More Medical Marijuana, Please
Medical marijuana has been an incredibly controversial topic for years. Many government officials believe that because marijuana is perceived as addictive, it should stay illegal in the U.S.
On Nov. 6, Arkansans will be able to vote on Issue Five, otherwise known as the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question, to ultimately decide if Arkansas should legalize marijuana for medical use.
Whether or not you personally would benefit from medical marijuana, it is an important decision to make nonetheless.
If Arkansas legalizes marijuana, the national government would be one step closer to saving up to $13.7 billion per year by not having to enforce the current prohibition on the drug and adding a tax at the rates similar to alcohol and tobacco, according to the Huffington Post.
More than 300 economists have signed the petition to call these startling facts to attention. The economic benefits of medical marijuana legalization have pushed the government and the citizens alike to take another look at the problem.
Last year, more than 850,000 people in the U.S. were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. If marijuana was legalized in Arkansas, and eventually nationally, not only would money be made from taxing, but overcrowding of prisons and county jails would dramatically decrease, which would leave room for more serious offenders.
Private prison corporations are one of the top five interest groups lobbying against medical marijuana, according to republicreport.org. These groups make millions of dollars each year by incarcerating people due to marijuana related arrests.
Moreover, many large paper companies would lose millions of dollars if medical marijuana were legalized because of the use of hemp instead of trees.
One acre of hemp can produce as much raw fiber as roughly 4.1 acres of trees, according to earthfirst.org. Hemp not only produces a much stronger paper, but is also much more economically efficient. Trees must grow for 20 to 50 years before they are ready to be harvested, while hemp can grow 10 to 20 feet tall within four months of being planted and is therefore, ready to harvest much sooner than trees.
Hemp makes better paper as well as better, longer-lasting clothing. Not only would it be an economic advantage to use hemp instead of paper, it would be an advantage to swap cotton for hemp as well.
Clothing that lasts many years reduces the need for replacing garments frequently. In 2010, Americans discarded 13.1 million tons of textiles while only recycling 15 percent of the 13.1 million, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Because cotton isn’t as durable as hemp-made clothing, it doesn’t last as long nor is it as durable as hemp.
Industrial hemp fibers are the longest natural fibers and are proven to be four times more durable than cotton fibers. Hemp is also naturally UV resistant, so the fabric keeps its color without fading.
Just because hemp is more environmentally friendly and economically sound doesn’t mean the U.S. will decide to vote pro-marijuana. The U.S. alone produces 12.4 million bales of cotton per year, which rounds us off at the world’s third largest cotton producer.
The reasons behind anti-legalization of medical marijuana in Arkansas revolve around money and not the drug. Arkansas, along with other Southern states, produce much of the world’s cotton, according to the EPA; therefore keeping marijuana illegal would keep these cotton factories running.
Medical marijuana will stay controversial for many years to come regardless of the outcome of this year’s voting.
Kelsey Cline is a staff columnist. She is a freshman European studies and international relations major.