Cannabis: the Ecological and Economic Imperative


Barack Obama’s website,, opened a public forum in which 10,000 people asked questions about the future of America. The top question was not about the environment. It was not about the budget or the bailout. It was not even about the war in Iraq or terrorism. It was this:

“Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”

Apparently, a lot of Americans are fed up with the disastrous and ineffective Drug War. Have we learned nothing from the failure that was alcohol Prohibition in the 1920s? Whether or not you believe in recreational marijuana use, a bit of digging around will lead you to studies proving cannabis’ effectiveness as a safe and natural medicine, an excellent superfood in the form of hempseed and a viable fiber for clothing, paper, biofuel and more.

As an ecologically-aware, socially-conscious American, I firmly support changing our nation’s view of marijuana from that of a “menacing drug” to that of a highly useful plant. Growing and processing legal cannabis for medicine and hemp would stimulate our economy, put struggling farmers back to work, and requires virtually no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Such a bold move would provide thousands of jobs right here in the country – no outsourcing necessary.

Here’s some cannabis trivia: the suffix “sativa,” of marijuana’s scientific name Cannabis sativa, comes from the Latin root meaning “cultivated,” shared by so many other common plants such as oats (Avena sativa), garlic (Allium sativa) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Can’t be all that bad, now can it?

Although naysayers may come up with many arguments against legalizing cannabis, many of those arguments fall flat when further analyzed.

PhotobucketMyth: Won’t people just be able to go to hemp fields and gather plants for getting high? The fact is, hemp is so low in THC that you’d have to smoke a ridiculously, nauseatingly large amount of it to get high. No one would even bother. Trust me.

PhotobucketMyth: Farming hemp for fiber could turn into a coverup for growing potent marijuana. Anyone trying to hide their potent strains of marijuana amidst the fields of hemp would be wasting their time: the plants cross-pollinate and always result in weaker strains. Any experienced marijuana grower would keep their plants far, far away from a hemp field.

PhotobucketMyth: Legalizing marijuana would create a druggie free-for-all. Not so. The Netherlands legalized marijuana for recreational purposes in the 1970s and statistically they have less marijuana use and abuse than the United States. Marijuana is sold in coffee shops and the “thrill” of doing something illegal has been taken out of it. Also, cannabis smokers never have to do business with a “drug dealer,” which means they’re not exposed to other, potentially harder drugs.

PhotobucketMyth: There’s no market for hemp products in the United States. The biggest thing keeping hemp on the fringes is the price. Because hemp has to be imported into the U.S. from other countries, prices stay high. But if hemp were grown Stateside, prices would be competitive and hemp-based food, clothing and paper could enter the mainstream market and its superior quality would simply prove itself. And all those new hemp farms and hemp-related businesses would need managers and employees, thus creating a great many jobs literally overnight.

PhotobucketMyth: It’s unacceptable to use marijuana as a medicine because it makes the patient high. Many legal and acceptable medicines make patients high. Have you ever been prescribed Vicodin by your dentist? Or Codeine for severe pain? The nice thing about marijuana is that it is not addictive and much easier on the body and the liver. Besides, much of medical marijuana advocacy has focused on providing cannabis to AIDS and cancer patients, to aid them with severe nausea. Considering the severity of their disease and the harsh treatments most of these patients go through, inhaling some smoke and “feeling high” is a small price to pay for relief.

PhotobucketMyth: Legalizing marijuana would increase crime. The biggest crime committed by most marijuana smokers is simply buying and using the plant itself. Marijuana does not make people violent or cause them to lose control of their senses, leading them into unconscious criminal rampage. Nope. Take away the  criminality of growing or possessing marijuana and a large number of “criminals” would simply be the normal, productive citizens they already are. According to a PBS interview with Eric Schlosser, 1 in 6 Americans in prison are there on marijuana-related charges (including simple possession), wasting taxpayer money and taking up prison space.

PhotobucketMyth: Marijuana prohibition keeps it out of the hands of our youth. Wrong again. Despite the War On Drugs, marijuana has remained easily available to high schoolers for decades, usually because it is sold to them by their own fellow students. If marijuana were legalized, it would be regulated in much the same way as alcohol, sold only in certain types of shops and require an age limit to purchase. This would certainly make it more difficult for young people to acquire.

Any other questions or concerns? Feel free to start a discussion! We’d love to hear what you have to say.

Image: kannon

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40 thoughts on “Cannabis: the Ecological and Economic Imperative

  1. Pingback: Abigail Wick's Green Solutions for the Failed Drug War in the U.S. | elephant journal

  2. People marijuana does not make you dumber!! Look at Harold and Kumar. Kumar smokes and he still got into Harvard!! lol

  3. Did Holland’s economy get more wealthy? Will that work for Colombia’s government, that produces 80% of the worlds cocaine?
    thank you so much!

  4. I also say that the legalisation of cannabis would provide smokers with a healthier option. countless times in England I have come across mj that has been sprayed with every additive known to man to increase the weight and profit they make. legalisation would provide a standard smoke that we know to be safe and consistent. although at first the government may not allow for stronger strains to be sold legally, they may allow us to grow our own as long as it’s not up for sale. This would put a stop to unhealthy additives such as silicone or glass being sprayed onto buds to mimic THC crystals and increase weight.
    this is a clear story in my mind and reminds me of friends telling me to be careful picking up from unknown dealers.

  5. Prisoners being held for the peaceful, non-violent possession, sale, transport or cultivation of cannabis hemp must be released immediately. Money and property seized must be returned. Criminal records must be wiped clean, amnesty granted and some sort of reparations paid for time served. These cannabis prisoners are the real victims of this monstrous crime against humanity called the “War on Drugs.”
    The United States is supposed to be a free country, yet those who choose to smoke this mostly harmless drug are penalized. An American can go out and drink themself to death, but they cannot freely use a drug which is less toxic and less prone to making one out of control than alcohol. I say this is not only unfair, but also un-American!
    The police, prosecutors and prison guards should not be in charge of which herbal therapies people may use to treat their personal health problems.
    Federal Judge Francis Young in 1988 called “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

  6. i have a 4.0 in my senior year in college and i smoke constantly

  7. Pingback: Oregon Gives a Thumbs Up to Hemp Manufacturing « Footprintfreer’s Web Spot

  8. Marijuana users are not the brightest people, even when they’re not high. – I habitually smoke mj and I got a 3.6 last semester (my soph. year of college)

  9. i completely agree with everything the article has to say. as a smoker, part of the rush is indeed the fact that it’s illegal. when i was in high school, if i wanted pot all i had to do is ask the right person and walk to their house after school at 2:30. there will always be those people that say, oh you just want to get high and be lazy. that Reagan-esque way of thinking only shows that those people can’t accept change. i think the time to legalize marijuana is now. there are far worse drugs for kids to be doing, and if in not mistaken, heroin and cocaine cost a lot more than pot does. i really don’t think your average high school teenager has $1000 to blow on heroin.

  10. I do agree it should be used as medicine. It’s effective against pain. But let’s face it, smoking marihuana affects fertility, learning and memory, it also causes movility problems. So, I think that there should be investigation in the farmaceutical industry. But it should not be legalized. And yes, I think tobacco should be banned. And alcohol…as much as I like it D:

  11. @ DUTCHBOY: you’re probably a christian voter? go shut up! No children are smoking it. you can buy it if youre 18years. And yes some will smoke it when they are younger.

    BUT they want to smoke it eitherway, if it’s legal or illegal, that doesnlt matter. So why bring the youngsters in trouble if they must go buy it on the streets instead of a safe dutch coffeeshop??
    you know i’m right.

  12. oooohhh I am so proud of my little country the Netherlands.
    We’re the only one (so also the first) country that have legalized it about 40 years ago. USA, wake up! Come and look at the always smart and ingenious Dutch.

    It’s a myth that it may increase crime or it’s a danger to public health! The Netherlands have the lowest crimerate involving marijuana in Europe,
    why? BECAUSE ITS LEGAL….- no dealers
    – no sh*t in the weed (healthy weed insured)
    – no ripdeals ….etc….
    & when you can buy it like so in a dutch coffeeshop, it becomes normal , like going to a bar and drink…. instead go buy weed and smoke with your friends, NOT A BIG DEAL (u conservative republicans)


  13. Legalizing didn’t solve any problems here in the Netherlands either.
    It hasn’t kept drugs out of the hands of children at all and it makes people slow and fail their education. Just like some people with alcohol, it makes people slow and unresponsive. It doesn’t make them violent, just sleepy and the effects unfortunately last long. Marijuana users are not the brightest people, even when they’re not high. The effects of a joint last many days, not several hours as with alcohol or caffeine.
    Just like (legal) smoking and drinking, legal marijuana isn’t used because it is exciting, but because people feel better when they use it.
    Only the first use is exciting, just like smoking and drinking, but after that it’s just an addiction. There is nothing exciting in turning yourself into a dull person (or as users call it “a relaxed state”). And it’s equally exiting whether your friends act mysteriously about it, your parents don’t want it or the law forbids it.
    The stupidest thing I’ve ever heard is that less people would use if it weren’t illegal. Comparing the US and the Netherlands fails, it’s a completely different society. Compare it with neighboring countries like Belgium, Germany and France and you’ve got proof the it does increase use and abuse.
    But if you want a comparison with the US: The Dutch have a ban on firearms and as a result a much much lower rate of gun-related deaths (far less than 10% of the US).

    The only thing legalizing is good for, is to make the effects visible, because people don’t hide their use.
    You know why someone is slow, because they just tell they smoked a joint instead of saying the slept bad or had too much to drink the night before.

    The “coffee shops” have become centers of illegal activities, among others in trafficking vast quantities of soft drugs and even harder drugs. Crime rates (burglaries, robberies and other crimes that provide easy money) are significant higher where there are coffee shops.
    Users indeed do not cause crime because they are high and don’t know what they’re doing, but do cause crime when they are not high and need money to pay for their addiction. Those people need serious health care, not an easy place to get drugs.

    Legalizing a drug like we did with marijuana is complete different than the way we regulate methadone (providing it to registered persons in a controlled way by government institutions)

  14. i heard that hemp is 6x more productive in volume than tree fiber and that it doesn’t rape the land of nutrients leaving it a desert like corn can, lol. it’s like a weed. it’d save trees, a LOT of trees. its very strong when made into “plastic” like the first ford car.

    my only concern is that once it gets into the hands of cigarette companies, they’ll make mj cigs addictive by adding stuff to it. :/

  15. And you know who pays for our “War on drugs” with all those ads on tv showing what a loser you will turn into if you smoke pot? The big pharmaceutical companies! They know that if they legalize marijuana then their sales for all those more harmful drugs like Vicotin and anti-depressants will go down. I have been smoking pot for 14 years and I own two very successful businesses, run 5 miles a day, and run marathons a couple times a year ! My neighbor smokes too and is a successful lawyer who charges $300/hr.! We aren’t in a dumbe cloudy stupor like they’d like you to believe. As with anything it’s all about moderation. Some people are in a dumb stupor, but that’s because they don’t understand moderation. As with ANYTHING, you have to moderate yourself. Even excersising too much is dangerous!
    If alcohol is legal marijuana definately should be. Marijuana doesn’t make you black out, lose control of your bodliy functions…and I’ve never heard of anyone “overdosing” on marijuana like people do when they get alcohol poisoning. You get hung over from alcohol because it is your bodies way of saying that you just put some Fug’d up chit in it! You don’t get that from marijuana!

  16. alcohol is actually a hard drugs
    and cannabis/marijuana are soft drugs.

    Even here (the netherlands) doesn’t everybody know this.
    There are lots of people who thing cannabis is more harmfull than alcohol.
    and it isn’t

  17. This is a very good article. owever I would like to point out that some states already do allow the production of hemp, I believe North Dakota is one of those states. Many farmers don’t grow it thought because of the large initial investment required purchasing special machinery and a lack of demand for the fibers. That being said I do agree that It would help the economy if marijuana was legalized through taxes and medical use.

  18. actually cannibus smoke is pretty much harmless when held up to tobacco smoke
    many tests have shown that nobody gets lung cancer from smoking it
    and those that smoke cigarettes alongside have a reduced risk of cancer
    and it’s not limited to cancer, hemp contains two proteins that are nearly vital to humans and cannot be found in any other plant…
    I forget the links and I’m on someone else’s computer so I’ll post sources when I can

  19. Mike B, I believe he expressed interest in decriminalizing, not legalizing cannabis.

    Something like a hundred dollar fine for possession of under half an ounce. (14 grams)

  20. Does anyone know if the Obama team has answered the question yet?

  21. Smoking anything is harmful. I use it medically for pain. I vaporize it. My lungs stay clear, no irritation on the throat. I can do things with my kids I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I guess that makes me a criminal.

    It’s really the greatest fraud in history to demonize the worlds most beneficial plant.

  22. i have been saying these very same things since 1970. took you all long enough!!!!!!!!

  23. Its too bad Obama said he is against the legalization of marijuana. You would think with so many people in the country asking for it to be legalized and controlled he would be more willing to start working on it…

  24. Thank God. I though i was the only one who has ever felt this way about cannabis

  25. I agree, Scipio. I think Obama will make an effort towards legalization simply to hold face if anything due to

    I also agree that it will be more like 10-15 years away.

    Decriminalization is the first stop on the hash road. For a while.

  26. God, I love you. I’ve been looking for a clear argument on many of these points to show people around me that everything they’ve heard about marijuana is pure propaganda or a vast stretching of the truth. I think Obama is going to be the one to finally make it happen.

    It’ll probably end up being sold much like alcohol in the early days, and probably rather weaker than what somewhat regular smokers are used to. Marlboro actually has several names copyrighted right now for it, like Acapulco Gold =). Eventually, though, I think you’ll be able to grow your own, like you can make your own alcohol, as long as you don’t sell it.

    That’s about 10-15 years away though.

  27. Ethanol should be outlawed for use in gasoline/alcohol mixtures.
    Because booze kills far more people each year than marijuana and all the other “illegal” drugs combined.

    Google the statistics, both alcohol and tobacco kill more people, destroy more lives than all the illegal drugs COMBINED.

    Can you say ” Social Hypocrisy’ ?

    But with the economy in such a slump perhaps it’s better they keep pot a schedule one drug, I may have to take up selling pot to earn a living in this miserable world…

  28. Good point, Thorn. I’m sure a cannabis tincture would be an effective medicinal. Also (yes, I’m going to admit to something illegal here), I like to soak some cannabis in fine olive oil for at least a month, strain out the plant matter, and use that oil for sore muscle massage or on my belly when I have menstrual cramps. It’s very soothing and won’t get you “high” (unless you do a full-body massage with it — then you’ll fall into a sweet slumber).

  29. Pingback: Barron of Blog » Blog Archive » Legalizing Cannabis

  30. Oops, typo, that second tinyurl should be

    Stupid keyboard.

  31. I won’t rehash anything that’s already been said here, instead I’ll let you in on a little tip I discovered myself: the ‘war on (some) drugs’ was waged after the slaves were freed (at the end of the civil war in 1865) and after ‘grandfather clauses’ (google it if you’re unfamiliar, but I learned about it in grade school) were struck down as unconstitutional.

    Dirty corrupt feds of yesteryear replaced slave labor with prison labor.


    The Marijuana Conviction

    your elected officials. Tell them you want a reason why the Feds are forcing their own citizens to finance terrorists, as they claim.

  32. Why is it that when we discuss cannabis legalization, we assume that it will be smoked?

    It is so much safer when consumed in other ways (eaten), since any inhaled smoke from any source is harmful to lung tissue. That’s why we cough when we smoke… our bodies are telling us something is wrong.

    I imagine a totally new industry emerging from legalized cannabis that would emphasize the many ways of using it without smoking.

  33. Yes, Sarah – excellent points you make! I’ve been a big fan of hemp products for a long time and have thought the arguments against it are so poor and really seem ridiculous. I would hope that the “times they are a changin” and we could finally end this failed drug war or at least bring some common sense to it.

  34. Myth: Legalizing marijuana would increase crime.

    Your argument is missing one very vital part. Legalizing would cut our marijuana profits from the drug trade. Cartels, and gangs would lose a large source of revenue. In fact it is the Prohibition that is creating the crime, Legalization would eliminate the crime.

    An additional Myth for you: Legalization would make it more accessible to children

    Ask almost any high schooler, and they will tell you that it is easier for them to get a bag of pot than it is to get a case of beer. This is because the drug dealer doesn’t ask for an ID. But the distribution in the hands of legally obligated retailers, and you will see far fewer kids with access to the drug. Again, this is a case where prohibition makes the problem worse rather than better.

  35. This debate has raged for many years, and while I’m cautious about any increase in drug use, for both health and safety reasons, the war against drugs has caused untold damage to the environment and indigenous people around the world. It’s sadly a failed policy that needs changing, but it’s such an emotional issue that the public at large still isn’t ready for it.

    Global Patriot’s last blog post..Doctors Without Borders – Part Two

  36. Compellingly argued. Excellent stuff, Sarah.

    It’s an odd situation the world finds itself in – legislating against marijuana, allowing nicotine a veneer of acceptability (fast eroding), and basically continuing to promote alcohol. Very odd and illogical. If it was all on a fair and equable footing, then it would be all – or nothing.

    In a legal sense, I think you’d get my vote. On a personal level, I don’t like seeing marijuana smoking because I really dislike what it does to people if they’re heavy users – the light in their eyes seems to go out (my experience of it, anyway) (and yes, I’m being inconsistent and maybe hypocritical: I drink alcohol now and again, for which the same applies).

    But my gut instinct and my rational mind are at odds here – and overall, I support your argument. :)

  37. It’s hard to believe that with the economy crashing, pot is the number one concern….yet all the points you raise are valid, not to mention black men have had a huge price to pay for this beneficial drug targeted as part of the right wing drug war. Among those opposed to legalization has been the “legal” pharmaceutical industry backed by physicians who don’t want to lose money on medicines for the treatment of cancer symptoms.


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