Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

Introduction

The issue regarding marijuana legalization has been subjected to intense public discourse among experts in different fields. Politicians, psychologists, doctors, professors, athletes, and legal experts have repeatedly discussed the topic without consensus for several years. The media and popular culture have been critical components in the raging discussion.

For instance, the media’s involvement has derailed efforts to find consensus between opposing sides. Proponents of marijuana legalization argue that the drug has medical benefits and it is an effective relaxant (Caulkins 34). On the other hand, opponents argue that legalization of marijuana will encourage misuse, increase addictions, and promote crime.

States such as Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use while other states are in their process of revising their laws. Marijuana should not be legalized because of its adverse health effects as well as its potential to cause addictions, increase crime, encourage misuse, and act as a gateway to hard drugs.

Adverse health effects

Medical experts have revealed that marijuana has adverse physical and mental health effects on users (Caulkins 34). This is the main reason why the Food and Drug Administration has not endorsed it for human consumption. According to the Drug Abuse Network, smoking three rolls of marijuana has the same effect as smoking 20 cigarettes (Ruschmann 44).

Continued use of marijuana has been linked to poor memory and abnormal brain structure that is characterized by shrinkage of the orbitofrontal cortex. In addition, the brains of heavy smokers have numerous cross-brain connections that alter certain brain functions. These defects affect the user’s ability to make decisions and express emotions. The effects are more severe in people who start using the drug at a young age.

Marijuana also affects the ability of the brain to form new memories and coordinate various body functions (Caulkins 36). As a result, activities such as learning and driving are affected significantly by sustained use. Consumption of large quantities causes side effects such as hallucinations, anxiety, and delusions.

Memory impairment is a good enough reason to oppose legalization of marijuana. Long-term effects of marijuana use include addiction as well as increased risk of developing bronchitis, schizophrenia, and depression (Ruschmann 46). Marijuana smoke is harmful to the lungs because it contains carcinogens that cause cancer and respiratory problems. Proponents of marijuana legalization argue that the drug has medical benefits because of its use as a relaxant and an agent to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

It is also prescribed to individuals with attention deficit disorders and contains cannabinoids that are effective in treating nausea. Despite these benefits, marijuana should not be legalized because its negative effects outweigh its benefits. On the other hand, alternative drugs that serve the aforementioned medical uses of marijuana are available and do not have similar adverse effects.

Crime

Legalizing marijuana will increase crime. Research has revealed that marijuana impairs judgment and can therefore influence individuals to commit crime (Caulkins 37). One of the most common crimes among marijuana users is physical assault and robbery with violence. In a study conducted in California to establish the link between marijuana and crime found out that 80% of offenders tested positive for marijuana (Ruschmann 48).

It was the most widely used drug among incarcerated criminals. Another study conducted in Denver established a similar relationship between crime and marijuana. Crime rate was high in neighborhoods situated near health facilities that administered marijuana for medical use. 7,000 cases were reported within 1,000 feet from those medical centers (Ingold and Meyer par. 4).

Denver’s District Attorney revealed that many of the cases involved armed robbery and homicide (Ingold and Meyer par. 4). According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use causes approximately 10 million deaths annually due to overdose and related effects (Ruschmann 51). The health costs related to the drug complications are huge especially those that accrue from rehabilitation of addicts.

Marijuana is a major factor in crime because it contributes towards violent and aggressive behaviors (Caulkins 38). These behaviors have been linked to increased cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. In certain cases, addicts commit crime in order to get money to fund their addictions. Finally, marijuana use interferes with proper motor coordination that is a common cause of traffic accidents.

Addiction

Continued use of marijuana causes addiction that affects various aspects of a victim’s life. According to research, approximately 9 percent of marijuana users develop addictions at certain stages in their lives (Friese and Grube 33). In individuals who start smoking at an early age, the risk of developing dependence on the drug is higher than in individuals who start later in life.

According to a report released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 4.5million of the 7.1 million addicts in the United Sates are dependent on marijuana (Ruschmann 52). In the year 2009, NSDUH estimated that 18 percent of teenagers who use drugs reported marijuana as their drug of choice (Ruschmann 52).

Marijuana addiction is compared to nicotine addiction that has severe withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, aggressiveness, irritability, and anxiety (Friese and Grube 34). Legalizing marijuana will encourage its use among young people that could lead to addictions in their youth. It is important to protect the welfare and future of young people.

Use as a gateway drug

According to the gateway drug theory, consumption of soft drugs exposes individuals to the risk of using heavy drugs (Ruschmann 58). Many addicts start with drugs such as marijuana whose side effects are not as severe as those of hard drugs. Proponents argue that not all drug users started with marijuana as their first drug. They ignore the results of various studies that have validated the use of marijuana as a gateway drug.

A survey conducted on users of hard drugs revealed that many of them started with marijuana before they started using hard drugs. Legalizing marijuana will expose many people to the risk of graduating to hard drugs that have more severe effects (Friese and Grube 36).

In order to lower the number of people who use hard drugs, it is necessary to maintain the use and possession of marijuana illegal. Marijuana is a gateway drug because it is cheap and readily available among young people. Hard drugs are more difficult to obtain and more expensive to buy than soft drugs.

Proponents’ arguments

Proponents argue that illegalization of marijuana is against the personal freedom and liberty provided for by the American constitution. They further argue that individuals should be allowed to use their free will to decide whether to use or not to use marijuana. This approach to the concept of freedom is misleading because limits should be set regarding certain matters that affect all citizens.

Laws exist to create order and harmony in society. In addition, proponents argue that illegalization does not stop people from using the drug and should therefore be legalized in order to reduce crime and eradicate drug trafficking. However, they ignore the fact that legalization will increase the number of addicts. It is unethical for the state to facilitate the distribution of a substance that has been shown to have adverse health effects on users (Ruschmann 63).

Legalization will increase associated health costs and encourage use among children and young people (Friese and Grube 37). Increased cases of addiction will result in broken families and children neglect. In order to avoid these problems, marijuana should not be legalized. It is the responsibility of states to protect the welfare of citizens.

Conclusion

The issue of marijuana legalization has been debated in the U.S. for many years. Some states have legalized its use amidst tough opposition from parents. According to proponents, legalization will reduce crime, foster personal freedom, and enhance its use in the medical field. On the other hand, opponents maintain that legalization will encourage misuse, increase crime, and multiply its adverse health effects.

The adverse effects of marijuana include addiction, respiratory problems, and shrinkage of the orbitofrontal cortex that affects the ability of individuals to express emotions and make decision. Marijuana legalization will increase crime because addicts will commit robberies to finance their addictions. Research has revealed that marijuana is the most common drug among offenders. Legalizing marijuana will encourage its misuse by children and teenagers. Currently, many people use it as a gateway to hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

Proponents argue that marijuana should be legalized because of its medical benefits and potential to reduce crime. They ignore it adverse effects on users especially individuals who use it for a sustained period. Marijuana has medical benefits. However, drugs with similar benefits and less severe effects exist and should be used.

Works Cited

Caulkins, Jonathan. Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

Friese, Bettina and Grube Joel. Legalization of Medical Marijuana and Marijuana Use Among Youths. Drugs 20.1 (2010): 33-39. Print.

Ingold, John and Meyer Jeremy. Slight Increase in Crimes near Denver Medical-Marijuana Dispensaries. 2013.

Ruschmann, Paul. Legalizing Marijuana. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.