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Legal pot saves lives

Photo by Juan Mabromata / AFP / Getty Images

During all the hullabaloo over President Obama’s reelection, the states of Washington and Colorado legalized pot use — as in, the people of those states can light up for fun.

From CBS News:

“Those who have argued for decades that legalizing and taxing weed would be better than a costly, failed U.S. drug war have their chance to prove it, as Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow pot for recreational use.

While the measures earned support from broad swaths of the electorate in both states Tuesday, they are likely to face resistance from federal drug warriors. As of Wednesday, authorities did not say whether they would challenge the new laws.”

Obama, who many progressives hoped would be the pot president, has cracked down on marijuana dispensaries in places like Washington and California, where marijuana use for medical purposes has been legalized. But, now in his second and last term, it’s unclear whether the president intends to continue the war on weed or allow the experiments in Washington and Colorado go on.

“Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly,” Governor John Hickenlooper warned his fellow Coloradans.

The case for prohibition is pretty weak. As with alcohol during the 1920s, the criminalization of marijuana fuels an underground market worth billions of dollars a year, enough money for people in the poorer countries where weed is grown to kill for.

A recent study conducted by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute estimates that the legalization of pot in just one U.S. state could potentially drain 30 percent of annual revenue from drug cartels operating throughout Latin America.

Alejandro Hope, an analyst with the group and a former official in Mexico’s intelligence service who has studied the possible effects of legalization, said the new laws in Colorado and Washington could even cut into the illegal trade for other substances, like cocaine and heroin. Drug cartels use massive profits from the illegal pot trade to fund their cocaine and heroin enterprises, which include the kidnapping and bribery of politicians, judges, and other officials. Of course, pot money also pays for guns and bullets.

“[The illegal marijuana trade] will not be a super-lucrative business proposition for a criminal enterprise,” Hope said, according to Fox News Latino. “This will not be a cash cow.”

If people are allowed to grow marijuana in places like California and Colorado, it would eliminate the need to import weed from Mexico, where most of America’s weed is grown today. Some estimates put the marijuana revenue taken in by Mexican cartels at between 15 and 40 percent.

One thing’s clear: American dollars are bankrolling Latin American deaths.

And all because marijuana is perceived to be a dangerous drug. Every day we read about deaths caused by drunk drivers and smokers who die of lung cancer. Never have you read of a death caused by marijuana use.

There’s even a widely-circulated photo of our president, now a two-termer, puffing on a fatty as a young man, a look of utter satisfaction on his face. He smoked weed all through his early years — he probably smokes now too — and he’s come out alright, hasn’t he? (Republicans, don’t answer that.)

What are we doing here, people? We’re spending billions of dollars in law enforcement a year, billions on locking up youngsters and forever ruining their records (and their lives), and reading about Mexicans being decapitated south of the border, all because we choose to criminalize a drug less harmful than the ones we market to teenagers.

In full disclosure, I don’t smoke at all — friends call me “Baby Lungs.” But it seems unthinkable to me that we would criminalize something that costs billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives in enforcing, when doing the opposite would cut costs, pull in government revenue, keep young people out of jail, cripple drug cartels, and save countless lives throughout Latin America.

So again, I ask you, what are we doing here? This is truly madness.

[from Reefer Madness (1936)]

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Two days after posting a wonderful article about the “Hispanic Vote”…this is the most pathetic article written yet. I am extremely disappointed with Being Latino.

  2. pot seriously people need jesus not pot pot aint gunna bring you to heaven

  3. Chronic users of marijuana are lethargic, they lose track of time, and they have reduced desire to work or meet obligations. Timetables are not important. They just don’t care. Ambition and pot smokers do not co-exist. Be honest with yourself and ask if you have ever been stoned or knew anyone that was stoned and at the same time was enthusiastic about going to work. So, if you smoke a joint in the morning before going to work, or on your lunch break, what kind of worker are you for your employer? How long do you expect to remain employed? Would you want to trust your livelihood and the welfare of your family on a business run by a boss who is a pothead? Would you trust him to work hard to make the company a success which in turn will afford you an opportunity for success? Boy, legalizing drugs is looking better and better.

  4. Let’s be honest. Alcohol ruins more lives than pot, and workers take smoke breaks every hour, on the hour.

    I personally know engineers and businessmen, extremely driven and hardworking people, who regularly smoke weed. I also know a president who smoked a lot of weed back in his hay day, and he’s brilliant at his job.

  5. Roll it!

  6. I have friends who use pot to alleviate the side effects of prescription drugs and to stave off the pain associated with MS. When an organic “drug” can be used to counteract prescription drugs, then you know you’ve been lied to by the big pharmaceutical companies who make millions of dollars off of sick people.

  7. I knew a woman who passed away from cancer who said marijuana helped her keep down her meals after chemo.

    People are just using age-old stereotypes of weed smokers to scare America into keeping it illegal. But the tactics are doomed to fail, since more and more Americans personally know people who smoke marijuana for one reason or another and know them to be good, decent and productive people.

  8. I just noticed that I used the phrase “back in his hay day” when referring to the president. hahaha

  9. Hector.. All of these arguments appear valid and seem to make sense…I understand that marijuana relieves pain, curbs nausea from chemotherapy, and increases appetite for those not eating due to the effects of their disease. I am not hard-hearted. I understand the suffering and I accept that marijuana helps these people in coping with their diseases. The problem with marijuana as clearly demonstrated in California is that it is nearly impossible to control the use and distribution of the drug to just patients holding truly legitimate prescriptions. A person can just scribble on a scrap piece of paper a fake prescription and it is accepted in the pot shops in California. The likelihood of people legally smoking marijuana sharing a toke with friends also greatly increases. It is hard enough to enforce marijuana laws now, but when it is illegal everywhere then police have probable cause to investigate when it is detected and take action. When you add to the mix many thousands of legal users smoking it everywhere, it increases the difficulty of enforcement and will lead to an increase in wasted man-hours. Legalizing medical marijuana for all intents and purposes will make the enforcement of marijuana laws unenforceable. Which, I believe is the whole purpose of pushing for the legalization of marijuana for medical reasons first. This is a stepping stone to the dismantling of the marijuana laws in this country.

  10. As a side note, I find it odd that California and many other states that have or are in the process of legalizing marijuana are at the same time demonizing tobacco use. They complain of second hand smoke. City governments are passing laws forbidding the use of tobacco outside in public places….Go figure…

  11. I haven’t smoked pot since I was a teenager (a hundred years ago) but it’s about time they dismantle the marijuana laws. I work in the juvenile justice system. Why lock up a kid for dealing/possessing in a bed that costs the same for a carjacker?

  12. Jose, I’m confused by your rebuttal. I’m calling for the complete legalization of marijuana, for any purpose.

    If you’re a conservative — and therefore a supporter of limited government — I don’t understand why you would support government telling citizens what they can or cannot smoke in the privacy of their own homes.

    And I would never advocate drug use. I’m only advocating legalization, because I believe in individual rights and because criminalization does much more harm than good.

  13. TV does more harm than pot.

  14. Becuase Marijuana is extremely ADDICTIVE Eileen Rivera…The THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) that gives a person the “high” feeling from smoking marijuana in the 60’s & 70’s was at an approximate 1-2% concentration. Modern marijuana is as high as 16%….it’s bad enough we have thousands of alchol abusers is rehab centers, homeless, or dead. Plus the chronic use of marijuana is far more harmful than tobacco. The very method of smoking marijuana leads to this. Tobacco cigarettes are smoked normally through a filter and the smoke is exhaled almost immediately after inhaling. Marijuana on the other hand is normally smoked unfiltered. To increase the effects of the “high” the person holds the smoke in the lungs as long as possible before exhaling. This greatly increases the lungs and blood exposure to over 400 different chemicals found in marijuana smoke. Marijuana has 50% more carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) in it than tobacco. The method of smoking marijuana increases the likelihood of cancer over tobacco. It also will cause the cancer to occur at an earlier age. Marijuana users in addition suffer from an increase in lung infections, phlegm, and breathing problems..

  15. And cigarettes and alcohol (with no redeeming qualities) are legal.

  16. Jose, should we also ban things like video games and living in mom’s basement?

  17. I do not support local governments passing laws forbidding the use of tobacco…I just find it ironic that California is one of the states pushing for legalization yet pass laws to forbid smoking in ublic places…

  18. Jose, you don’t see how the people of California could show such respect for individual liberty while safeguarding public health at the same time? I think a person has the right to eat fried chicken, but I’m not for stuffing a drumstick into everyone’s mouth.

  19. And where did you read that marijuana is extremely addictive? From what I understand, and from what recent studies show, marijuana is no more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes or gambling.

  20. Once marijuana is legalized then what is next??? It’s a gateway drug to cocaine, heroin, LSD, PCP, methamphetamine…it has to stop!

  21. I think the use of the phrase “gateway drug” went out with the 80s. There so much more data available now.

  22. Somebody is a fellow graduate of the DARE program. :)

  23. I have over 13 years experience dealing with drug addicts, dealers, and traffickers. I see the ugly underbelly of society. I work in it and drugs are a major part of it. As America changes the drugs of choice will change, the two things they all have in common are that they are still here and they are addictive, either physiologically, or psychologically. They cause bizarre behavior, they cause paranoia, and the person often hallucinates. If a person takes these drugs, and as a result does not care about anything else, what makes you think their behavior will not spill over into your life? If you do not already have a loved one in your family somewhere that has been destroyed by drugs consider yourself very lucky. If you have someone, then why would you want any other family to suffer, too by legalizing these drugs? The number one victims of all drug abusers and addicts are their families. Druggies will beg them for money, if they don’t get it, they will steal it from them in the form of money or property to pawn. They will take checks from the family member’s check book and utter them to get money. Why is the family the main target? It is simple, families will not prosecute. They want the addict to get help, not go to jail. The addict will play on this sympathy at every opportunity. The hardest lesson families learn is that once a person becomes an addict, he only loves the drug. The family no longer matters. The addict cares even less about anyone or anything else, except the next high.

  24. Regarding your link, you state that marijuana is no more addictive than alchohol cigarettes or gambling…yet you are in favor to adding another legal vice to that list. How many families and lives are destroyed becuase of alcohol, cigarette, and gambling abuse? How much Obamacare do you think it’ll cost to cover th rising cost of care for substance abusers? Think about it…

  25. Lucy Ricardo says:

    I find it quite offensive when those who drink alcohol – the leading cause of loss of life on US Highways – have the audacity to promote terrorism against people who just want to smoke a joint in peace. The pathetic hypocrites will never stop until SWAT Teams start raiding local liquor bars to keep alcohol drinkers off the streets when Marijuana is Legal in America next year.

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