The legalization of marijuana is a sensitive subject because it tests our morality as a Nation. Anytime America tries to make a major progressive change there are always certain ethical risks that will be represented about our country to the rest of the World. Not only will the country be perceived differently, but the people within the nation will act accordingly. The ethical challenge with legalizing marijuana is a progressive forefront. The United States of America has always been cautious when it comes to changing laws that have been around since the birth of its homeland, and for a good reason. America has always tried to set an example to the rest of the World. The word “freedom” itself is associated with our country because of the great possibilities it provides to anyone in the world.
The battle for legalization is a major change representing the struggle for power between State and Federal Government. With these numerous accounts of ethics in question from our Government and the sovereign people, a few stand out amongst the rest. The health benefits of marijuana, the pharmaceutical companies that could potentially control the drug, and the introduction of a drug into an abusive culture. The most influential fact about the use of cannabis is its medicinal uses. Studies have been conducted over the last few years proving its significance in the healing industry. The legalization of marijuana could likely be for this reason alone.
The pharmaceutical companies that would eventually control the distribution of the drug will have a high demand. The legalization of marijuana will introduce more citizens to the drug. People who already use the drug, and the people who will try it because of its legality, will be included in the populations that ingest the drug. The question of the authenticity of the companies producing the drug will come into question as well, since there are already problems with certain distributors. America as a whole is an abusive country when it comes to intoxicants. Compared to other countries around the World alcohol is not frowned upon as an evil liquid. Since the laws in America are so strict, people feel the need to celebrate when they have the privilege to consume such intoxicants.
It would be difficult to debate that the same thing will not happen with marijuana. As we speak there are states that have already legalized medicinal marijuana. People have already flocked to these destinations to use the medicine legally. Since the drug is more available, the potential for adolescents attempting the drug will only increase with the increased availability of the drug. The effects of cannabis are more significant on children and teens than adults. If the brain is not fully developed it can harm certain parts of development. The issue of legalizing marijuana in the United States is progressing through the discussion of the various pros and cons. The legalization of medicinal and recreational use of the drug already exists at state level. The future of marijuana is in the hands of the American people. As long as the Federal Government continues their resistance to change, the United States will also be unable to progress.
All across the United States people debate whether or not marijuana should be legalized. There are many aspects that are associated with this debate. One of which, if legalized, is whether it should be used recreationally or strictly for medicinal purposes. Regardless of the reasons people have supporting their opinion, legalizing marijuana would result in some undeniably positive effects. Legalization would allow the Government to take a similar stance that they take on cigarettes. If it were legalized the Government would then be able to tax the product and benefit from its sale rather than spend the money trying to force it off of the streets. Legalization would also allow the Government to spend the money saved on areas of need and also focus more on the dangerous drugs. The legalization of marijuana would also allow the Government to regulate the sale of marijuana.
The Government would be able to regulate the product itself and have better control of what exactly people were using and also how much they were using. The United States’ economy would also benefit from the sale. Not only would the country and state levels make money from the taxes on the product, but the country would also benefit from the jobs that would result in the different areas needed to sell the product. Finally, marijuana also has many proven medical benefits that exist, however without being legal we cannot fully understand these benefits.
The Government must legalize marijuana and then tax it similar to the tax already placed on cigarettes. According to an article by Travis Eubanks, in the first day of legalization sales in Colorado totaled more than $1 million dollars. Over the first week this number grew to $5 million. Also, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue-division of taxation, “With state taxes at 35% and the ability for cities to add their own sales tax, the legalization will bring in about $70 million dollars in revenue in the first year, of which $40 million will go to education and schools”. Every state in America could benefit from the sale of this product and then use the money to help fund other important sectors like schools and other government projects. It makes a lot of sense to start making money from the sale of the product since it is taking place anyways.
According to an article by Caroline Fairchild in the Huffington Post, a 2010 study from Cato shows legalizing marijuana would generate $8.7 billion dollars in federal and state tax revenue annually. Also, the state of Washington estimates it will amass roughly $1.9 billion dollars over the first five years of legalization. All this money created would result in a much smaller national debt and result in increases in government run areas. If the United States legalized the sale of marijuana it would also allow a massive amount of money to be spent on different areas of need. Roughly 700,000 people each year are arrested on marijuana possession charges. With all of these arrests the government pays $8.7 billion on things like the probation process to help enforce these laws. If marijuana was legalized the country would be able to spend this $8.7 billion on other areas of need and focus on more dangerous drugs and crimes. They could also use the $8.7 billion they gained from the taxes on other areas including roads and state initiatives.
The legalization would also lead to an increase in jobs across America. Jobs such as recommending physicians, growers, dispensary operators, and delivery drivers would all see a drastic increase from the legalization of marijuana. The crop would first need to be planted by the farmers, tended to, and finally harvested. After that the product would need to be shipped to other areas across the country where it would finally be sold to the customers. The increase in jobs would result in a more prosperous economy and ultimately lead to a lower unemployment rate. The legalization has many economic benefits that this country greatly needs.
Marijuana can be used not only as a recreational substance, but also for medicinal purposes as well. Psychiatrist Tod H. Mikuriya believes marijuana is able to treat symptoms of over 200 ailments including stuttering, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, and writer’s cramp. The National Cancer Institute also agrees saying that marijuana is beneficial in the treatment of side effects of chemotherapy, preventing nausea and vomiting, increasing appetite, relieving pain, and improving sleep. Many people are already benefiting from the use of medical marijuana. One example we found interesting was Charlotte Figi, who was having seizures soon after she was born. By the time she was three she was having roughly 300 of them a week! After beginning treatments with medical marijuana her brain has been calmed down to the point that she only has 2 or 3 of them a month. She went from having roughly 1,200 a month to only about 2 or 3.
It is simply amazing that by using marijuana someone can reduce the amount of seizures they have by that large of an amount. It perplexes most people that someone can deny the ability to use marijuana for a detriment of such magnitude. Who should have the right to stop them from using marijuana for an illness such as Charlotte’s? Marijuana has many other medical benefits that would affect people’s lives. Marijuana has the potential to stop HIV from spreading through the body, it slows the progression of Alzheimer’s, it slows the spread of cancer cells, and it helps to prevent depression. These are just a few of the benefits that medicinal marijuana would provide to the World. The product was made illegal in the first place because it was said that there were no medical implications for it. We clearly can see today that this was a false statement and we will not fully understand how great the benefits will be unless it is legalized so that more research and tests can be done on the product.
When researching marijuana there are many pros and cons that you will find regarding it. Not usually mentioned are the plentiful ethical issues, especially when you look into legalizing marijuana in the United States. There are many people that believe marijuana should be legalized, but they also have to look at what that could potentially do to have a negative effect on society as a whole. There are many short-term effects, long-term effects, physical effects, beliefs, and medical effects. People must be open-minded about this before they can make the decision of whether or not marijuana should be legalized.
For starters, you have to look at how marijuana affects different people. Just like many other forms of drugs, marijuana will affect every single person that uses it in a different way. On rare occasions, marijuana can possess addictive properties and create withdrawals for certain people. Other short term effects can and have included paranoia, hallucinations, mood swings, impaired coordination/motor ability, and an increased appetite. Some of the long term effects can include energy loss, loss of brain cells, slowed or delayed thinking, delayed puberty, delayed monthly cycles for women, and in some rare cases even lung cancer or blood vessel blockage. Since marijuana could affect an individual differently than other individuals, there is also no way of telling if marijuana that is being used for a medicinal purpose will actually help that person or not. In most cases it could potentially help, but there are some cases where it will not be helpful to the individual.
In fact, using medical marijuana is not even considered a medicine. Marijuana has to go through the FDA approval process, just like every other drug used for medical purposes, and that has not been done yet. A statement the FDA has put out said the following: “There is no such thing as ‘medical-grade marijuana’. The marijuana sold as ‘medicine’ in dispensaries is the same as marijuana sold on the street and carries the same health risks”. So, as far as medical purposes go, the FDA and the common public have no clue to whether or not marijuana actually has more benefits or more negative effects when using it. However, the FDA has approved THC, the main ingredient in marijuana; they just haven’t seen enough outcomes for actual marijuana to this point. Medical marijuana could potentially help treat muscle spasms, nausea from cancer chemotherapy, seizures, Crohn’s disease, and poor appetite and weight loss from a chronic illness, but they are not sure if the positives outweigh the negatives.
When comparing marijuana to tobacco, I also found these numbers surprising, as I did not know that smoking marijuana could also be this harmful to the body. According to statistics, marijuana cigarettes (or joints) can contain up to 50 percent more tar than a tobacco cigarette, which means smoking one joint can be equal to smoking seven to ten tobacco cigarettes (should be noted that these numbers were released by the U.S Government in 1976). Some people that smoke marijuana on a regular basis can see some of the same effects from smoking tobacco cigarettes; including more frequent chest colds, daily cough, and bronchitis. I, for one, never knew about those effects before.
Marijuana is also considered the “gateway drug.” That means that once somebody has tried marijuana or a drug that doesn’t have that bad of effects, they are more willing to try a harder drug that does have worse effects. This occurs most prevalently in younger individuals in their teens and early twenties. There is a statistic that says that young adults that have tried or used marijuana before are 85% more likely to try or use cocaine compared to that of young adults that have never used marijuana before. It has also been linked to some crimes as well. Statistics also show that people that were in the possession of marijuana have had higher crime rates linked to teen violence and even suicide compared to those that are not in possession.
Actually, a common misconception is that crimes would actually go down. Based on the statistic I just presented, that may not necessarily be true. Just because marijuana would be legalized, doesn’t mean that cops would then have more time to pay attention to other, more serious crimes. If marijuana gets legalized, there would still be a possession limit for citizens, and attention would still be necessary to see if they are going over the legal limit. If marijuana gets legalized in some states strictly for medical uses, cops will especially have to take more time to make sure these people are not selling it to people that do not have a prescription for it. For the legalization process, the taxes the states will receive are based on distribution as well, and you need to have a certain license if you are going to sell marijuana.
Remember, if you want marijuana to be legalized, you also have to look at the effects it will have on an economy as a whole; make sure the pros will outweigh the cons for the general population as a whole. Even if it is not as bad as alcohol, or in some cases even as bad as tobacco, you have to also make sure it is not against you the general populations beliefs; an ethical controversy that gets brought up when conversing about marijuana. It is ultimately your decision to whether or not you want it to be legalized; you just have to look at it from all perspectives beforehand.
Where Marijuana is Legal
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow people to use medical marijuana, but you still need a doctor’s recommendation to use it. Two out of the twenty states have also legalized recreational use of marijuana, Colorado and Washington. Six states have passed decriminalization laws that allow the possession of various amounts of Marijuana. Marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law, but the Justice Department said they would not challenge the states’ marijuana laws as long as they don’t break federal enforcement priorities, such as selling marijuana to minors. The twenty-one states that allow the use of medical marijuana include: Alaska passed in 1998, Arizona passed in 2010, California passed in 1996, Colorado passed in 2000, Connecticut passed in 2012, Delaware passed in 2011, Hawaii passed in 2000, Illinois passed in 2013, Maine passed in 1999, Maryland passed in 2014, Massachusetts passed in 2012, Michigan passed in 2008, Montana passed in 2004, Nevada passed in 2000, New Hampshire passed in 2013, New Jersey passed in 2010, New Mexico passed in 2007, Oregon passed in 1998, Rhode Island passed in 2006, Vermont passed in 2004, and finally Washington passed in 1998. The earliest state that passed the medical marijuana legislation was Alaska, Oregon, and Washington in 1998; the latest has been Maryland this year (2014).
The states with the highest possession limit are Washington and Oregon both has a possession limit of 24 ounces. The states that allow the most personal plants to be grown is Oregon, they allow 24 plants to be grown with the only restriction being that only 6 of the 24 plants can be mature. Recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in only two states so far, Colorado and Washington. Colorado Amendment 64 legalized the sale and possession of marijuana for non-medical uses on November 6, 2012. In Colorado, private cultivation of up to six marijuana plants has no penalty. In Washington, Initiative 502 legalized the use and sale of marijuana. The law requires state licenses from all sellers, distributors, and producers of Marijuana; while permitting anyone over 21 to carry one ounce.
The state of Washington allows licensed growers to cultivate marijuana, but does not permit personal growing in one’s home except for medical use. Some states do not allow the use of marijuana but have decriminalized possession of marijuana. These states include Nebraska, Minnesota, Alabama, Ohio, New York, and North Carolina. Decriminalization of possession basically means that if you are caught with a small amount of marijuana you will not serve prison time and for first-time offenders it will not be put on your criminal record. This offense is treated in a similar fashion as a minor traffic violation.
The Future of Marijuana
Marijuana has gained a tremendous amount of support in recent years; with the election years of 2014 and 2016 we will see more marijuana bills being introduced than ever before. With the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, the United States is keeping a keen eye on the successes and failures of these two states. While the amount these states will generate from both gross sales and tax revenues is still unknown, it is presumed that these amounts will be substantial enough to set a positive example for other states to follow.
For states that are looking to follow Washington and Colorado with marijuana legalization laws, it looks like most states are putting off the voting process until 2016. The main assumption of why this is happening is because states want to see how the first two to three years of legalization in Colorado and Washington play out. One of the main reasons that Colorado and Washington passed their legalization bills is because of the possible revenue that could be earned from this endeavor; with money being taxed by the state and not going to the black market. Out of the 19 states and 30 bills introduced in 2014 that would regulate marijuana like alcohol, only nine of them are still active for the year 2014, while the others got delayed until the 2016 election year. In Colorado, there is a 15% excise tax charged on every marijuana sale, along with a 10% sales tax. The maximum amount one resident of Colorado can buy at a time is one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana, which is going for $400.
Colorado expects nearly $600 million in both retail and wholesale marijuana sales per year, with around $70 million in tax revenues. In the state of Washington, an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana will sell for around $330. The way Washington will generate revenue is slightly different than Colorado, with their marijuana being taxed 25% on all three levels: the producer, the processor, and the retailer. Washington State expects generating roughly $400 million per year on the revenue off the taxes. While many of the states try to gather more information on legalization initiatives, other states are more focused on medicinal marijuana laws. 21 states and Washington D.C. already have legalized marijuana for a variety of illnesses and symptoms, included but not limited to: Multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Glaucoma, Tourette syndrome, nausea and vomiting, excessive pain, and Diabetes.
Of the 15 states that are looking to create effective medical marijuana laws in 2014, there are still 12 states pushing their bills closer to being signed into law. The argument for medicinal marijuana was rather stagnant up until 2007, with only 10 states legalizing medicinal marijuana in a 10-year period. But since 2007, 11 states have moved forward with medicinal marijuana, along with the 12 states looking to legalize it this year. With medical and legalized marijuana the rules are pretty cut and dry, differing only slightly from state to state. The major discrepancy among states is the issue of decriminalized marijuana, which means no criminal record or prison time for possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal consumption. While some states still lay down misdemeanors and felonies for possessing small amounts of marijuana, 16 states already have decriminalized marijuana. Of the 15 states that are looking to decriminalize minor amounts of marijuana, two have already passed and four are currently still active.
What is interesting about decriminalization of marijuana is that the latest “state” to pass a decriminalization law is Washington, D.C. (technically a district). This is where the main discussion comes full circle: How can Washington, D.C. decriminalize marijuana and have a medical marijuana program when the Federal Government still considers it a Schedule I drug? Attorney General Eric Holder stated on April 7 that, “I would be more than glad to work with Congress if there were a desire to look at and re-examine how marijuana is scheduled”. These are the type of misconstrued statements that are confusing to most Americans, for the mere fact that the Attorney General and the President both have the power to re-schedule drugs as they see fit.
This is why we believe that the mid-term elections in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016 will be where the major discussion of marijuana will come forward. With all the different laws state-to-state and growing conversation among all races and classes, marijuana is sure to be a topic of conversation in both election years. Most government officials and potential presidential candidates are not used to having to answer questions regarding marijuana.
While some have stayed strong and been firm in their stance against marijuana on all levels, others have been open about their past experiences with marijuana and their pro-marijuana beliefs. The Baby Boomers’ belief of “Reefer Madness” is declining rapidly as that generation is getting older, and more information coming out to support the arguments on both sides of Marijuana. With the Midterms and Presidential elections in 2014 and 2016, respectively, it seems that candidates are going to have to add something to their debate preparation list: marijuana.
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