Just like any other American, the controversy surrounding the use and sale of marijuana has been an interesting subject to me. I have always wondered why a drug that is illegal still remains as one of the fast selling commodities in the market. The fact that nearly all prominent personalities in the country have at one time used the drug makes the whole issue even more appealing. I have spent some considerable time trying to study the effects brought about by marijuana and I have to confess that I do not quite understand the hullabaloo surrounding the issue.
I have been examining claims from both the proponents and opponents of marijuana legalization and find myself leaning more on the side of those calling for legalization of the drug. This is because although the drug has its own negative effects, it is not life threatening as are majority other drugs available in the market today. (NIDA)
Legalization of Marijuana
According to Rosalie Pacula from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), marijuana ranks as one of the most used illegal drug in the world. According to Pacula, more than 25 million people were estimated to have used the drug in 2002 alone. The current trend shows that the drug is gaining more users as the years go by. According to NBER, the rate of arrests resulting from the use of marijuana has significantly gone up over the years.
This has led to overburdening of the criminal justice systems in many states hence the calls from different quarters to relax the policies regarding marijuana. These calls are also meant to ease the economic budgets that state governments use to punish marijuana offenders. Following these calls, some states in the U.S are reducing the sentences handed to marijuana offenders especially the first timers found with small amounts of the drug. This shows that these states have realized that marijuana is not as bad as people think and they are slowly moving towards fully legalizing the drug. This move should be emulated by every state that has not yet taken steps aimed towards fully legalizing the drug. (Pacula 15)
Another reason why I highly believe that marijuana should be legalized is due to the economic factor surrounding the whole issue. Although prohibiting the use of marijuana reduces its trafficking and use among people, it is advisable to look at its result. By looking at the situation on the ground, one would be quick to notice the ban has only self-effacing effects on trafficking and consumption while causing numerous problems characteristically associated with marijuana itself.
The government spends an enormous budget in trying to prohibit marijuana. This prohibition prevents the government from collecting revenue of marijuana manufacture and trade. If the government took the right steps to legalize the sale of marijuana, it would avoid the huge sums used in enforcing the ban. In return, the money gotten from the revenue would help in reducing the government’s expenditure and consequently increase tax income. Considering that the government’s efforts to curb the spread of marijuana use are not yielding the expected result, I highly think that it is time to change tact. The government can turn the marijuana problem into its advantage if it legalizes the drug. (Miron)
One thing that people opposing the legalization of marijuana have been pointing out is the association that smoking marijuana has on the respiratory system. While I agree that indeed there are harmful chemicals in marijuana smoke, it would be hypocritical to claim that the effects of this smoke are more dangerous than that of other drugs. According to medical experts, cannabis smoke produces the same kind of harmful chemicals as that emitted from tobacco smoke. It is interesting to note that smoking tobacco produces the same effect as smoking marijuana. In fact, tobacco smoke has been proved to contain higher levels of carboxyhaemoglobin residues.
Just like tobacco, people who smoke cannabis are equally addicted. On a more positive note, while there is an established connection between tobacco smoke and lung cancer, a similar connection is yet to be made for marijuana smokers. This clearly shows that the reasons given by opponents that marijuana smoking causes respiratory problems are arguments that have no basis. If these people were more serious about protecting the young generation from the harmful effects of marijuana, they would also be in the first place to also advocate for the ban of tobacco. Until we come to that point, I think it will only be fair if we legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana given that it is less harmful compared to tobacco. (Moore, et al 35)
Just like any drug, marijuana should be subject to further research. However, DEA that is tasked with giving out permissions to people willing to carry out research on this field has constantly been denying that permission citing the protection of public interest on the matter. By refusing to grant out permission, DEA is denying researchers and Americans the opportunity to realize the numerous benefits that might be available in the drug.
Given the high number of people using marijuana either legally or illegally, I think the time has come to allow unrestricted research on a drug that can bring an economic revolution in our country if it is legalized. Legalizing marijuana can also go a long way in ensuring that it is not abused. Many people tend to abuse drugs that have been banned but once they are legalized, people use them in moderation. I believe that would be an excellent opportunity if we became wise enough and legalized the use of marijuana. (Stafford)
Another reason why I highly think that legalizing marijuana is an idea whose time has come is due to the medicinal value that the drug contains. According to medical experts, marijuana is known to reduce the effects of numerous chronic diseases. Some of these ailments include, cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS just to mention but a few. If we paused for a while to think about the pain that cancer patients go through, we will be reluctant to call for the ban of marijuana knowing that administering a small dose of marijuana helps patients to cope with pain caused by these ailments. In fact, some U.S. states like Washington are already on their way towards fully legalizing the drug.
According to Ashley Southall from the New York Times, the Columbian district has taken some bold measures seen to be paving the way for legalization of marijuana due to its medicinal value. According to the article by Southall, the Columbian District Council has approved several dispensaries where people with chronic ailments can receive up to four ounces of medical marijuana. (Southall)
The same legislation has already been passed in 14 other states in America. It is quite sad to notice that even doctors are afraid of administering a doctor that is known in medical circles to do wonders for patients undergoing intense pain. I highly think that by legalizing this drug we will be doing a big service to patients who need it. It is sad to notice that despite many people approving the use of medical marijuana, congress still refuses to release the money needed for the creation of a marijuana program in different states.
If we as a country decide to become the compassionate people that we claim to be, we will do anything possible to ensure that terminally ill patients get the relief that only marijuana can offer them. Until we get to that point in time, we will not be able to be termed as people who are concerned about the welfare of others. This will only be possible if all of us come together and push for the legalization of marijuana. (MacCoun, 50)
The debate about marijuana legalization is definitely going to be around for a long time to come. This is because people have different interests on the matter. Despite the federal government putting up stiff penalties meant to deter marijuana users, the problem is still rampant in all the states. This calls all of us to change tact on the way we approach the issue. Given the numerous benefits that we can get by legalizing marijuana, I think that it is an idea whose time has come. It is sad to notice that despite there being plenty of proof that smoking cigarettes causes more harm than smoking marijuana, nothing is still being done to approve the use of this less harmful drug.
MacCoun, R. “Interpreting Dutch cannabis policy: reasoning by analogy in the legalization debate,” Science, 2004. 47-52. Print.
Miron, Jeffrey. The budgetary implications of marijuana prohibition, 2005. Web.
Moore, et al. Respiratory Effects of Marijuana and Tobacco Use in a U.S. Sample. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2005. 33-37. Print.
NIDA. InfoFacts: Marijuana. National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2009. Web.
Pacula, Rosalie. Marijuana Decriminalization: What does it mean in the United States? National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004. 1-34. Print.
Southall, Ashley. Washington Approves Medical Use Of Marijuana. New York Times, 2010. Web.
Stafford, Lindsay. The State of Clinical Cannabis Research in the United States. HerbalGram 85, 2010. Web.