LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

by Julian Heicklen

Presented at Indiana University of Pennsylvania

April 21, 1998

The reasons to legalize marijuana are several:

1. Moral

It is immoral to arrest someone for owning a vegetable. We have the right to keep and bear vegetables. The most fundamental of all human rights is to have control over your own body. As long as you are not harming others, your body belongs to you to do what you wish.

2. Economic

It costs about $26,000 per year to keep someone in prison. In addition, the inmate is not earning, so his tax dollars are lost to the community. Often an inmate's family has to go on welfare. The total cost for imprisonment can run up to $50,000 per year per inmate. There now are about 50,000 people incarcerated in the U. S. for non-violent marijuana offenses. The total cost to keep these people in prison is about $2.5 billion per year.

3. Social

We are criminalizing an enormous percentage of the population. In 1994, 7% of all U. S. males of age 18 or older entered prison or jail.

A male has a 9% chance of being incarcerated in state or federal prison during his lifetime based on 1991 incarceration rates.

Two-thirds of convicts now entering prisons are doing so for non- violent crimes.

One-half of these are for non-violent narcotics violations.

From 1980 to 1995, the incarcerated population in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections quadrupled.

4. Agricultural

Hemp is a valuable agricultural product. It is used to make clothing, shoes, diapers, rope, cellophane, paints, fuel, chain lubricants, biodegradable plastics, paper, fiberboard, cement blocks, food, cosmetics, and soap. The Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution were written on hemp paper. Hemp was the number one crop on George Washington's plantation at Mount Vernon. It was the number two crop on Thomas Jefferson's plantation at Monticello.

5. Food

Hemp seed is a highly nutritious source of protein and fatty acids. Hemp seed has the second-highest amount of protein of any food (soya being the highest). It is low in saturated fat. One handful of hemp seed per day will supply adequate protein and essential oils for an adult.

6. Environmental

Hemp normally requires very little fertilizer and grows well almost anywhere. It is pest resistant, so it requires no pesticides. Hemp puts down deep roots, which is good for the soil. Hemp has been known to grow on the same soil for 20 years in a row without any noticeable soil depletion. One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four acres of trees. Hemp paper is more durable than paper from trees. Hemp requires a growing season of 100 days, while trees must be grown for 20 years or longer before they can be used commercially.

7. Medical

Marijuana has been used as a medicine for 4800 years. It helps epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. It is a pain killer and an anti- nauseant. Many very sick people are being denied appropriate medical care, because it is a crime for a doctor to prescribe, or even advise, his patients to use marijuana.

8. Pleasure

Finally a reason to legalize marijuana is because it provides pleasure to some people. That is what the anti-drug people really detest. You will notice that there is no movement to outlaw glue, which probably is much worse for you than marijuana. That is because glue sniffing does not provide much pleasure.