Legalization of Marijuana
Several topics in modern day society cause controversy, but one topic that out ranks them all is the legalization of marijuana. The main argument is whether not marijuana should be treated the same as already legalized drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol. Many Americans use marijuana illegally; the people using the drug range from the age of teens to even adults in their eighties. Marijuana is considered by most, especially in legal terms, as a dangerous drug. Although the drug is seen as such, many still continue to use it and argue it should be legalized for several reasons.
Both citizens and government officials alike debate this topic. To successfully develop and argument for the legalization of marijuana the topic must be defined, the history of the topic must be unveiled, an argument must be made, and a good solution should be proposed. Yes, both sides of the argument both have well supported positions, but marijuana should be legalized by the United States government because the facts supporting legalization far outweigh the arguments keeping the drug as it is.
Proponents for the legalization of marijuana offer several valid reasons to support their positions. The most common reason is that marijuana is proven to be no more harmful to a person’s body then legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. They believe that the marijuana only affects the mind for a short term and the long-term effects are only minor.
Lawyers Adam Ford and Andrew Walter concur, “ Arguments against legalizing marijuana can usually be applied with equal validity to legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco: alcohol and tobacco can be addictive, can lead to financial or social problems when used in excess, and can lead to serious health problems” (1). These two well recognized attorneys agree that marijuana should be treated the same as tobacco and alcohol because most of the reasons opponents give to not legalize marijuana all fall under bad aspects of those legal drugs.
Another argument for the legalization is that the legal selling of marijuana would stimulate the economy. According to researcher, by placing a hardy tax on the drug, the American government could help cure the drastic economic situation America is in today. In the state of California the senate stated that just the crop of marijuana is worth fourteen million dollars. Thus, legalization would help, well hardily, to stabilize the economy (Russell 230). This large amount of money that legal marijuana is worth just by being taxed would benefit the economy instead of the drug dealers.
While there are many reasons for marijuana to be legalized, an equal number of arguments support its current illegal status. An argument against legalization involves the fact that is the government deemed it to be wrong, then it is simply wrong. George Wright and Heather Newton agree, “One function of government is to protect citizens from harm, whether it is from foreign enemies or from internal causes such as poisonous food or contaminated water.
Similarly, the ban on marijuana protects citizens from the dangers of drug consumption, as well as potentially destructive behaviors associated with marijuana use” (1). Many people believe that the US government has everything under control and have full faith in the institution, so if the government says it is harmful then it is harmful.
Marijuana is a drug, so, of course, it is a mind-altering substance. This aspect of the drug is a strong argument against its legalization. Mind-altering drugs severally affect the user of the drug and become a long-term “destroyer” of the weed smoker.
This supported by Newton and Wright who claim, substances like marijuana distort an individual’s perceptions and cause an artificial sense of pleasure or satisfaction that can become addictive. Further, intoxicants rob individuals of the ability to see a clear path out of difficulties or toward being a fully productive individual in society” (2). The way that marijuana affects the human brain is its own enemy. Why would a government allow its citizens to use something that interrupts the natural order of thinking?
Furthermore, several key terms relating to the topic, help clarify the issue. The terms one must be aware of to understand to the topic are the several different names that are used for marijuana. These names include: weed, “Mary Jane”, pot, dope, cannabis, reefer, and many slang words. While there are several names for the drug, marijuana is the most commonly used name and is the name used throughout most documents referring to the debate. Gateway drug is a term used throughout the argument of whether the drug should be legalized or not.
A gateway drug is a drug that is used to push a person to do more harmful and destructive drugs. Gateway drug is a term used by those opposing the legalization of marijuana to show its destructiveness. Another term is mind-alerting substance. This term is thrown around on both sides of the issue. A mind-altering substance is something g that cause one to loose judgment and common sense, something that literally affects the brain and its functions. These terms must be understood to be able to fallow the arguments throughout the issue.
The legalization of marijuana is argued by all people from teenagers debating in a school function to senators arguing over a proposed bill. Marijuana is an illicit drug that thousands of people want to legalize for many reasons, personally and morally. It is also a drug that thousands of people want the status to be the same as it is right now and never changed. This fact is the reason why the legalization of marijuana is such a controversial topic that is constantly argued over by all kinds of people. To be able to truly understand the debate of a topic, one must be aware of the background and history of said topic. The marijuana plant has been used in the world for hundreds of years.
Cannabis was first used as a medical drug in India, in the year 1200 (“The History”). Over the next seven hundred years marijuana ventured its way across Asia and Europe, ending up in the Americas. Americans were introduced to drugs in the late nineteenth century. According to researchers, the first law banning in type of illegal drug in the US was in 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act (Russell 533). This act banned the recreational use of opium and cocaine type drugs. A few years after this marijuana was introduced to America by immigrants from central America and the Caribbean Islands.
Marijuana use began to progress throughout America very quickly, especially in the Hispanic and African American communities. As the use of the drug began to expand, state governments began to realize it was a problem and acted accordingly. Russell relates that, by the 1930’s twenty-four states banned the use of cannabis in any possible way (533). This was the beginning of the widespread prohibition of marijuana in all of the country. Around this same time the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was created and was led by Harry J. Anslinger, who was know as the “father of marijuana prohibition (Russell 533).
With the criminalization of marijuana beginning to become a nationally understood topic, people began debate even more on the topic. Even well known people such as professors and government officials began to debate on the drug. Among these includes professor David F. Mutso, who stated, in 1935, that Anslinger was not an anti-marijuana “crusader,” and that he was focused more on heroin (Russell 534). Although this was the case many people were pushing for the federal prohibition of marijuana. These “people” include newspapers and public informing institutions, such as the New York Times.
This largely spread information began to change United States officials mind and in 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was passed (Russell 534). Although the name is discerning, this act prohibited the use of marijuana in all of the United States, and soon after all state governments banned the use of weed as well (“History of Cannabis”). In that same year, Samuel Caldwell was the first person to be convicted of selling drugs on the federal level (“The History”).
In the 1960’s and 1970’s America began to undergo a grand social change. With this social change many citizens began to smoke marijuana illegally with no concern for the law. Even soldiers at war consumed the drug. The Times wrote that even one soldier smoked cannabis every time he was out on patrol during the Vietnam War (Russell 535). The use of Marijuana began to show up in media forms to such as music and movies. This blatant use proved that laws were not going to stop people from doing what they want: to smoke weed.
Russell states, “ Marijuana use by twelfth graders climbed during the seventies in all regions and among all racial and ethnic groups . . . . [reaching] by then an all-time high of 50.8 percent of all high school seniors [who] had used marijuana” (536). With many American using this drug with out respect of the law, people of importance in the government began the debate of legalizing the use of marijuana. In 1969, the Supreme Court outlawed the Stamp Act, making cannabis legal for a short time until 1970, when the Controlled Substance Act was passed (“History of Cannabis ”). This embarked the beginning of one of the largest debates in American history.
By the 1990’s the government began to place a zero tolerance rule on drug convicts, meaning they receive no sympathy. The government had become much stricter and more abusive on making sure that marijuana stayed illegal and that Americans knew it. As the government became harder on drugs, including marijuana, this caused US citizens to want it legalized even more, thus strengthening the debate on the issue. According to Russell, as people began wanting it to be legalized, researches also began realize the medical uses for marijuana and soon after in the state of California marijuana was legalized for medical uses only (534). This was one small step for marijuana to be fully legalized. This medical marijuana sparked even more debate on the issue, and as the government debated more and more, Hawaii and Colorado pass medical marijuana laws aswell (Russell 534).
In 2006, the FDA sated that marijuana was harmful and had no medical use and vetoed the medical-marijuana law (“The History”). Although medical marijuana is considered illegal in federal standings, the Obama administration has stated that that they will defer to state medical marijuana laws. This means that the federal government will allow the states to decide how to deal with the issue. So with the debate of legalizing marijuana also come with the smaller debate of the legalization of medical marijuana. (Russell 534).
As the United States entered the new millennia, many Government officials began to propose bills for the legalization of marijuana (“The History”). They did this stating many things such as that it could help stabilize the economy by taxing the drug and that weed is no worse then legal drugs. Of course, these bills were never passed, but it put the ideas into the heads of several people in Washington. Today, there are more Senators and House Representatives who agree with marijuana legalization than ever. With more leaders of our country beginning to change sides of the argument, many citizens are fallowing by example and agreeing.
The history of the issue is not long in terms of world history but it is something that needs be understood to know why the debate of the legalization is such a controversy. As the history of marijuana continues to grow, so does the strength of the controversial debate of legalization. The legalization of marijuana is a controversial topic, which on almost every American adult has an opinion. The topic has been argued for many years, but there must be a side that is right in the end. Both sides, pro and con, of legalizing marijuana have very convincing arguments, but the reasons of pro legalization are far more convincing than the opponents’ side. Legalization of marijuana is very beneficial to the United States as a whole and its citizens. There are several very well thought out reasons that support the legalization marijuana.
First and foremost, marijuana effects on the human body are no more harmful to then legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol. Marijuana is a mind-altering drug that can be dangerous in certain situations, but alcohol is also a drug that greatly affects the mind that causes even more destruction than marijuana (“Facts”). If marijuana is no more harmful to the mind than alcohol, should it not be treated the same? If an individual consumes too much alcohol at one time, it could result in alcohol poisoning and the individual could die, but someone cannot die from over consumption of marijuana, making marijuana safer than alcohol (“Facts”).
Researchers agree that alcohol is one of the most intoxicating drugs, while marijuana is one of the least, and that there has never been a single death from an overdose of weed (“Facts”). Opponents of legalization argue that because marijuana is smoked and inhaled, it can cause lung and throat problems, but tobacco is also inhaled and can cause the exact same effects as cannabis. Tobacco is actually the leading cause of lung cancer found in US citizens. Although opponents of the argument contest that marijuana effects the mind in an entirely different way than legal drugs, weed is equally, if not less, dangerous to people and their minds. Ford and Walter agree, “Marijuana should be placed in the same category as alcohol and tobacco: a legal, regulated intoxicant” (1). So if the marijuana is no more dangerous than legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and the government says these drugs are safe, then the United States government in turn agrees that marijuana is safe.
Moreover, a federal tax on legalized marijuana could play a significant role in helping stabilize the failing American economic system. The United States is in an economic turmoil, and the country has been stuck
in a recession for the past years. Taxing marijuana could pump billions of dollars into the system causing a theoretical inflation, which could initially help propel America to stabilization. Even the Californian governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger agrees that the US should look at the economic benefits of legalized marijuana (Russell 527). Opponents argue that a simple tax on one drug could not have a long-term effect on the American economy, but a marijuana tax would produce revenue into the system without any type of government spending. Also, the mass production of marijuana will require thousands of jobs. This means thousands of people would obtain jobs causing the unemployment rate to lower substantially.
The amount of money that would be produced by legalized marijuana is outstanding. Americans already spend millions of dollars on an illegal drugs, even with the dangers of being charged with a crime, so with it legalized these Americans will be willing to spend even more money annually. Thirdly, marijuana can be used for medical purposes, to help treat diseases for example, cancer and glaucoma. This drug has scientific proof that it can help patients with the awful pain that comes with many illnesses. Researchers state, Doctors already use highly addictive drugs such as dolodin and morphine to help treat patients with severe pain. Both of these drugs are completely legal for medical use and are used on an everyday basis (“Medical Marijuana”). If the government can allow these drugs, which are potentially dangerous, they should also allow medical marijuana be a regularly practiced treatment. Medical marijuana has been passed by state legislation in several states including California, Hawaii, and Colorado (“Medical Marijuana”). State level officials recognize that marijuana’s medical uses are very feasible and that it is worth legalization.
If states want medical marijuana, then soon the federal government will follow by example and do the same. Legalization of marijuana will make it easier for those, who would benefit form its medical uses, to be able to obtain the drug.Finally, with cannabis’s legalization would result in the crime rate associated with the drug to lower at an exponential rate. The individuals that obtain and sell illicit drugs come with many dangerous and illegal things other than the drugs they sell. Most “drug dealers,” that sell large supplies of marijuana are also involved with many other crimes such as murder and assault. Although opponents of legalization argue that marijuana being legalized would not have a big effect on crime, with law enforcement not having to deal with crime around marijuana they would have much more time to handle other more life threatening crimes.Chris Collins is a narcotics police officer at the Memphis Police Department. He patrols the highways five days of the week searching vehicle after vehicle trying to find large amounts of marijuana and other drugs.
He wastes many of his days searching for marijuana and usually coming up with nothing, when he could have used this time doing something else such as patrolling the streets for criminals committing more dangerous crimes. Collins agreed, “ I wish sometimes I could spend more time searching for more dangerous illicit drugs such as cocaine or crystal meth or stopping crimes that affect the lives of Memphis citizens” (2).Several reasons support the legalization of marijuana: marijuana is no more dangerous than legal drugs, a tax on legal marijuana would have positive effects of the economy, marijuana has medical uses, and legalized marijuana would cause a safer US. The topic has been argued over for many years, yet these valid reasons help prove that marijuana should be legalized. No argument for either side of a controversial topic is any good without a solution that follows it. The legalization of marijuana is argued over and over again, but nothing will be done unless a compromising solution is reached.
Cannabis should be legalized, but to prevent the dangers that opponents of legalization fear for the drug, the law should contain certain parameters. These parameters include an age minimum and a limit on how much marijuana an individual can purchase at one time. Both sides of the argument must make sacrifices to make an ending decision to the controversy. If marijuana is legalized, certain concessions are necessary. To begin, the age minimum that would be set for legalized marijuana would help protect young people who are not wise adults from the dangers of abusing the drug. If people who do not know their own limits does not carefully consume marijuana, then it could be harmful to their bodies. Ford and Walter conclude that marijuana is not dangerous until someone uses and abuses it the wrong way (1).
Children and teenagers do not know how to handle potentially dangerous substances such as drugs. This is evident also because other legalized drugs have age minimums set by the United States government. No one under the age of twenty-one can consume alcohol; likewise tobacco is not allowed to be sold to citizens under the legal age of eighteen. The drug being legalized gives the people what they want, but the age boundary allows the government to continue to protect them. Moreover, if the federal government set a limit on the amount of marijuana that someone could purchase at one time, it would prevent the drug from being abused but still allow its consumers to enjoy its benefits. Americans are known around the world for their over consumption of wants. This is evident in our increasing obesity problem. So if cannabis were legalized then many United States citizens would end up over consuming the drug and put themselves, their bodies, and their minds in danger (Russell 540). The limit of obtaining the drug would save lives, allowing the government to still have some control over the usage, while it will not have one hundred percent control.
With a proposed solution to the controversy of the legalization of marijuana, the argument pro legalization is completed. There are several reasons that marijuana should be legalized. Although opponents of the controversy have facts supporting their argument, the facts supporting proponents far out weigh the other side. Marijuana has been a drug that has struck argument among arguments in the past decades. The legalization of cannabis is a topic that will stir up controversy until a final solution has been made that has elements pleasing both sides of the argument. The legalization of marijuana could find a ending solution by both sides coming together to create a balanced and sacrificial decision. If this happens not only will proponents of legalization but also opponents will be happy and satisfied with the final decision
Collins, Chris. Personal Interview. 30 March 2011.
“Facts on Cannabis and Alcohol”. SAFERchoice.org. N.P.. 2007. Web.3 Apr. 2011. Ford, Adams and Andrew Walter. “Point: Marijuana Should Be Legalized.” Point ofView: Legalization of Marijuana. 2009. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 8 Mar. 2011. “History of Cannabis Prohibition.” Legalize.org. N.p., 2005.Web. 29 Mar 2011. “The History of Marijuana.” LegalizationofMarijuana.com. N.p., 2008.Web. 29 Mar 2011. “Medical Marijuana.” Drugpolicy.org. Drug Policy Alliance. 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2011 Newton, George and Heather Newton. “ Counterpoint: There Are No Good Reasonsto Legalize Marijuana.” Point of View: Legalization of Marijuana. 2009. Pointsof View Reference Center. Web. 2011. “Medical Marijuana.” ProCon.org. N.P.. 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2011 Russell, Julia. “Legalizing Marijuana.” CQ Researcher. (12 Jun. 2009). CQ Press.Web. 8 Mar. 2011.