Grass, weed, pot, cannabis, Mary Jane, skunk, dope, Ganja: these are all names used to refer to marijuana, the drug that stirs up constant debate on its legalization. Marijuana is the most popular and widely used illegal drug in the United States, and despite its illegality, a vast number of the population of the United States has tried marijuana at some point their lives, including many high-profile individuals such as former president Barack Obama and billionaire media mogul Ted Turner.
However, marijuana is an illegal drug and remains on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Schedule I List of the Controlled Substance Act, alongside much harder drugs such as heroin, the drug currently at the forefront of the drug epidemic responsible for taking young lives across the nation. Marijuana should be taken off the Scheduled List of Controlled Substances, as it is not a hard drug and it should not be in the same category as heroin, but instead should be categorized in the same way that alcohol and nicotine are.
Despite being an illegal drug, it is apparent that millions of Americans already use marijuana regularly, and if the United States Government takes steps to legalize the drug federally, it will reap many benefits. In the debate over the legalization of marijuana, it would be beneficial for the United States Government to legalize the drug at a federal level for several reasons, including the boost to the economy it will generate, the medicinal benefits it provides, and the reduction in crime that will occur due to its decriminalization.
Firstly, a major argument for the legalization of marijuana is the massive economic impact that it will have on the country. If the federal government regulates and taxes marijuana in the same way it regulates and taxes cigarettes and alcohol, the government will create billions of dollars in revenue tax. For example, the state of Colorado made recreational and medicinal marijuana use legal in recent years, and the state has gained many financial benefits since legalizing marijuana.
According to The Tax Foundation Special Report by Joseph Henchman and Morgan Scarboro, since Colorado began retail sales of marijuana in 2014, the tax revenue collected has exceeded expectations with “Collections of $56 million in calendar year 2014 (that) grew to $113 million in calendar year 2015, and (was) likely (to) exceed $140 million in calendar year 2016” (4). By passing legislation at a federal level to make marijuana legal, the United States Government will collect billions of dollars in tax revenue each year to funnel into funding schools and other federal programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.
The legalization of marijuana will also boost the economy by creating thousands of jobs across the country, including agricultural jobs growing the crop itself, and retail jobs at the point of sale in dispensaries. In addition to creating jobs, the marijuana industry will bring economic growth to communities across the nation, as there will be a demand for local goods and services as growers seek land and space to grow their crop, lighting and irrigation to properly cultivate their crop, as well as services that any small business may require, such as the services of accountants and lawyers.
Secondly, and perhaps the argument met with the least resistance for the legalization of marijuana, are the medicinal benefits that it provides, as marijuana has been proved to offer relief for several different medical conditions. Using marijuana for medicinal purposes is not a recent discovery, as the plant has been used as a medicine since ancient times, and today citizens across the country use marijuana as a treatment for many medical ailments, with one of the most prominent uses being to reduce seizures of those who suffer from epilepsy.
A National Geographic article tells the story of Addelyn Patrick, a young girl who began experiencing seizures when she was just six months old, and who after a few short months, was having up to 300 seizures a day (Marijuana’s Moment). The effects of anticonvulsant medication led Addy to sleep the day away, resulting in mediocre quality of life for the young girl, so her parents took her to Colorado where she began cannabidiol treatment, and since beginning treatment, Addy has only one or two seizures a day (54-55).
In addition to preventing seizures, marijuana is a proven aid in decreasing the symptoms of nausea and vomiting in cancer and HIV patients caused by harsh HIV and cancer drugs, thus stimulating the patient’s appetite and therefore increasing food take and nutrition. Cancer is a prevalent disease which affects almost every individual at some point in his or her life, either directly or indirectly, and it is devastating to see the effects of chemotherapy on a loved one where they cannot keep anything down, so it would be advantageous for marijuana to be a legal option to treat nausea and improve quality of life.
In addition to marijuana aiding with nausea in cancer patients, National Geographic reports that Spanish biochemist Manuel Guzman’s recent studies show that cannabis compounds shrunk and even eliminated some tumors in the brains of rats, and although it is not yet known if it will have the same effect in humans, it is promising research that marijuana may one day aid in finding a cure for cancer (Marijuana’s Moment 49-51).
Furthermore, marijuana has also been demonstrated to deliver relief to those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, where the drug has aided with pain relief from the muscle spasms that the disease causes, and similarly it has been shown to calm tremors that patients with Parkinson’s disease suffer from. A third advantage of the legalization of marijuana would be the reduction in crime rates, as every year across America many lives are lost due to violent crime and the war on drugs.
According to an article published in the B. E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, “the illegal US marijuana market provides an estimated $2 billion to $8. 5 billion in annual revenue to Mexican cartels alone” (Huber III et al. 4). Therefore, by decriminalizing marijuana, drug cartels will suffer financially and there will be less competition between cartels, resulting in less need for violence and consequently, a reduction in violent crime. Additionally, that is $2 billion to $8. 5 billion that the government could create in tax revenue and put into the United States economy instead of the pockets of Mexican cartels and drug lords.
Moreover, a reduction in gang activity and rivalry will occur, as the legalization will cut off a revenue stream for illegal drug dealers which will force them out of business, resulting in a decrease in crime. As a result, the streets will be safer for citizens across the country, and there will be less delinquency among teens and young adults as it will prevent them from entering the illegal drug business. An additional advantage of the legalization of marijuana is that it will allow the police force to better utilize its time and resources.
Marijuana possession and drug offenses currently account for a high number of arrests across the United States and by decriminalizing marijuana, it will allow law enforcement departments to free up its resources to concentrate on more serious and violent crimes such as homicide, burglaries, sexual abuse, rape, child abuse, and domestic violence. While there are many advantages to the legalization of marijuana, there are still many who oppose the legalization of the drug. One argument opposing the legalization is that marijuana is an addictive drug, and it is also a gateway drug to harder substance abuse.
While this is a valid concern, other legal substances such as alcohol and cigarettes, and even caffeine and sugar, are more addictive, plus there is no conclusive evidence to prove that marijuana is a gateway drug. There are also concerns about the health effects of long term marijuana use and respiratory issues due to the carcinoids in it, however, the number of people with respiratory problems due to marijuana pales in comparison to the staggering amount of health and lung issues due to tobacco use.
An additional argument is the health risks it poses to those who use marijuana as teenagers and young adults whose brains have not yet been fully developed, as it has been suggested that it hurts in brain development and lowers IQ. However, if the drug is legalized, the sale of marijuana would be more regulated and it would have a minimum purchase age of 21 years, thus making it harder for teens to get their hands on the drug.
Another contrasting viewpoint is due to the concerns associated with driving under the influence of marijuana, as marijuana use impairs and slows reaction times which could lead to an increase in traffic accidents. Driving under the influence of marijuana would have the same implications that driving under the influence of alcohol currently does, with individuals having to conduct field sobriety tests if law enforcement suspect they are under the influence, and if they are proved to be under the influence, they will undergo the same legal ramifications that individuals convicted of alcohol DUI currently do.
In conclusion, there are several benefits that legalizing marijuana could bring to the United States. The United States Government must remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act for the country to reap the benefits that legalizing the drug will provide. Media outlets are constantly reporting about the number of underfunded state and federal programs such as Social Security and government pensions, and by ending marijuana prohibition, tax revenue dollars from marijuana sales can fund these programs.
Moreover, there are many patient advocates across the nation for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Imagine how many ailments could be eased in patients across the nation by ending the prohibition on marijuana and how it could improve the quality of life for so many people across the nation.
Finally, by ending marijuana prohibition, it would allow law enforcement officers across the nation to better use their resources and focus on more violent crime, in turn saving taxpayer money. When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, although one may feel it does not affect them personally, it is in the best interest of the nation to legalize the drug as it could aid the country in many beneficial ways, and the benefits supersede the negative aspects.