Marijuana: Benefits of Decriminalization

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 8
Words: 2274
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: Bachelor

The historical view surrounding marijuana is based on the various culture of the indigenous people of America. Marijuana was used to treat multiple ailments such as headache, insomnia, rheumatic pain, and headache. Its beneficial outcome made it listed among the licit drugs in 1850 by Pharmacopoeia of the United States of America. However, its recreational use significantly increased in the 1930s leading to the ban on the use of all marijuana products without criminalization of individuals. In 1970, marijuana was criminalized and made an illicit drug by the Controlled Substances Act, and any possession was a federal crime. The legalization of marijuana began in 1993 by a surgeon called General Elder, who proposed to conduct thorough research on its legalization (Yu et al., 2020). After the findings of General Elder, the state of California passed a law that decriminalized the use of marijuana on a medical basis; the Medical Marijuana Law (MML) was passed in 1996. This made other states engage in the legalization of marijuana because it benefits the medical industry. The legalization of marijuana has significantly increased in the United States.

Marijuana legalization has expanded, and currently, it is legalized for recreational use in various states. The recreational use of marijuana was first passed in California by public votes in 2012. Later, Washington also legalized marijuana, and since then, many states have extended the legalization of marijuana from medical to recreational use. Apart from the USA, other countries such as Canada and European countries have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. The decriminalization of marijuana has come with various regulations to ensure it is used within the set law (Yu et al., 2020). Although individuals using marijuana are no longer prosecuted in court, those who transgress end in a felony. The regulation on marijuana includes not possessing marijuana above the set weight. Only individuals above a specific age limit are allowed to purchase. Distributing and selling marijuana is illegal and only permissible for businesses allowed by the federal government (Sarvet et al., 2018). Other marijuana safety measures are still in operation; for example, its possession or use is not allowed in school. Furthermore, it is not allowed while driving and being used by a passenger. The medicinal regulations are also still in place, and violations are punishable by law.

The purpose of this research is to identify the importance of decriminalization of marijuana. This will fill the gap on the benefits of marijuana that are not majorly known. The research question majorly focuses on its significance since the day it was decriminalized. The research question is, “to what extent has decriminalization of marijuana promoted society and the economy’s well-being? The research objective is to identify its effect on the medical area and the welfare of people and society. The research tests the hypothesis “Decriminalization of marijuana has no significant benefit.” To determine the answer to the research question, the paper will utilize a literature review to provide relevant information on the issue.

Literature Review

Medical Benefits

Marijuana has numerous benefits in society since its decriminalization. Treatments for various diseases that have been problematic for decades have been identified since its legalization. Marijuana components such as cannabidiol have proven effective in the medical industry. This component is essential in reducing insomnia, anxiety, and spasticity. Furthermore, the component is significant among patients who have epilepsy as it reduces pain (Koubeissi, 2017). Other medical conditions such as the Dravet syndrome have been problematic among patients. There has been no potential solution to the problem for a long time, but marijuana has proven to be effective as the syndrome responds significantly.

According to Pacula and Smart’s (2017) study, older patients respond appropriately to the administration of medical marijuana compared to the previous use of opiate drugs. Patients with sclerosis have reported a significant improvement after its usage (Pacula & Smart, 2017). Opiates and Neurotin have a disengagement problem, making patients not get involved with daily tasks. However, marijuana has replaced these drugs enabling patients to participate in other activities after taking the medication. Patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease have also benefited from the legalization of marijuana. It has enabled the creation of a drug that relaxes the muscle, reducing the muscle tremors that these patients experience. Post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) patients are also enjoying the legalization benefits in that they are able to manage various symptoms such as weight loss and nausea (Abizaid et al., 2019). The patients from war zone have shown positive results on its use, thereby increasing its usage in treating PTSD.

Since the isolation of the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the marijuana compounds, there have been more than 60 active cannabinoids that are active and with a promising effect on the future of medicine. These compounds are being studied by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States of America (Freeman et al., 2019). These have resulted in the identification of the two types of cannabinoid receptors. First, CB1 has been identified as active in the central nervous system, where it has a critical role in enhancing psychoactive properties (Freeman et al., 2019). The CB2 is found in peripheral blood, immune tissues, and the spleen, and it leads to the effect of anti-inflammatory and the immunology of marijuana. This has expanded the research on cannabinoids in the U.S.

The development of medication from marijuana compounds has significantly increased. Various approved compounds include Dronabinol, Nabilone, and Sativex. Dronabinol or Marinol is effective for patients with cancer as it is useful during chemotherapy. It stimulates appetite among HIV/AIDS patients hence promoting weight gain. It also helps improve the psychological and physical strength of the patients, making them active on other medications (Freeman et al., 2019). The Nabilone or the Cesamet is a synthetic version of the cannabinoid that is effective in treating nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy procedures. Similar to the Dronabinol, it also promotes weight gain among AIDS patients (Freeman et al., 2019). The Sativex is a liquid extract from the marijuana used to relieve overactive bladder, emesis, and neuropathic pains. This drug is used in countries that have decriminalized marijuana, such as Spain, Canada, and England.

Incarceration Effects

According to Stanton et al. (2020), the period when the government of America declared war on Drugs led to an increased level of incarceration. The population of individuals being jailed significantly increased. In 1983, 223,644 individuals were arrested because of the legalization of marijuana (Stanton et al., 2020, p.2). The number increased because of strict laws regarding drug abuse. The number of individuals being convicted and jailed for drug crimes expanded, and there were other individuals who had not been convicted but were still held for marijuana crimes (Stanton et al., 2020). The reduction of incarceration rates for marijuana offenses decreased significantly after the legislature of 1998, which permitted the use of medical marijuana, and the 2012 legislature, which allowed the use of marijuana for recreational purposes (Stanton et al., 2020). The drug war affected women because the number of women incarcerated because of marijuana increased. Between 1985 to 1996, the population of women jailed rose from 8% to 10.8% (Stanton et al., 2020). The most affected group were Black American and Latin women because they had a higher chance of engaging in the marijuana business.

Fahley (2019) conducted a study to investigate the effect of marijuana decriminalization and its legalization in states such as Oklahoma, Idaho, California, Utah, Colorado, Washington, Nebraska, and Oregon. The research study showed that decriminalization of marijuana has a significant effect. It reduces the number of arrests among individuals possessing marijuana and the number of cases taken to court, reducing incarceration rates (Fahley, 2019). The finding of this research is enhanced by the result of the study conducted by Grucza et al. (2018). The research shows that in 2007, marijuana arrest rates per 100,000 people were between 180 to 250. However, after the decriminalization and its legalization in 2012, marijuana arrests decreased significantly, with about 25% all over the United States of America (Grucza et al., 2018).

States that had passed the decriminalization law had reduced arrest cases by 50%. For example, Maryland had the highest decrease in arrests, with a reduction ranging from 42% to 90%. Plunk et al. (2019) study utilized data from 38 states and examined the effect based on four states that have legalized marijuana. The research finding shows that decriminalizing marijuana reduced the number of youths being jailed for using marijuana, decreasing by 60% per 100,000 people. Plunk et al. (2019) argue that marijuana decriminalization has a significant impact on reducing the rate of incarceration among youths.

Economic Benefit

The decriminalization of marijuana has a positive impact on the economy. According to Dills et al. (2021), the outcomes are essential in boosting the economy. The recreational use of marijuana has led to the creation of legal businesses that distributes and sells marijuana. These businesses have created employment for many groups of people, thereby reducing the rate of unemployment. Furthermore, it has promoted the development of marijuana tourism, which boosts the economic output as tourists usually use vital sectors of the economy such as the transportation sector and tourism and hospitality industry.

The tax revenue from the legalization of marijuana has significantly increased. States such as California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have a substantial tax on the recreational use of marijuana. Other tax rates include standard taxes on sales of marijuana products, the licensing fee for marijuana businesses, and medical dispensaries tax (Dills et al., 2021). Currently, Colorado makes approximately $20 million from recreational use of marijuana in a month. In 2015, recreational use of marijuana generated a revenue of $135 million. The city of Oakland collected taxes from the medical marijuana dispensaries that amount to $1.4 million (Fay, 2021). In 1996, California was among the states that legalized marijuana, and in that period, the states raised between $700 million and $1.3 billion from the sale of medical marijuana. In Colorado, the legal marijuana business raised a tax of $5 million (Fay, 2021). In Oregon, $6.7 million was raised from the marijuana industry and was used to finance other sectors of the economy, such as the medical sector (Fay, 2021). The importance of revenue generation from the sale of marijuana is also present in the state of Washington. The state collected revenue of $70 million from tax generation.


The research will utilize a literature review methodology to identify materials that investigate the benefit of decriminalizing marijuana. The selection of literature review is because it is challenging to use other research methods to determine the effect of decriminalizing marijuana. Furthermore, the data in this area is based on time series. The literature review will include the qualitative and the quantitative data that that is within the selected study period.

Preliminary Search and Idea Validation

Identifying materials that validate the research study is essential as it will provide the researcher with basic knowledge of the research topic. In this step, the researcher will focus on reducing the duplication rate to address the question under study. Furthermore, the process ensures that the research has enough materials for analysis. At this stage, the researcher focuses on the theme being addressed in the research question to ensure that it reflects the currently available materials.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

The inclusion and inclusion criteria provide the basis for the materials required to answer the research question. In this stage, the research materials that will be included in the research are specified by the inclusion criteria. The research will utilize materials published after the legalization of medical marijuana and for recreational purposes to enable the researcher to identify the changes that have taken place during this time. The peer-reviewed materials and statistics from known internet sites will also be included. Furthermore, publication materials from the governmental institution will also be included with emphasis on areas that have decriminalized and legalized marijuana. Peer-reviewed materials published from any part of the world will be used as long as they have legalized and decriminalized marijuana. The exclusion criteria will remove materials from unidentified authors on the internet, such as blogs and personal websites. Materials that are not relevant to the topic will also be excluded. Additionally, the abstract of the materials will be scanned to identify whether they are relevant to the topic.

Search Strategy

The search strategy will utilize various search engine engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The databases that will be used to identify the required materials include PubMed, Google Scholar, Booksc, science direct, research gate, and NIH. The keyword to be used during the search process include “marijuana decriminalization,” “cannabis decriminalization,” “marijuana legalization,” “cannabis legalization,” “benefits marijuana legalization,” and “benefits of cannabis legalization.” Every database will be searched, and the search results will be exported to the excel worksheet. Additionally, the selected articles will be manually searched to identify the relevant materials that can be included in the research study. The references included in various researches will be checked in the manual search, and those with links to databases such as Google Scholar and PubMed will be identified. Furthermore, where necessary, the authors of the material can also be contacted to provide additional information regarding the materials.

Data Extraction and Analysis

In this stage, independent reviewers will be included to extract data from the selected sources. The data quality will be checked to ensure that the selected data is valid for the study. In this stage, the qualitative and quantitative data will be separated to be analyzed by different methods. The qualitative data will be analyzed using the NVIVO software version 11.0 and themes generated. The quantitative data will be analyzed by SPSS software version 24.0.


Abizaid, A., Merali, Z., & Anisman, H. (2019). Cannabis: A potential efficacious intervention for PTSD or simply snake oil? Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 44(2), 75-78. Web.

Dills, A., Goffard, S., Miron, J., & Partin, E. The effect of state marijuana legalizations: 2021 Update (pp. 1-16). Web.

Fahley, E. (2019). Measuring the Criminal Justice System Impacts of Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Using State Data (pp. 1-49). Web.

Fay, B. (2021). The economics of marijuana legalization. Web.

Freeman, T., Hindocha, C., Green, S., & Bloomfield, M. (2019). Medicinal use of cannabis based products and cannabinoids. BMJ, 1-12. Web.

Grucza, R., Vuolo, M., Krauss, M., Plunk, A., Agrawal, A., Chaloupka, F., & Bierut, L. (2018). Cannabis decriminalization: A study of recent policy change in five U.S. states. International Journal of Drug Policy, 59, 67-75. Web.

Koubeissi, M. (2017). Anticonvulsant effects of Cannabidiol in Dravet Syndrome. Epilepsy Currents, 17(5), 281-282. Web.

Pacula, R., & Smart, R. (2017). Medical marijuana and marijuana legalization. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 13(1), 397-419. Web.

Plunk, A., Peglow, S., Harrell, P., & Grucza, R. (2019). Youth and adult arrests for cannabis possession after decriminalization and legalization of cannabis. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(8), 1-12. Web.

Sarvet, A., Wall, M., Fink, D., Greene, E., Le, A., & Boustead, A. et al. (2018). Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the United States: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Addiction, 113(6), 1003-1016. Web.

Stanton, D., Mei, X., Kim, S., Willits, D., Stohr, M., & Hemmens, C. et al. (2020). The effect of marijuana legalization on jail populations in Washington State. The Prison Journal, 100(4), 510-530. Web.

Yu, B., Chen, X., Chen, X., & Yan, H. (2020). Marijuana legalization and historical trends in marijuana use among U.S. residents aged 12–25: results from the 1979–2016 National Survey on drug use and health. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1-12. Web.