By Andrew Gregg
Online Editor

Election day is looming over us like a headstone the size of North America–soon we will march to the voting booths to decide not only the fate of our nation, but the future of marijuana’s legalization in California.

Chances are, if you’re a college student and old enough to vote, it’s likely that you’ll be voting yes on Proposition 64, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California for adults age 21 and over.

There is no reason for marijuana to be illegal in the first place, and its prohibition is an affront to very idea of individual liberty. Our government imprisons people for the use and possession of a plant–one of those things that grows naturally out of the ground and has leaves–simply because, like alcohol, marijuana affects your mental state.

It’s true that people want to use marijuana to achieve a temporary and pleasurable altered state which comes at very little cost (healthwise) to them as consumers. Honestly, as far as recreational ways of achieving release from the pressures of everyday life go, marijuana is one of the more harmless routes they can take.

Over 30,000 Americans died in 2014 from alcohol related causes such as alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis (this number excludes causes like drunk driving and alcohol-fueled homicides), according to the Washington Post. Deaths resulting from drugs such as painkillers and heroin numbered over 28,000, the same article states. Marijuana related deaths? Still zero, apparently.

In fact, states that legalized medical marijuana actually saw a 25 percent decrease in deaths by painkiller overdoses, according to a 2014 article in the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

The most legitimate argument against marijuana legalization is that it would increase the number of potentially fatal car accidents. Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2013, saw an increase in fatalities related to drugged driving, with 55 dying in 2013 and 79 dying in 2014, according to a Department of Public Safety report.

These numbers are absolutely tragic, but they are not a strong enough argument to justify the continued ban on marijuana. If fatal car crashes and health concerns are enough to justify the criminalization of a substance, we should be rushing to slap an embargo on alcohol.

We don’t, however, because prohibition is wrong for either substance. Common sense regulation and public education are, as always, the best routes to take.

So, what’s really behind the ban on Snoop Dogg’s favorite pastime? It’s the lobbying of special interest groups, according to Republic Report, a nonprofit organization.

And who has an interest in keeping marijuana illegal? Police unions, private prison corporations, alcohol companies, pharmaceutical corporations, and prison guard unions. In other words, anyone and everyone who can get rich off the drug war.

The truth is, regulating the legal sale and use of marijuana would be an economic bonanza for our state. Legalizing marijuana could bring in over $1 billion dollars a year in tax revenue, according to California’s Department of Finance. This is money that would benefit all of us, rather than private corporations.

People have a right to get drunk, and to use substances to kill pain. Marijuana is the safest method to achieve both of these goals. In light of the overwhelming evidence for marijuana’s safety, the economic benefits of legalizing it, and the gain in personal liberty, our decision should be clear.

We should vote yes on Proposition 64.

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