Just because every president since George Bush has admitted to smoking marijuana doesn’t mean you should blame pot for our country’s pitfalls. In fact, you should do the opposite. Marijuana could easily contribute to overcoming our economic crisis and provide quality medications for people in need.

Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington are all known hemp farmers. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Arnold Schwarzenegger have all admitted to using it.

Why would the early founders of our great country consider farming hemp? How could leaders of our country partake of something so evil and harmful and still become the president of the United States of America?

Take a moment to step away from what you think you know about marijuana and finish this column. Upon finishing, you will either hate me or see many benefits of this great plant, and you may even get a little history lesson in the process — or all of the above.

Marijuana is most commonly known to have been grown as early as 2700 B.C. in China, where it was used medicinally. Within a few hundred years, the plant spread all over Asia and into Europe, where it became quite popular for papermaking and clothing. In fact, the first copies of the Bible were made of hemp paper. I’m sure that’s a fact most of you wouldn’t like to hear.

Given some of the history behind the plant, why would it have become illegal if it was so useful? There are many arguments on this subject, but it is known that it wasn’t made illegal in the U.S. until the 1930s. The legality of the use of hemp wasn’t really determined on the effects it has on someone; rather, it was illegalized mostly on the ideas and misunderstandings of it. There was a lot of propaganda about marijuana, some stating that it would cause you to want to murder someone, or that it would cause insanity or death.

With developments in society and in science, it is now (almost) commonly known that marijuana doesn’t cause death. Marijuana doesn’t make you want to hurt someone, nor have there been any documented cases of someone overdosing from using it. Actually, it is proven to be less addictive than things like caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and some prescribed drugs like Vicodin, Oxycodone and Lortab, all of which can be purchased by anyone over 21 years of age or if prescribed by a doctor.

Recently, some local politicians have publicly stated they are still against the legalization of marijuana. Even if it’s used for medicinal purposes, as they say, there isn’t any research to prove the benefits of using marijuana.

All due respect, Mr. or Mrs. Politicians, but live in the now! You are supposed to recognize and represent the people and to know the real facts. We all know that politicians who actually represent their people don’t come around very much anymore in our government, but if there is one thing the people in this country are wanting, it is the decriminalization and legalization of this plant of many uses. Whether it is helping with pain, or being used as an appetite stimulus for people in chemotherapy, or treating glaucoma, nausea, vomiting, or assisting to relieve symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, anorexia, anxiety or depression, it has been proven to assist in many forms of illness and could be quite beneficial to many people in need.

There are plenty of reasons to stop making criminals out of people who recreationally and responsibly use marijuana, not to mention those whose health would be dramatically affected by legalizing it for medicinal use. Our economy could strengthen dramatically by legalizing and taxing it, and consumers of the drug wouldn’t become criminals, nor would they be contributing to a black market (aka the mob or the mafia, gangsters, etc.) anymore and we would see lots of economic growth by legalizing, decriminalizing and allowing it to be used for medicinal reasons, as the market already exists.

We’ve seen too many local standoffs and some local policemen die or get injured because of the “War on Drugs,” or the war on a useful plant that shouldn’t have ever been criminalized anyway. Too many people are dying over something that shouldn’t even be fought over. Pick your battles and don’t continue to choose to battle over marijuana. The good from this plant far outweighs the bad, especially if it constitutes violence and death. What are we really promoting by prohibition? Violence. Quit killing innocent policemen and civilians.

So, what are you waiting for? Lobby your politicians and let your voices be heard. We’ve seen how ineffective the War on Drugs is. Don’t let Utah be the last to jump on the bandwagon; that’s always embarrassing. Let’s not roll over and let these politicians continue to push their own agenda onto us; they represent us, and we should make sure they know our stance on this issue. Hopefully, 20 years from now, when we’re all telling our kids about what it was like when marijuana was actually illegal, we won’t have to explain to them why we were the last ones to realize and act on the truth about marijuana.

Find out who your representatives are by visiting http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp.

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