.