Legalization of cannabis has been a very controversial issue in the United States for a long time; even more so after several states have already passed the legislation lifting the ban. Should all marijuana be legal? Is it dangerous? What are the possible implications of this? It is one of these topics that people just cannot help but have diametrically opposite viewpoints on.
For decades marijuana was considered to be a dangerous drug, leading to criminal behavior and personal degradation. However, by now most of these beliefs have been discredited – there is little to no proof that cannabis in and of itself has any adverse effects. Some studies even show that it is far less dangerous than many completely legal prescription drugs – both for its users and those around them.
In addition to that, there is corroborative proof of marijuana’s positive medical effects. Cannabis is beneficial for epilepsy patients, it eases nausea caused by chemotherapy and shows good results when used by people suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and a number of other conditions. In other words, legalization of cannabis can greatly improve the quality of life of all these people, while proof of its lasting or even temporary adverse effects remains more than scarce.
But even if we take medical use of cannabis aside, let’s ask ourselves a simple question: the war on drugs has been raging for decades, billions of government spending have been poured down this sinkhole, hundreds of thousands of people were convicted on drug charges, tens of thousands are getting killed in drug wars in Mexico and South America – yet the results are less than nil.
Drug trade is running rampant, tens of thousands die in drug-related shootings and gang warfare, prisons are overfilled with people charged with possession or selling drugs (and a large percentage of them has been arrested over finding a tiny amount of marijuana on them), time in prison makes it difficult for these people to find proper jobs later on, again pushing them towards criminal activities, thousands of addicts die due to overdose.
It seems that Prohibition era should have taught us that criminalizing an activity doesn’t make it disappear – it simply procreates organized crime. Most narcotic drugs are relatively simple and cheap in production – their high prices are caused by their illegal status and dangers accompanying producing and selling them. The war on drugs is exactly what causes drug mafia to exist in the first place – and in the long run, losses from the war on drugs by far exceed any positive effects it may have.
That is the prime reason to legalize marijuana and, ideally, drugs in general. It is impossible to eliminate them. It is impossible to protect people from themselves. If somebody wants to follow his or her self-destructive tendencies, it is not the state’s job to be his or her nanny. If drugs are legalized and cheap, a drug addict is very unlikely to harm anybody but himself – and we should take into account a greatly diminished risk of overdose, infection and other dangers accompanying illicit drugs.
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On the 6th of November, Colorado, Washington and Oregon decide whether to pass measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The fairly common use of the drug for medical purposes has undoubtedly spurred on this move, and Colorado is thought to be the most likely state to approve their bill. A Denver Post poll put support for the measure at 51 percent, with 40 percent opposing it. The issue is a very complex one, but some analysts claim that legalization measures will be common in states within five to seven years, so learning the pros and cons is extremely useful for when it comes to the polls.
Cons Of Legalizing Marijuana
One of the most commonly cited negative consequences of legalizing marijuana is the physical risks of the drug, both to those using it and to bystanders. Research has shown that marijuana can increase the likelihood of schizophrenia, mainly if the individual started smoking before the age of 18. There are also the health risks associated with smoking, including second-hand smoke for non-consumers, and the probability that driving under the influence of marijuana would be more common. It may also contribute to IQ declines when used by teens, according to a recent study.
Although legalization measures include age restrictions, like alcohol and tobacco, legalizing marijuana would make it considerably easier for children to get hold of. This is an obvious consequence of the increased and open availability of the substance, and the fact that marijuana is especially dangerous for adolescents makes this a much more serious consequence.
Some individuals also believe that it’s morally wrong to consume marijuana. The fact that people who take drugs are more likely to commit related crimes (such as theft to fund habit) also means that legalizing the drug could potentially lead to more criminals being out on the street. Drug use is another reason police can use to take law-breakers off the streets.
There is also a slippery slope argument, which states that the legalization of marijuana would eventually lead to the legalization of all illicit substances. The public could become desensitized to drug use and over time even crack cocaine and heroin could be purchased legally at dispensaries. Some people also argue that the drug is serves as a “gateway” to other, more harmful substances.
Pros Of Legalizing Marijuana
The most prominent benefit of marijuana legalization in the current fiscal environment is the money it will generate in savings in law enforcement and money raised from taxation. A 2010 study from the Cato Institute estimated that the legalization of marijuana across the country would raise 8.7 billion annually. Like alcohol and tobacco, marijuana could become a regular, reliable source of tax revenue.
Many people also argue that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. The relative safety of the drug after the age of 18 and the only psychological form of dependence it produces makes it objectively safer than the main legal drugs. If you drink enough alcohol, you will die, but there has never been a documented case of marijuana overdose. Likewise, taking too much aspirin, an extremely common medication, will kill you.
The drug also has medical uses which are accepted by many states. These include benefits for patients with glaucoma and those undergoing chemotherapy. There is also evidence that the drug can help with certain forms of cancer. The legalization of the drug would open these medical benefits up to patients with no regulation.
The police will also have more time to spend on more serious drugs with more potential for abuse. Instead of wasting time stopping the spread of plants which can be produced very inexpensively, law enforcement officers could focus on the manufacture of dangerous, synthetic drugs such as crystal meth. Likewise, the lack of a black market would drive prices down, so users would be much less likely to have to resort to crime to fuel their habit and individuals wouldn’t be funding gang activity or other criminals by purchasing marijuana.
Personal liberty is also a commonly cited reason to legalize marijuana. The individual who smokes marijuana only do so at risk to his or her self, assuming that they don’t expose non-smokers to the second-hand fumes. If the drug was eaten or taken in a vaporizer, the risks associated with smoking disappear entirely, and there is therefore no reason to restrict adults’ personal freedom. Compare marijuana to fast food; eating too much fast food will cause obesity if you don’t exercise, and that could easily lead to early death. Would it be fair to make fast food illegal too?
There are numerous arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana, but regardless of your opinion on the issue, the current approach is clearly flawed. The fact that the war on drugs has lasted for over 40 years and drugs are not yet eradicated speaks volumes about the ability of prohibition to control substances. Marijuana users are all over the country, and they are not going away. The discussion of how we should deal with it should be conducted openly and honestly by politicians and the public alike.