Marijuana is described as a recreational drug that comes from the hemp plant used for heightening ones mood, perception or to make somebody relax (NIDA, 2004). Legalizing marijuana is among of the many controversial debates in America today. This is because the USA has a diverse culture. It is under “schedule 1” by the Food and Drug Administration, therefore meaning that it is illegal to use or have marijuana as per the federal law in the USA. However, despite President Obama clearly stating that his Administration will not enforce any law that deems marijuana legal, two states have already legalized marijuana for recreational use, while an additional eighteen plants have legalized medical Marijuana. Ferner, (2012) says that there are many positive effects that various scholars have identified with the use of marijuana as well as multiple negative effects of using the same.
The legalization of marijuana or otherwise known as cannabis could yield positive effects since it can be used to aid in the treating some medical diseases. Marijuana is useful to cancer patients to reduce nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy. It is more reasonable than using conventional drugs to treat these side effects for those patients whose health does not improve even after being subjected to them. In some cases, researchers have found some drugs used to during the treatment, for example, promethazine cause dizziness, hallucinations or dysphoria (Harman, 2000).
Cannabis has been used since the 19th century to relief pain. Researchers have published numerous articles recommending the use of cannabis as an alternative medicine for curing disorders and other ailments. This narcotic is useful to patients with nerve damage, spasticity, nausea and even glaucoma since it is an excellent pain and stress reliever. People suffering from HIV/AIDS and Dementia could also benefit from marijuana since it has proven to be an appetite stimulant (Harman, 2000). These are among the many diseases that the patient’s health could be greatly improved by the use of marijuana. The American Research society and the American Medical association support the view that clinics used for research should be granted access to more cannabis for better potential medical health improvement. Marijuana has no proven research to show that it is addictive. The anti-legalization of Marijuana group does not give facts that it is bad for one’s health. It’s an assumption that people have a bad image about it. There is no single documented evidence of death due to marijuana overdose.
Apart from medical uses, marijuana can also be used for other industrial goods. If Marijuana was legal, it can be cultivated as one of the largest cash crops in America today. It produces raw materials that can be processed to produce textiles, paint, ropes, animal feeds, clothes, plastics, cosmetics and many other things. Marijuana can be produce over 25,000 products. However the illegality of the crop hinders the development of these products. This is according to Clements (2009). He further says that Marijuana farmers could also be taxed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) making it a major source of revenue for the government. Medical Marijuana brings in a substantial amount of revenue in the legalized states. For example, in California, it is estimated at 14 billion dollars annually. If marijuana was to legal, this amount will grow tremendously. It would be among the largest revenue earners in the country.
A lot of billions in dollars are spent each year by the government on the prisoners who have been locked up due to drug related cases. 1/6 of these people are jailed due to direct involvement with marijuana. It means that out of the 68 billion dollars the government spends on those non-violent cases, they could save 11.5 billion dollars each year if Marijuana could be made legal (Roffman, 2006).
Legalizing marijuana would mean that the above mentioned 1/6 of the prisoners would be free. Hence significantly reducing crime as well as improving the economy by releasing people who in turn will contribute to economic growth. So many people are arrested everyday due to possession of this narcotic, by legalizing it; the courts will be open for much more serious trials related to other crimes. The war against drugs and especially marijuana is seen by many as an expensive failure. If Marijuana was legal, it would free such resources as the amount of money used by the DEA, FBI or the border security and even the local police to fight other serious crimes.
Colorado and Washington have allowed marijuana smoking for recreational purposes. It is legal in these two states (Ferner, 2012).
People living in the nearby states could easily cut across the border in order to enjoy their Marijuana. It could be looked at positively as a way of attracting tourists. If marijuana was to be legalized all across America, it could be a potential tourist attraction and this will have tremendous results on the economy of the US.
The groups as well as organizations that support legalizing of marijuana argue that it is not harmful than alcohol and tobacco or other hard drugs if used in moderation. Most doctors and researchers agree that marijuana is not as addictive as alcohol and tobacco. They argue that abusing any product including food, is just as much of a problem. They further argue that limiting the use of any product or drug is interfering with the freedom of a person. One has a right to do with the body as he or she pleases. Even if a drug is harmful, it is ones right to choose what is good or harmful to him or her. Everyone should be allowed their little pleasures without being told what is good and what is not. These are what make life worth living. These could be potentially harmful if abused; no one wants the government interfering with what makes one happy (Clements, 2009).
These activists who are pro legalization further argue that by doing so, the amount of crimes like theft or robbery will significantly reduce. Drugs are expensive due to the risks they carry since they are illegal. These prices would reduce if marijuana was to be legal since it will be easily accessible. People who cannot survive without such narcotics can sometimes turn to crude means of achieving money to buy drugs like stealing or mugging. If the prices reduce, the amount of such related crimes reduces. If somebody falls into a marijuana related issue for example the peddler runs away with the money, nobody will report such an incident to the police. But if it could be legal, people would report such cases to the proper institutions such as the police.
Some of the drug cartels comprise of terrorists who fight against legalization of Marijuana because they make billions in dollars from such drug trade. There is no competition hence exorbitant price. By legalizing Marijuana, the prices will reduce, therefore, no room for these unscrupulous businessmen and terrorists (Roffman, 2006).
The FDA would regulate the standard of Marijuana that is released to the public. Many people succumb to illnesses related to poorly prepared products since there is no one to check the quality. Legalizing Marijuana means that only standard products fit for consumption are availed the public.
Illegal drug trade, due to its attractive remuneration may attract teenagers or young adults who live in poverty in a bid to earn money for their up keep or even saving for college. These young adults may get arrested and incarcerated therefore altering their lives in a negative way. Their dreams of joining college and getting good jobs are cut short. They later in life become hardcore criminals leading a lifelong in crime. By legalizing Marijuana, experts posit that this could be eliminated.
With the good comes the bad, many scholars argue that by legalizing Marijuana, the situation would worsen since more people would fall into drug use and abuse instead of saving those who are already affected by drug addiction. This is because it will be readily available and at a low price. Marijuana is often a stepping stone to hardcore drug use. Many people who use this for recreational purposes are most often move on to harder substances. Studies have shown that people who use what is considered harmless are more likely to proceed to more serious and harmful substances such as heroin or cocaine (NIDA, 2004).
Legalizing marijuana will increase the amount of road accidents on the roads. People will easily access it and driving under the influence or what is considered “high” will even be harder to detect as compared to alcohol which is still a major headache and a leading cause of road accidents. Other crimes like robbery or rape might increase due to poor judgment caused by the narcotic.
Many religions consider marijuana and use of drugs as an immoral undertaking. Therefore, it would be morally wrong to legalize marijuana and would cause a major rift between religion and the state.
Legalizing marijuana would make it readily available to anyone willing including Falling into the wrong hands, for example kids who have poor reasoning since their brains are still developing. It is common for kids to access alcohol and tobacco and many people wouldn’t want to take the same chance with Marijuana. The fight against drugs could be dealt a serious blow.
Despite the many studies done to show that marijuana is a harmful drug, some studies tie marijuana to brain damage, lung cancer, depression, underperformance and amotivation syndrome or even worse, death. It is therefore the states duty to prevent its citizens from such harm. This is among the reasons why the government should not legalize marijuana. Short term effects of marijuana use are more recognizable than the long term use effects. Short term effects include short term memory loss and interfering with the ability to learn. A user will lose coordination and experience increased heart rate. Long term effects of Marijuana use include the risk of cancer. Just like tobacco, marijuana contains substances that are harmful to the lungs. It may also cause serious lung infections such as pneumonia if used for a long time (NIDA, 2004)
The effects of second hand smoking have been widely analyzed. It is only logical then that by legalizing marijuana, more people will be exposed to the effects of second hand smoke. It can be in public or at home or even in schools or even innocent bar patrons. The damage caused likely to be caused to society is exponential.
Legalizing marijuana could only set pace for legalizing other drugs. People may adopt the “anything goes” perception to advocate for legalization of other hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. What is seen as an abomination today may in the future be an acceptable trend where people buy hard drugs over the counter. It is looked at by many as a gateway drug for people using it to try something harder. People need to be proactive to mitigate such risks (NIDA, 2004).
Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which affects users in a variety of ways. The effects depend on how much marijuana is consumed and the period of time it has been used. Some people will experience a calm feeling while others become extremely thirsty, hungry or tired. A person should not run heavy machines or drive since the THC present in marijuana slows the time one takes to respond and the ability to concentrate. A study done on Meta-analysis disclosed that marijuana increases the risk of car crashes more so fatal accidents (Brady et al., 2013). More studies revealed that marijuana use is related to chronic bronchitis and respiratory disorders.
Marijuana smoking, possession or cultivation remains illegal under the federal law. A problem may arise if the federal government was to investigate and prosecute those involved in the cultivation of the plant despite being allowed by the state. It is difficult to determine which law prevails if marijuana remains illegal under the federal law and at the same time legal in certain states. The McCarran Ferguson Act of 1945 (McCarran, 2005) states that insurance regulation is to be regulated by individual states. This gives freedom to states to remain without interference from the federal government as long as they act on the regulation of insurance. Anti-drug activists have argued that those using marijuana for recreational purposes to an extent of abusing the narcotic ought to be handed penalties including imprisonment and treatment where necessary. This can only be possible if marijuana remains illegal.
This paper seeks to show the good side as well as the negative aspects associated with the legalization of Marijuana. The pro Marijuana legalization are supported by numerous facts that show how beneficial the hemp can be not just to the health of Americans but also how it would impact economic growth positively. They further argue that those against legalization of marijuana have not provided enough empirical evidence and base their arguments on the assumption that marijuana is a drug that only causes problems. They never look at the good aspects of marijuana. It is through free will that somebody chooses to use marijuana.
Those against the legalization of marijuana say that the movies portray a different image rather than the reality. The movies show images of kids who are giggling and having fun after smoking marijuana but fail to show the reality on the ground about such kids flanking school, others proceeding to hard drugs and some being locked up due to possession. It is important to evaluate whether legalizing marijuana is beneficial or harmful to the development of the USA.
- Brady, J. et al. Direct Accident Analysis and Prevention journal drug use and fatal motor crashes a case-control study- Accident Analysis and Prevention60, 205–210. (2013).
- Clements, K. & Zhao, X. (2009). Economics and marijuana: consumption, pricing and legalization. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Ferguson, M. “Ultimate Effects of McCarran-Ferguson Federal Antitrust Exemption on Insurer Activity”. Government accountability office. Justice and Law Enforcement. (2005), First Edition. pg 12-15
- Ferner, M. (2012, November 06) “Amendment 64 Passes: Colorado Legalizes Marijuana For Recreational Use.” The Huffington Post. pg. 6.
- Harman, R. (2000). Handbook of pharmacy health education. London: Pharmaceutical Press.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2004). Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders, Second Edition.
- Roffman, R. (2006). Cannabis dependence: its nature, consequences, and treatment. Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press.