Bellows Falls student featured in Sanders essay contest

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There are many different issues that the U.S. is facing right now, but one of the most beneficial actions the U.S. could do right now is to legalize marijuana. By legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical uses the country would benefit in many different ways. The crime rate would dramatically decrease, the use of prescription drugs would decrease and the economy would greatly improve.

The economy is not in a great place in the U.S., as we are $18.7 trillion in debt, and counting. In 2014 the Washington Post wrote that Colorado made $700 million off of medical and recreational marijuana in the first year it was legal. By legalizing marijuana, many more job opportunities would open and a whole new industry is created. The amount that the whole country would make would be in the billions.

The use of prescription drugs such as painkillers and sleeping pills is greatly increasing. Those pills become addictive and many people use them to get high because they're legal and easy to obtain. Children are given those pills, and they may become addicted at a young age. While there is the ability to overdose on those pills, marijuana is almost impossible to overdose on and brings better relief than prescription drugs. Overdose deaths from prescription pills were significantly reduced in the 23 states that allow medical marijuana. By legalizing marijuana the dispensaries get different strains of marijuana to help people sleep or deal with pain. If it's being used in the medical form the THC can be extracted and the CBD's can be used for the pain. There are many different ways to consume marijuana, such as oils, creams, foods, and smokable. In the U.S. there are over one million people using medical marijuana, yet, it's still not legal in all states.

People all over the country are getting in legal trouble for using and possessing marijuana. Young people are getting criminal records for a non-violent civil offense, and as a result will potentially be not allowed to gain federal student loans or jobs. With our limited police and jail resources, there are more important and harmful substances to focus on. In April of 2014, MSNBC wrote an article, "Study: Marijuana Legalization Doesn't Increase Crime," in which it was noted "Even after Colorado legalized the sale of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use on Jan. 1 of this year, violent and property crime rates in the city are actually falling."

Since the government is regulating the marijuana, it will be safer. There won't be strands that are laced with other harmful drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. By legalizing marijuana, less people will get arrested for the use and possession.

As a country we should legalize marijuana. First we should start with medical, because medical patients are more important. Then as a country it should be decriminalized. Then, we should legalize recreational. By legalizing marijuana not only will marijuana users benefit, even non-users will benefit.

Mikayla Clarke is a senior at Bellows Falls Union High School. She was one of the finalists in Sen. Bernie Sanders annual State of the Union essay contest.


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