Is the Growing Popularity of Heroin Contributing to a Growing Need to Legalize Marijuana?

According to an article posted on February 11th by, legalizing "cannabis offers an affordable hope to kick heroin." The article makes its claim by drawing attention to the recent deaths of 46-year-old Academy Award-winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman and 31-year-old Glee star Cory Monteith. Both actors died due to an overdose of heroin, which, according to an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, is an epidemic that has been deemed "a public health crisis" by the Pittsburgh's medical examiner. Is legalizing marijuana a remedy for keeping nonviolent offenders out of prison and off of more harmful, deadly drugs?

The article sites Professor A. R. Mohammad, a board-certified psychiatrist and an associate professor at the University of Southern California, who claims that "while exotic and expensive in the past, today heroin is a cheap alternative to prescription pain killers and is sold in a very strong form on the streets in virtually every American city and is highly addictive." Since dangerous drugs like heroin are no longer expensive and hard to come by, cheaper alternatives to expensive prescriptive narcotics such as OxyContin, morphine, and vicodin, to name a few, are gaining popularity and are thus leading to the escalating number of heroin and prescription narcotics overdoses.

The Growing Need for Legalized Marijuana

So, the question is, if highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs like OxyContin and Percocet are still legal, is that contributing to a growing need to legalize marijuana - a drug, which, when abused, studies have shown is not as dangerous as abusing legal prescriptive narcotics?

Medicinal Marijuana is only legal in 21 states - including Washington D. C. - and the recreational use of marijuana is only legal in 2 states. Most states try to enforce a drug free existence by imposing laws that make possession and sale of drugs illegal. Unfortunately, making an activity illegal is not a very good deterrent. Needless to say, if an individual wants to take drugs, he or she will find a means to do so regardless of whether or not the activity is illegal. According to Professor Darrin Duber-Smith of the Metropolitan State University in Denver, "legalization and decriminalization of marijuana is likely to result in fewer overdoses that are caused by far more powerful substances, adding that "marijuana can replace many dangerous substances for those who wish to use these types of drugs."

According to Joseph Friedman, a pharmacist and member of the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy's (NASP) management of medical marijuana task force, "there is no evidence that marijuana has ever caused an overdose resulting in death," adding "in fact, marijuana might help cure addictions and prevent drug overdoses." Prescription narcotics, on the other hand, account for the highest percentage of overdoses.

Reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention state that, "drug overdose deaths increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010," adding "60 percent of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs." Meanwhile, according to an article in the Huffington Post, "In 2011, marijuana possession arrests totaled 663,032 - more than arrests for all violent crimes combined," adding "that number of arrest for marijuana possession has risen sharply since 1980, surpassing arrest for violent crime by more than 100,000."

The Reason Marijuana Laws are Remaining Status Quo

Unfortunately, the Office of National Drug Control Policy still views marijuana as a dangerous drug, preventing marijuana from being legalized on a national level. The states, on the other hand, can and have been changing their laws to legalize marijuana, either for medicinal or recreational purposes. At this time, Colorado and Washington are the only two states to change their marijuana policies to allow for legalized and monitored recreational use of marijuana. Other states have only changed their laws to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana, some with very strict limitations.

Until marijuana laws are changed on a national level, individuals who are prone to use drugs will continue to consume dangerous drugs, contributing to the high rate of drug overdoses. Additionally, offenders will continue to remain in jail for possession and the sale of marijuana, occupying space in jail that could be reserved for offenders of violent crimes. Once an offender has a marijuana conviction, he or she will continue to have the offense on his or her criminal record until the offense is actively removed through an expungement, which - in most states - shows that the offense has been overturned to remove the finding of guilt. To see if your marijuana offense is eligible for an expungement, take this free online eligibility test,