One of today’s largest debates in the United States is whether or not to legalize marijuana. Personally, I believe that the legalization of cannabis would be largely beneficial to the United States, with very few detriments in comparison to the advantages. Cannabis is currently classified in most states as a Schedule I Drug, meaning that it is in the same category as dangerous hard drugs like LSD, Heroin, and MDMA.
In my research, the arguments against marijuana legalization tend to be fairly unfounded. First, many argue that the exposure of the younger generation to legal marijuana usage would increase underage smoking. In reality, the opposite is true. Legalizing marijuana would allow the government to introduce a minimum smoking age, and an overall decrease in underage use would result. Similar to alcohol, there would of course still be some underage usage, but with ID checks on age for legal purchase the trending of usage among underage smokers would decrease. Second, there is an argument that many users would experience lowered motivation, causing loss of jobs and failure in school. However, unless marijuana is irresponsibly used, there is no reason that it would cause this. Of course, if someone is smoking during school or work hours, then they would experience a decrease in productivity. The same is true of alcohol use, sleeping, ditching school, eating too much, or anything else used in excess at improper times. Marijuana is not the cause of motivation deficiencies, irresponsible use is. Third, many argue that marijuana would cause more road accidents. In reality, marijuana is much less impairing than alcohol. It is still a concern, but would easily be combated with a DUI law similar to that used for alcohol. Fourth, people have said that marijuana will cause mental deterioration and make people “stupid.” In truth, studies have found no correlation between marijuana usage and lowered intelligence. Many studies have even shown beneficial mental effects, including an increase in creativity and decrease in memory loss as one grows older. Fifth, a common argument is that the use of marijuana is somehow immoral. To that, I would just like to say that it is not the responsibility of anyone to attempt to control someone else’s moral choices.
Beyond the reasons listed above, there are a lot of other advantages to legalizing cannabis. Firstly, as proven by alcohol prohibition, banning the use of a substance simply doesn’t work. People are going to smoke marijuana whether or not it is legal. Secondly, marijuana is not dangerous. It is far healthier to use marijuana than any other major drug, including tobacco or alcohol. Marijuana is not linked to violence or abuse, whereas alcohol or hard drugs are. Instead, marijuana tends to have more of a calming influence. Furthermore, in contrast to alcohol and cigarette usage, marijuana is not addictive. It is true that it can become habitually used, but you will not experience withdrawals when you quit. Additionally, it is virtually impossible to have a fatal overdose on marijuana. Third, the criminal justice system would benefit from the legalization of marijuana. Jailing is hugely expensive. The national average spending per inmate is $31,286 in a year. In 2012, there were 658,000 people arrested for possession. Imagine, with that number of inmates added to the jail system per year, the cost of prison for marijuana-related incarcerations alone. The numbers are astronomical. By legalizing marijuana, the money going towards jails and prisons would experience a huge decrease, saving funding for other government programs. Fourth, the legal sale of marijuana would help to lower illegal purchase. Most people would choose a legal option if it is available. This would keep the money out of the hands of drug lords and gangs, and add money directly to the United States economy. Along this line, taxation of marijuana would bring in huge profits to the government. Taxes for marijuana are high. Colorado demands a 10% marijuana tax, 2.9% state sales tax, and any local taxes. This brings it up to over 13% tax on the price of marijuana. In fact, in the first six months of 2014, Colorado brought in $25 million from marijuana revenue. Country-wide legalization would draw huge amounts of funding. Fifth, marijuana is hugely useful for a number of medical uses but with both medical and recreational usage banned by most states, it is largely inaccessible. With its effects against memory loss, decrease in pain, and its calming qualities, marijuana is successful in treating symptoms and increasing the quality of life for patients. Marijuana is used to treat symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol abuse, alzheimer’s, anorexia, cancer, epilepsy and seizures, insomnia, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, OCD, anxiety and panic disorders, and a whole plethora of other medical issues.
Overall, the benefits for the legalization of cannabis far outweigh the (virtually nonexistent) detriments. I believe firmly that permitting the legal sale and use of marijuana across the country would have positive effects on citizens and government alike.
The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers by Christian Hendrichson and Ruth Delaney http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/price-of-prisons-updated-version-021914.pdf