All the world (of Deadheads, fans of Phish & the Dave Mathews Band, etc.) is a buzz(ed) over the legalization of Marijuana in the state of Colorado. Me? I am somewhat conflicted. Here's how I see the issue.
The Case for Legalization
I think you can boil down the case for legalization down to one simple question: is it worse than alcohol? On a net-net basis, I don't believe that it is especially worse for any of us; in fact, by some measures it may be actually not as bad for society as a whole. Have you ever heard the phrase “he was an angry stoner”, as opposed to “he was an angry drunk”? Nope, I haven't either.
Then you have the “but people are going to do it anyway” argument, which actually is validated by all the small time pot dealers in jail, most likely learning how to become more hardened criminals while they waste away in the land of societal incarceration. Yes, I also agree that people (all be it stupid people...more on that later) are going to do this, so society might as well reap some benefit from it in the form of additional resources for roads, schools and the like (via taxing the heck out of it).
There is a compelling medical argument for the use of Marijuana. As I understand it, Marijuana is a very helpful medical resource for those individuals who need pain medication but, for a variety of reasons, can't benefit from more traditional treatments. The example I've most commonly read about is that of a cancer patient who is undergoing chemotherapy and can't keep food (or pills down), where the Marijuana helps moderate the pain and increases the patient's appetite.
Lastly, there is the simple argument that the government...any government for that matter...should have limits when it comes to how we regulate our own bodies. As I have noted here relating to the abortion issue, there are few things in life more invasive than a government telling you what can happen to your own insides; if you don't own what's under your own skin, then you don't anything.
The Case Against Legalization
Marijuana, despite claims to the contrary, is not this harmless substance that just makes you happy and gives you the munchies. I've read several studies that show, for example, it can be harmful to the development of teenage brains. If inhaled, it is also far worse for your lungs than tobacco smoke (which is almost always filtered in some way when used). It also can cause impairments that would make driving difficult, to say the least (I believe that Colorado has a standard for “buzzed driving”).
The biggest red herring I see regarding the use of Marijuana though is in the area of medicine. To be blunt, it seems pretty clear that at least some portion of Marijuana users in California, where it is legal for medicinal purposes, basically fake illness just to get (quasi-legally) stoned. “I get headaches, therefore I need to get baked on a regular basis” seems to be the truth behind many users. For the record you can substitute “headache” for any number of other medical issues, real or imaginary. From my end, acknowledging full well that I am not a doctor, unless someone has glaucoma or is a cancer patient, I honestly don't see the need for medical Marijuana.
My final argument against the legalization of Marijuana? Pretty simple actually: it's stupid. Yes, I said “stupid”; stupid as using Marijuana to escape reality is a sad excuse for what is really a lack of personal discipline. Guess what? You can't ever escape from reality because no matter how stoned you get, reality is always still there for you, waiting on the back end. For some, Marijuana is just another crutch, another way to cry “I can't cope”, a way to undervalue one's own self worth without really ever trying. As for me, well I don't want my reality altered, because quite frankly, reality is wonderful! Now matter how challenging your life is, there are always alternatives, always choices, always new things to be explored. Note that I don't write this as someone who has lived a life of privilege and/or hasn't seen any hardship if life; my personal story is as far from that of Paris Hilton as one can get. I also don't consider myself to be a man of better than average personal discipline either, so if I can manage to cope with reality without the need to get stoned out of my mind, then I think the average person doesn't need to either. I'm not that good, and most aren't that bad (nor is reality for that matter).
In the final analysis, I really don't have a firm opinion one way or another when it comes to the legalization of Marijuana. What I do have a firm opinion on is that the use of foreign substances to mask the realities of life is never, ever a good thing. Be it alcohol, Marijuana or any other drug, all represent the running away from a reality we all should be running towards. Now if someone reading this disagrees with me, then so be it; I am only the king of me and my own behavior...which is precisely my biggest issue with the use of Marijuana: namely that when you use it, you no longer the king of your own.