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Public health policy analysis Essay

Public health policy analysis


            Legalization of marijuana has been a heated issue and is featured both in local and national media. The use of marijuana by adults and youth in United States is on the increase. Marijuana use remains a medical problem concern since marijuana users are more susceptible to disorders associated to marijuana use. In the last decades state policies aimed marijuana use for medical purposes, while recent policies are advocating for legalization of marijuana to adults. Public relations campaigns fully advocate for the legalization of marijuana. The main reason being that prohibition of marijuana cause more harm than good and also fuel violence in the markets. The increased use of marijuana amongst the youth is enough evidence of failed control measures against marijuana. These opinions come together to enhance promotion of marijuana legalization (Gerber et al, 2004).

            The recent opinions to legalize marijuana raised concerns to (ASAM) American Society of Addiction Medicine. In April 2012, they had to form committee to develop the reaction due to the proposal of marijuana legalization. The committee aims at informing the public about marijuana legalization of marijuana and their judgment to the public policymakers. The ASAM recommends that the chemicals in marijuana that deem an effective treatment against some illnesses should be legalized as characterized and standardized products; permitted by the Food and Drug and be dispensed by professional pharmacies just like any other medicine. ASAM’s greatest concern is due to the opinion that marijuana is the most common abused illegal drug in America. Clear distinction between decriminalization and legalization is necessary in explanation of objectives and negative impact of marijuana legalization. Legalization deals with the commercialization of production, use and sale of marijuana. On the other hand, decriminalization removes penalties to personal use while sale and production of marijuana is prohibited. However, ASAM does not support legalization of marijuana since their research findings reveal that marijuana smoking is not a medicine.

Background and relevance

            Marijuana use has several dreadful health effects which raise concern to public health sector. Marijuana can lead to addiction as well as effects of (THC) delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Research reveals that 9% of marijuana becomes addicted. Marijuana smokers who try to quit suffer from anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, and appetite disturbance. In 1993, the National Institute on Drug Abuse carried a study that found that marijuana led to an estimate of 7% of treatment admissions funded by the government. The number increased to 18% in 2009. In Central and Western Europe marijuana use is a critical public health issue. Marijuana is said to be the basic drug being abused in 21% of the incidents in addiction reform services in Central and Western Europe, and 14% of incidents in addiction reforms services in Southeast and Eastern Europe. Research found that of all drug treatment teenage patients, 83% were undergoing treatment for basic marijuana use. Retrieved from http://www.asam.org/policies/state-level-proposals-to-legalize-marijuana

            Young adults are more prevalent to marijuana addiction. Research from U.S. treatment centers shows that if drug use is started at tender age there is greater risk of dependence. Early use of marijuana might be one of the causes of increased admissions for marijuana addiction treatment. In Europe, the number of patients seeking treatment due to marijuana addiction increased from 200% from 1999 till 2006, and recently stands at 30% of overall admission cases. There are other many health hazards associated to marijuana use apart from addiction. ASAM great concern put a lot of weight to the following major areas.

            The brain: substances from marijuana results to short-term impact on the brain in relation to attention, verbal fluency, sensory perception, learning, memory, and perception of time. The greatest concern is marijuana consumption during teenage where brain development is in progress. This results to decreased neurocognitive activity.

            Mental health: NIDA found that marijuana use is associated to increased anxiety, schizophrenia and depression. Research studies brought out age factor as a significant risk factor. Research shows that there is correlation between early marijuana consumption and worsening and development of symptoms of schizophrenia. High usage of marijuana can cause acute psychotic reaction as well as initiating the beginning or degeneration of schizophrenia in susceptible persons.

            Prenatal or perinatal: some research findings have suggested that marijuana causes retarded fetal growth including length, gestational age, birth weight, and head circumference. Other long-term effects vary with age. They include depression, decreased wit, and addiction.

            Respiratory or pulmonary: research reveals that marijuana contains more tar, carcinogen and carbon monoxide as compared to tobacco. Marijuana is likely to deposit tar four times as compared to tobacco. Chronic smoking has detrimental effects to the lungs. Marijuana smokers inhale greater volumes of smoke and hold it for longer periods. Research reveals that marijuana smokers are more susceptible to bullous disease as compared to cigarette teen smokers.

            Addiction among other health hazards associated to marijuana outlines that marijuana use affects both the user and their family members. ASAM is concerned since they see that the current discussion is only concerned with reforms to the ongoing marijuana policy and less concerned with detrimental impact of marijuana consumption. Harmful health and safety impacts of marijuana will be of great importance in the decision making in the development a marijuana policy with an aim of improving public health.

Objectives of marijuana legalization

            Legalization of marijuana is considered as a public and safety measure aimed at reducing drug-associated crimes and as a remedy to harm caused by marijuana control such as incarceration among others. Advocators of marijuana believe that legalization of marijuana will reduce illegal marijuana trade and violent crimes associated with the illegal trade. They also believe that it will be a source of revenue as well as reduce cost of law enforcement. There is an ongoing research to investigate the impact of marijuana legalization in United States. Prohibition of drugs such as marijuana increases costs of businesses operations due to violence involved to the illegal drug trafficking. The price of marijuana is expected to reduce to 80% since the social price depend on regulation and taxes. Retrieved from http://www.asam.org/policies/state-level-proposals-to-legalize-marijuana

            RAND research reveals that marijuana legalization I California would not reduce drug trafficking as well as violence associated with illegal drug trafficking. Research reveals that diverted marijuana from legalized production in a given country affects all the others since it would lead to reduction of marijuana across that country. Price elasticity of marijuana under legalized plan is complicated since addictive substances behave differently from non-addictive substances. Marijuana legalization will change it from being luxury for first time users to basic necessity to the marijuana addicted persons. Legalization of marijuana is likely to be accompanied by legal advertisement of commercial use marijuana this is likely to increase marijuana consumption. Although most research were carried to investigate effect of marijuana legalization in California, the findings might also apply in another state. Legalization of marijuana might cause effects to the taxes, prices, markets as well as spilling over their effects to the neighboring countries. Legalizing marijuana might be a right step since it will substantiate impact of violent related to illegal drug trafficking. It is also believed that public health problems of criminal justice interventions exceed their benefits. This leads to the question as to whether legalization proposals should be passed and amended. Lessening toughness to marijuana use might not be so much fruitful since there can be little or no reduction in the level of substantial costs and incarceration rates (Morgan, 2011).

Negative impact of legalizing marijuana

            Any state considering altering legal condition of marijuana should consider the health hazard involved as well as the profit of coping up with criminalization of marijuana use and sale. Legal drug use provides evidence that it is national public health issue. Legal drugs recently cause a havoc on public health sector since it results to substantial health and financial burden. Legalizing marijuana is likely to lead to an increase in the social costs due to taxes imposed due to the sale of the drugs. The cost of coming up with a regulatory plan for legal marijuana is also unknown. Although legalization of marijuana might be aimed at increasing funding for prevention, addiction and treatment of commercial activities linked to legal marijuana. Health effects of gradual increase use of marijuana would rise sharply. It is also likely that legalization of marijuana will be accompanied by increase in number of marijuana related issues such as driving under marijuana influence, violations in act regulating age limits as well as public use violations. Research reveals that marijuana is the most famous drug associated to drugged driving. Fatal injuries, crashes and even deaths are commonly linked to habitual marijuana use. Drugged driving will raise the cost of injuries, loss of lives and crashes. Decreased highway safety is a major negative impact of marijuana legalization (Gerber et al, 2004).

            American Academy of Pediatrics predicted that legalizing marijuana will result to increased use of marijuana amongst the youth. The fact is that there is a positive relationship between drug use and availability. Advocators of the policy should consider detrimental effects of marijuana availability to the society if the law was passed and amended. There will be an increased incidents of marijuana related cases, addiction as well as the regulatory cost that will be passed to the public in form of taxes.

International context

            The advocators of marijuana legalization policy usually come from experience from nations with less strict policies on drug use. It should not be understood that no country has ever legalized marijuana. Most countries use decriminalization policies where they have a specific limit of marijuana or a given drug use for personal purposes while drug use for commercial services remains illegal. In a country like Netherlands, commercial drug businesses are illegal and are constrained with criminal sanctions. Other than being arrested, drug users are put in check by the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Abuse (CDT). This commission dispenses the appropriate punitive measures to the drug user where some are withdrawn if they obtain treatment against addiction. A country may be penalized for imposing such a policy to the citizens. For example, recently there was a proposal that Uruguay government would sell marijuana for personal use to the public. However, the fate of this proposed law is not clear. In addition, if the law was to be passed Uruguay would be fined by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board for going against the United Nations Single Convention of 1961. ASAM encourage exhaustive study and evaluation of distinct drug laws and programs both local and international which will enlighten the public on future strategies that aim at enhancing public health. Retrieved from http://www.asam.org/policies/state-level-proposals-to-legalize-marijuana

2012 State-Level proposals on marijuana legalization

            Several states such as Oregon, Colorado and Washington brought up proposals to legalize marijuana. For instance, Colorado Amendment 64 also known as Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, if passed the policy would legalize possession, purchase, use, transport and display certain amount of marijuana by people aged 21 years and above. The state will be responsible for regulation of marijuana sector via licensure of manufacturing, cultivation and retail stores and testing facilities. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act if passed would bring up Oregon Cannabis Commission to regulate cultivation and sale of marijuana to people aged 21 years and above. The Washington State Initiative Measure No. 502, if passed it would regulate and license marijuana distribution, possession and production to people aged 21 years and above. Washington policy would also withdraw civil and criminal activities authorized by the policy. Upon passing these policies, would change everything for example, it would change marijuana from being luxury to first time users to personal use, it will also accelerate tax collection, and commercial use and sale of marijuana. The full impact of effect of legalizing marijuana are unknown (Morgan, 2011).


            There is great need of considering public health consequences of a policy before proposing to make changes. There are more negative consequences linked to marijuana legalization as compared to the benefits that advocators think of. People are called upon to study various polices and programs so that they can be able to make appropriate policies that aim at improving the public health of citizens. The legalization policy will make marijuana more accessible thus increasing the risk to the youths who might fall in the trap of consuming the drugs. Marijuana legalization will also lead to an increased activities associated to marijuana such as drugged driving which leads to loss of lives, injuries and crashes.


            I oppose proposals to legalize use of marijuana in any of the states in America. There is more harm than good of implementing this policy. The predicted public health costs associated to marijuana legalization are high and hurt the citizens and the public policymakers. Health professionals and physicians should enlighten people on the probable effects of implementing such a policy. Marijuana is associated to a lot of negative effects and thus should not be legalized.

The following should be recommended:

  1. The public should be enlightened that addiction to marijuana is a public health concern and marijuana is not safe to consume.
  2. The physicians should lead the war against legalization of marijuana.
  3. The parents should be enlightened on the dangers of making marijuana accessible to their teenage children through legalization of such a policy


Gerber, R. J. (2004). Legalizing marijuana: drug policy reform and prohibition politics. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

Morgan, K. (2011). Legalizing marijuana. Edina, MN: ABDO Pub. Co..

State-Level Proposals to Legalize Marijuana. (n.d.). State-Level Proposals to Legalize Marijuana. Retrieved May 6, 2014, from http://www.asam.org/policies/state-level-proposals-to-legalize-marijuana

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