Why is tobacco legal and marijuana not? Four hundred million people per year die from tobacco. There are no deaths from marijuana. Why is marijuana the one that is illegal?

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There are two possible reasons: one involves cultural custom, the other involves the influence of money in politics.

Tobacco has been a cash crop since the Colonial era. James I reaped a great deal of wealth from Virginia's tobacco trade. After independence, Virginia emerged as wealthiest Southern state. Though tobacco...

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There are two possible reasons: one involves cultural custom, the other involves the influence of money in politics.

Tobacco has been a cash crop since the Colonial era. James I reaped a great deal of wealth from Virginia's tobacco trade. After independence, Virginia emerged as wealthiest Southern state. Though tobacco fell out of favor for a while as a major cash crop, in favor of sugar, rice, and cotton, it has never disappeared from industry. North Carolina also became known for its tobacco trade. 

Regular cigarette smoking has, until recently, long been perceived as normal and permissible, along with drinking alcohol. Anyone who watches old movies will eventually see someone light a cigarette. Marijuana, on the other hand, has always been associated with people who are outside of the mainstream: jazz musicians (hence, an association with black people and black culture), the Beat Generation, and hippies. 

Views around marijuana did not begin to change until the 1990s, when more research was conducted to discover the drug's medicinal uses. However, the idea of legalization was still regarded as radical in many states. In the same decade, the tobacco industry was forced to take responsibility for its past unwillingness to warn people about the dangers of cigarette smoking. They paid millions in lawsuits to the families of those who died from cancer and emphysema. They also began their "Truth" campaign -- a series of commercials directed at teenagers to discourage smoking among youth. 

However, the tobacco industry is also a very powerful political lobby, meaning that they can influence politics and policy with their wealth. The tobacco industry is not unique in this regard. All powerful industries, including food and fossil fuel industries, use their wealth to support the political campaigns of politicians. In turn, they often receive cooperation, in the form of legislators voting against laws that could hurt the respective industry. The tobacco industry might have an interest in suppressing the support of legislation that legalizes marijuana. 

Finally, efforts to legalize marijuana have mainly been carried out at the state level. Washington State and Colorado have legalized marijuana. Other states, such as Colorado's neighbor, Nebraska, are hostile to the industry. Nebraska is a much more conservative state. Conservative states, particularly those with large elderly populations, tend to be less accepting of marijuana. As I previously mentioned, marijuana was associated with counterculture. Also, certain anti-drug films, such as "Reefer Madness," fueled paranoia around marijuana use with the suggestion that marijuana could cause people to leap from windows!

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I think societal norms and values dictate the answer. Unfortunately smoking tobacco is socially acceptable and smoking marijuana is not. They are both drugs that damage the body but marijuana has psychological effects that society is not willing to accept.

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Originally, marijuana was banned when tobacco was allowed because hemp threatened the cotton industry (or so the argument goes).  Keep in mind that marijuana can be just as dangerous and destructive to the body as smoking tobacco.  We have tons of research and data about cigarette smoking because it is legal.  Since marijuana is illegal, it is difficult to run a scientific study about its effects.  We simply do not know what damage marijuana does to the body because it hasn't been studied in the same way as tobacco.  We attribute deaths to tobacco smoking but none to marijuana for the same reason.  It is illegal and therefore unstudied.  Consider to that there are some risks with smoking marijuana that do not exist with tobacco.  Even if marijuana is ingested instead of inhaled, it still contains pesticides and other dangerous chemicals not found in tobacco because tobacco is regulated by the FDA.

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The answer has to more to with societal history than the effects of any of the three substances mentioned.

At any given time in history, a society has social mores. At one point in our country's history, alcohol was seen as the cause of social unrest and family dissolution. Hence prohibition. Since then, alcohol has simply become a more accepted part of society, just as tobacco has been for centuries.

If you look at our current social mores alcohol (while dangerous in many ways) is an acceptable substance and part of the way we socialize. As for tobacco, while it is legal, there are more and more restrictions on its use and even more importantly a greater and greater stigma attached to being a smoker. Marijuana remains in the category of socially unacceptable in mainstream society. On of the earlier posters mentioned the use of marijuana in the sixties. It was very popular with the counterculture of that time, but that is just the point. The groups of people who were associated with marijuana use were considered outside mainstream society and were not the driving political or economic force of the time.

I have to agree that I also think money is a big part of why it has never been legalized. It may be the largest cash crop currently around, but it still has a social stigma, and would continue to in many parts of society even if it were legal. Therefore big business is not willing to take that financial risk.

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Marijuana is not legal because there is not a BILLION dollar industry pumping millions of dollars into the campaigns of our legislators and spending millions of dollars a year on lobbyists.  Tobacco is doing those things and it is why it is still legal.

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It's got a lot to do with tradition.  Alcohol, too, seems to be much more dangerous than marijuana.  But the thing is that tobacco and alcohol have been parts of our society for centuries (alcohol for much longer, tobacco for about 500 years).  Marijuana has not been and therefore it is much harder for it to be accepted.  (And, of course, there's not a huge lobby of marijuana companies to keep it from being banned.)

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That a substance may result in death is not the only reason to declare it illegal. Tobacco is indeed most unhealthy, although not every smoker dies from its effects. Moreover, you can see anti-tobacco campaigns all over the world. They have proved effective, since the number of young people who smoke has been decreasing considerably.

That said, the short-term effects of marijuana consumption can lead to confusional states, motor coordination problems, memory loss, increased heart rate, decreased cognitive skills and distorted perception. If someone suffers from a heart condition of which she is unaware, a few drags at a marijuana cigarette might give her heart arrest and, eventually, cause her death if not treated immediately.

In high doses, it can cause temporary delusion and paranoia. There have been reports of suicide and murder by users in these states.

Long-term effects are alarming. The immune system decreases and the risk of cancer, respiratory problems and heart diseases increase.

Moreover, because many users get accustomed to the euphoria they experience under the effects of marihuana and want to stay "high," they move on to more dangerous drugs such as cocaine or heroine. This happens because it is easy to hide the moment of consumption, since these drugs are not smoked and leave no telling smell. Thus, marijuana has been classified as a "gateway drug."

You can see that the problem is not simple. It is true that, specially in the 1960s, many people smoked marijuana for some time, then dropped it, and their lives were seemingly unaffected. But many others stepped onto a path of no return. Thus, better safe than sorry.

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