The high stakes of killer weed

johnnyopinionsMarijuana, weed, pot, ganja, bud, kush — call it what you will, it’s everywhere. Recently, recreational cannabis use has been legalized in four states and Washington D.C., while 21 other states have legalized marijuana consumption for medical reasons. As cannabis becomes legal in more and more places, people everywhere are becoming far more accepting of the plant, even in places where its possession is still against the law. Many people now view pot as harmless —but they couldn’t be more wrong.

Almost everybody understands the obvious issues with using weed. When users smoke pot, they damage their throat and lungs. While high on marijuana, one’s decision making skills are weakened, and regrettable decisions may be made. It can be dangerous for people to purchase marijuana in places where it is illegal for a couple of reasons — first, without any legal means to purchase the product, people are forced to buy from a drug dealer who may engage in all kinds of shady and nefarious acts; second, there is no way to be certain one is getting product that has not been tampered with or laced. Additionally, a marijuana habit can become quite costly over time, causing a person to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the plant each year. Furthermore, getting caught by the police while possessing marijuana is a mistake that can affect a person for the rest of his or her life. In some states, having any marijuana at all results in jail time. In most states, a person who attempts to grow or distribute any quantity of marijuana can be charged with a felony and go to prison for years or even for life.

While the repercussions listed above are real and potentially quite dangerous, most stoners already understand and accept those risks. What many stoners do not realize is the issue that is also the most serious — the plant’s origin. Because weed is illegal in most states, it is bought and sold via the black market, which means there is no way to know for certain from where it comes. Therefore, when a person in the U.S. smokes illicit marijuana, he or she doesn’t know whether it came from a dispensary in Colorado or cartel farmers in Mexico.

If the cannabis does come from Mexico, it comes from organizations that promote violence and kill thousands of people. According to Narco News, nearly 5,700 people were killed from 2006 to 2010 in the U.S. alone due to drug-war violence, and more than 50,000 were killed in Mexico. These numbers dwarf those of the Iraq war, which, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, has resulted in a total of 4,507 American deaths from 2003 until now. Much of the income drug cartels receive comes from the sale of illicit marijuana in the U.S., which means Americans are bankrolling the same organizations that have killed thousands in both the U.S. and Mexico. The only way for ordinary Americans to combat the drug cartels that are ravaging Mexico is by not paying them any more money. They can do this by not buying weed from someone who is unlicensed to sell it.

Of course, some might claim that their marijuana doesn’t come from Mexico, and they may be correct. Once, virtually all pot in the U.S. came from south of the border, but since the legalization of recreational marijuana in several states, drug cartels have seen some major setbacks. Now, people don’t have to always figure out a way to get pot across the border — they can just buy it in a legalized state. Because of this, more and more weed sold in the U.S. is now domestic product. Still, due to the entirely unregulated nature of the black market, there is no way to be certain as to the origins of one’s illicit substances. Much of the pot in the U.S. was still grown in Mexico and sent across the border by drug cartels, and because there is no way for the average person to know the difference, he or she must assume it all comes from the cartels. Stoners usually understand the personal effects of using weed, but it is important to remember that due to the violence associated with its distribution, it is very dangerous to buy, sell or consume the herb illegally.

In an ideal world, responsible adults who enjoy lighting up now and again would be able to walk into a clean, regulated dispensary and receive quality bud at fair prices. They would be able to consume the plant safely at home without fear of sending money to murderous drug cartels or spending the rest of their lives in prison. In states where the recreational consumption of marijuana has been legalized, all one must remember is the effects smoking has on one’s body and life. In states where bud is still outlawed, however, one must remember potential fines, jail time and the drug’s place of origin. If Americans stop paying drug cartels, it will be a big hit against the chronic violence south of the border, and weed will be better off for it.

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