A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a program about the marijuana industry with my parents. I watched, only half paying attention, and afterward I didn't think much about it.
Weeks later, I sat at a blank computer screen, contemplating what I should write about for my column. Nothing came to me; I was simply drawing a blank. All of a sudden the program jumped into my mind. I knew exactly what I was going to write about: weed.
The program described the growing marijuana industry, primarily in California. Soccer moms have started selling weed. Dealers are no longer the shady people in back alleys, they are moms of three in suburbia.
Movies and TV shows are dedicated to marijuana and its industry. Take the movie "Pineapple Express" and Showtime's show "Weeds," for example. Millions watch as characters participate in selling and smoking weed.
The fact of the matter is, marijuana is mainstream. It is easier for a kid my age to get pot than it is to get alcohol, and pot is illegal to everyone.
Let me backtrack and say I have never smoked weed before, but I also understand that I am a minority. It has been estimated that 85 to 90 percent of high school students have smoked weed at one point or more in their lives. Simply put, that is a ton of kids. That isn't even including the number of adults in this town who also have smoked weed.
For goodness sake, Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic swimmer of all time, was caught taking a hit from a bong. And Ricky Williams, one of the best NFL running backs ever, has admitted to chronic smoking.
I'm not saying that everyone should go out and smoke weed, but people should have a choice. The argument by most is that marijuana is extremely bad for one's health and should therefore be illegal. Scientific research, however, has shown exactly the opposite.
Compared to alcohol, marijuana is much less addictive. Only 9 percent of marijuana users become dependent, as opposed to 15 percent of people who use alcohol. Alcohol also is proven to he harmful to the liver and brain. People are debating, on the other hand, whether marijuana has any harmful, lasting effects.
More importantly for teenagers is the risk of overdose. Binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning and even death. Weed, however, hasn't been medically documented to cause an overdose death.
While smoking weed can't be good for a person's lungs, neither is smoking cigarettes. Cigarettes are full of toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and various other diseases, yet they aren't illegal for those older than 18.
If people decide whether or not they want to smoke or drink, then they should be able to decide if they want to smoke weed.
Legalizing marijuana would also be good for economic reasons. The government spends millions of taxpayer dollars every year to catch and try people accused of marijuana possession. According to the Ukiah Daily Journal, the average cost of prosecuting drug possession crime in California is $9,420, an average 60-day prison sentence in California is $4,109. All of this money adds up.
According to Jon Gettman, Ph. D, $42 billion per year is spent on the "marijuana crack down." That money could be used for more important things. Teachers' jobs could be saved, health care could be paid for or Americans could get a tax cut.
On everyone's mind right now is the national economy. By legalizing marijuana, $42 billion could be pumped back into the economy. Jobs could be saved and America could get itself back on track.
In terms of making money, marijuana is a $113 billion-a-year industry. It is estimated that 100 million Americans use weed, so weed usage won't be eliminated. Why not just legalize it and eliminate one big headache.
If marijuana was legalized, it could be taxed and regulated, just like tobacco and alcohol. The industry would then produce millions in revenue, which could be used by the government.
Marijuana could be just like any other cash crop. We harvest tobacco, cotton and corn for profit, so why not do the same with weed, creating thousands of jobs?
Sure marijuana isn't all good. It would need to be regulated to keep people safe, but in the long run, legalizing it could do a lot of good.
I am not saying everyone should go out and get high all the time.
People need to think about the impact smoking marijuana will have on their lives. But if they decide smoking marijuana is what they want and need, then they should be free to smoke.
Bentley O'Quinn is the sports editor of El Diablo. She is the daughter of Kathy Uroda and Mark O'Quinn.