Drugs are bad, kids. Say no to drugs. Just say no! We hear these phrases almost every day from every angle. All warning us to stay away from drugs, any drug, every drug. And for the most part, people do. We're horrified by heroin and cautious of cocaine. But there's one drug that almost everyone tries before they make it safely out of their teens. Would anyone like to take a guess? That's right, marijuana. Known also as a spliff (when smoked) weed, hash and a million other names, this is the most widely taken illegal drug in the world. We should legalise it.

I hear a gasp from some conservatives among you. Now, from someone whose friend is growing a sweet little marijuana plant in her room, I might not be so objective. But I do know the facts, and they point to marijuana being safe enough to legalize, in the same way that nicotine is legal. So, the facts?

If used in moderation (for example the way you moderate your chocolate or vodka intake) marijuana is generally as harmful (or even less harmful) to the body than alcohol or cigarettes. In fact, some case studies have shown that roll-ups of marijuana are less harmful to the body than cigarettes, as they contain none of the tar that cigarettes contain, however these are inconclusive and marijuana does produce some of the symptoms that tobacco smoking does. Marijuana could be made even safer by being legalized because the governmental drug associations in each country could regulate the quality and safety of marijuana in the same way they do medicinal drugs.

Legalization would also lead to a lot of economic, social and safety positives. It would make the price of marijuana lower, thus cutting down on crimes such as theft (either of the marijuana, or of money to get marijuana). Drug dealers that deal in marijuana (and a lot do) would lose most or all of their business. Bear in mind that some larger drug dealers are also terrorists. Also, street justice that is related to marijuana would be greatly reduced. Those are the social and safety issues. The economic issue is the same thing that occurs in petrol. When you buy petrol you pay tax. If marijuana was legalized, you would also pay tax when you bought it, which means that it would become a source of additional tax revenue for our happy governments.

So, if marijuana was legalized it would be fairly simple to achieve a safe, controlled drug and cut down on various crimes. Also, valuable police resources and court resources would be freed up, as they wouldn't be chasing after those pesky 'hash smokers' all the time. 'Drug busts' by the police often trap younger marijuana smokers in a justice system which turns them into lifelong criminals and reduces their chances of getting college funding. A little trivia here, you can now get away with just a warning for possessing marijuana in the UK. And rumour has it that you can get away with growing marijuana in your home by saying you thought it was a geranium. But that's just rumour, don't try it in front of an officer.

Of course, there are also a lot of social issues connected with marijuana staying illegal. Users complain that limiting or banning the use of marijuana is an infringement on their personal freedom. They (and I) also argue that marijuana is a very safe drug that has been used recreationally for decades with very little ill effect.

Some people say that marijuana is often just the first step between other, harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin. This could be true in the sense that taking that first sip of wine could be going down the slippery slope to alcohol abuse. The point is that it only happens in an incredibly small percentage of cases. Some users start doing heroin and never touch marijuana, but the overwhelming majority of people who start with marijuana recognise that they have to be responsible and safe, and never even think about taking a harder drug. This is mainly due to the fact that marijuana is seen as the "safe" drug. Think about it, when did you last hear of someone who died from smoking a spliff? Well, apparently a man in Texas choked to death on a plastic bag of marijuana while trying to change his tyre. But quite frankly if he was stupid enough to put a plastic bag down there anyway...

As with all things, marijuana can have detrimental effects. For example, lack of motivation and a dip in the immune system. However, these are only reported when people are using the drug chronically and heavily, in other words abusing marijuana. When people abuse alcohol they have symptoms, extending sometimes to liver failure. We definitely don't plan on making alcohol illegal, so why marijuana? Yes, long term use of marijuana can lead to addiction. Just in the same way as people are addicted to cigarettes. Is anyone else noticing that marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes seem very, very similar right now?

Another argument is that using drugs, and therefore marijuana is morally wrong. Well, yes, that is an opinion that some people may have. But then again, some people see drinking as morally wrong. Some groups of people see eating pork as morally wrong. It all depends on what is "kosher". And to a lot of people, taking marijuana is not morally wrong. It is all part of being able to live with each other's differences and lifestyles. Some people want to keep marijuana illegal to "protect the kids". It's a nice sentiment, but when so many of the kids are already taking or have tried marijuana, then you know something has to be flawed. Marijuana is very easy to obtain (My friend is growing the stuff, for god's sake) so legalizing it wouldn't make much difference. If anything, kids would have to get it through the proper, above board channels who refuse to sell it to someone without an ID.

To conclude, marijuana is NOT the perfect, safe drug that some people think it is. However it is also NOT as addictive as heroin, as dangerous as cocaine and as messy as glue. Marijuana has a lot of the effects of traditional tobacco cigarettes, and can be as addictive as tobacco cigarettes. But the legalization of marijuana would have a lot of positive effects compared to very few, very minor negative effects. And if substances like tobacco and alcohol has been legalized for years, why should marijuana, something that has most of the same effects, be illegal and taboo? Maybe because tobacco got lucky when they passed the laws, maybe because that's just how things happened. But whichever it is, marijuana should be given fair treatment and be legalized. This drug aint totally bad, kids.