Should Marijuana Be Legal?
Marijuana has been a pretty controversial topic over the last few years, and up until recently there hasn’t been much change to its classification as an illegal substance. Over the past few years we’ve seen many states lifting jail sentences, approving it for medical use, and even a few states going as far to completely legalise it in all forms. Is this a step in the right direction though? Should we be legalising it? Some would say no, it’s a dangerous drug that should be contained and others would say it is nothing more than a plant, no worse than tobacco or alcohol. I stand with legalization. I believe we should have it be completely legal in all 50 states. This drug is not nearly as dangerous as cigarettes or alcohol, it has been proven to be a safer alternative to prescription painkillers. Not only that but there is a huge profit to be made when it comes to growing, processing, and the sale or Marijuana. Lastly we need to make it completely legal across the board for every state. The decriminalization has made the lines blurry, people are still spending time in jail and each state is free to make their own rules making it very confusing. Marijuana does have it’s flaws, but I think it’s benefits far outweigh the flaws. Marijuana is relatively safe to use as long as it is used responsibly, just like it is ok to drink as long as you watch how much you are drinking and do not drive while under the influence. The same rules apply.
Marijuana is much less dangerous than alcohol, cigarettes, and almost all prescription pain medications. It is because of how it reacts with our brains that it makes it not nearly as dangerous. We have receptors in our brains called cannabinoid receptors. Our bodies produce natural chemicals that are called endocannabinoids, they have a similar molecular structure to THC and other cannabinoids found in plants (Armentano). THC reacts with a natural receptor in our brains similar to how our natural body chemicals do, it’s not like alcohol and prescription pain medications that destroy your liver, or cigarettes which give you cancer, ruin your teeth and even your lungs. You can even avoid damaging your lungs with Marijuana by making it into oil or butter and putting it into your food.
Something even more positive about Marijuana is that it is impossible to overdose on it, this is because it does not depress the central nervous system like opiates and alcohol (Armentano). A huge fear of many is the fatal overdose that usually looms over drug user’s heads, they become tolerant ocf the drug until they take so much that they die. A 40 year study suggests that Marijuana is non-toxic to organs and cells and may even protect our bodies from cancer and one of the only negative effects reported by users was dizziness (Armentano). This shows that over 40 years there has been nothing relating marijuana to cancer or disease. That is extraordinary compared to the side effects of prescription medication, tobacco, and alcohol, all of which create disease and cancer with long time use. Of course there is still people who shouldn’t smoke it due to age or condition. Pregnant women, children, and people with certain diseases like hepatitis C should probably not smoke it (Armentano). New smokers should also take caution, the drug affects everyone differently. It’s possible for it to cause paranoia if you smoke too much on your first few times. The more experienced you become with it the more you will be able to regulate it and know they’re personal limits.
All of these things add up to me as a simple, almost obvious choice as to why Marijuana should be legalized. There is more to it than just “will it kill me?”, many people argue that Marijuana’s effects are strong and can cloud decision making, and sometimes can even create panic, disorientation, and paranoia (National Institute on Drug Abuse). To this I say it is all based off the person’s ability to handle the drug. Just like with alcohol the user must know their limits. Lightweights could be more susceptible to smoking or drinking more than they can handle, with marijuana these side effects are unfortunately mostly psychological. It is the same with drinking though, someone who drinks too much at a time could also become paranoid, disoriented, and it also clouds your decision making. Alcohol can also make you violently ill, vomiting, headaches, and everything else is sure to follow. So I ask this, why is alcohol legal and marijuana is not? Based on the information collected above and the side effects from consuming more than the user can handle I’d say there are a pretty even match, if not alcohol being worse.
Another concern from many is impaired driving. Some would argue that marijuana is just as much of an issue as drunk driving. Statistics say that 14.4% of nighttime drivers tested positive for drug use, and out of that 14.4%, 8.65% tested positive for marijuana use (Larkin). While these numbers don’t seem that large, even one intoxicated driver is enough to kill multiple people. Over half of those testing positive for drugs had marijuana in their systems. This is a serious issue that needs to be cracked down upon, that being said, I do not think it is a valid reason for marijuana not to be legalized. Alcohol is legal and causes an estimated 10,000 deaths and over $37 billion in damages (Larkin). To me this proves that alcohol is just as bad if not worse, and if alcohol can be legal despite these numbers than I think it is not a strong enough argument against the legalization of marijuana.
The marijuana growing business would bring in an immense amount of taxable income for the united states. It’s estimated that the business is worth about $40 billion, completely untaxed (Drug Policy Alliance). Not only would the sale of marijuana be taxable but it could also create thousands upon thousands of new jobs. Not only would you need people to grow it, but you need people to process it, ship it out, and sell it. There is also a market for edibles, food made with THC oil. The taxation of this drug could help America with it’s financial downward spiral, possibly even get it going in the opposite direction. Before the prohibition it was used for more than just it’s THC producing leaves. The seeds and stock of the plant are among the many parts of the plant that do not produce the “high” feeling, these parts of the plant are far from useless though. The seeds have been used for oil, amino acids, and other things similar to that. The stock of the plant can be used from everything from paper to rope to even clothing (Armentano). There is so much profit in this plant it’s unbelieveable. It is a renewable source for supplies and other goods that we can use everyday. Before the prohibition cannabis was grown and used thousands of years, as far back as 7000 b.c., it was used for everything from medical purpose to food, to clothing (Armentano). It is only in the last century that the plant has been banned from the united states. If it isn’t severely harmful, if it could bring billions of dollars into the economy, if it isn’t any more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco then why is it illegal?
Some could say it has to do with the racially biased America, and looking at the statistics it’s hard to dispute this claim. Despite the fact that white people and black people smoke about an equal amount black people are more than three times as likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana “The War on Marijuana”). This number is ridiculously high and unacceptable.
Not only is this the case but despite the 8 million arrests and $3.6 billion a year spent enforcing these arrests the availability and use remains completely ineffective. People are still selling and using the drug (“The War on Marijuana”). The racial biased towards drug busts is incredible, millions of people are being incarcerated yearly, all for a plant that honestly doesn’t hurt anyone or anything. In this day and age we have a problem of mass incarceration, it is costing taxpayers thousands of dollars every year to keep them locked up in prison just for possessing the drug. If we didn’t arrest people for just owning the plant then we’d have much more money to spend on things the government and the people need.
Not only is the racial biased towards people of color an issue but gang violence and drug related violence is a huge problem as well. Most of these violent acts are due to the prohibition, without the prohibition they wouldn’t really exist too much. The system we have currently set in place promotes gang violence, unethical practices, and a lack of reasonable ways to settle these disputes (Drug Policy Alliance). We’ve been fighting Mexico for a very long time over the fact that many people are bringing in marijuana from there. Mexico itself is in turmoil with gang crime and drug related violence.
“The federal government has asserted that “Marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for the Mexican cartels.” and is “a cash crop that finances corruption and the carnage of violence year after year.” Estimates by the RAND Corporation and the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness project that legalizing marijuana nationally in the U.S. could reduce cartels’ drug export revenues by between one-fifth and one-third.”
(Drug Policy Alliance)
Our illegalization of marijuana is causing mexico to fall into shambles, we are directly feeding into their flames. If it’s true that legalizing marijuana would take down the drug related violence rate.
One of the biggest issues America is having right now is that the drug is “decriminalized” which just means it is no longer a felony. This title is very loose fitting, too much so. Some states have legalized it completely, for recreational use and medical. Other states will still throw you in jail for even possessing a small amount. Some states have approved it for medical use and that is all. The rules for each state are completely different and so confusing that it is hard to keep track and the lack of universal rules can get many people into a lot of trouble. America needs to legalize marijuana in all 50 states because laws on what you can and cannot do are becoming very convoluted and inconsistent. For instance, they made gay marriage a state by state decision and look how long it took to become fully legal in all 50 states. It took decades of fighting for LGBTQ rights to fully legalize it across every last state. This is what needs to happen for the Legalization of marijuana. For all the rules to be consistent we need to make sure every state is on the same page.
Through my research I’ve been convinced that marijuana is not as bad as D.A.R.E makes it seem. It was never the “gateway drug” everyone thought it to be and it was never as dangerous as the lies that spread through my health classes as a child. I found that alcohol and cigarettes are twice as dangerous and that prescription pills were just as bad for you. If these dangerous substances can be legal than why not marijuana? A drug that has been proven to not harm our health in any truly significant way? The violence produced by the prohibition of this drug sends entire countries into turmoil and even our own beloved communities in America. Every day families are torn apart due to mass incarceration and jailing for people with marijuana possession charges. Absolutely nothing good comes from it being illegal, but if we legalize it, our economy can thrive, people can have jobs, cheaper more earth friendly forms of paper and clothes will become available. The list goes on and on for reasons that we should legalize marijuana, and to me the answer is very clear.