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Differences and Similarities in the Arguments for Legalizing Marijuana The legalization of marijuana has become a mainstream issue that the nation has become highly concerned about in recent years. Lately more and more conservative opposers have begun to change their minds, realizing the benefits of marijuana. Debate followers go as far as saying that it is no longer a question of if marijuana will be legalized, but when. The shift in viewpoints is due to the increasing awareness of some of the positive effects legalizing marijuana could have on the country. Pro-legalization advocates argue that the benefits of legalizing marijuana greatly outnumber the benefits of keeping it illegal.
There are several, very different arguments for the pro-pot stance advocates have taken. They claim legalization would be beneficial by causing a significant reduction in crime (which would empty prisons and save millions of dollars in tax money), creating a new industry that can be taxed and regulated, boosting the economy, and a new, effective, and low-dependency medicine. These benefits seem to be universally desired by the pro-pot party and are often mentioned in literature advocating marijuana legalization. Another similarity in arguments usually revolves around the issue of medical marijuana. Some advocates call for marijuana to be completely legalized, including use for recreational purposes, but this is opposed in most cases. Some advocates only want marijuana legalization if there will be strict regulations and restrictions on who can use it.
In the article “Weed All About It,” Gary Cartwright gives ample evidence and quotations from experts that form his pro legalization argument: “In 1988 the Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief law judge declared that ‘marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man’” (87). Cartwright goes into specific ways that legalization of marijuana could benefit the country, including the economical and societal impacts, and medicinal use. He also addresses questions most advocates ten to shy away from because of the lack of certainty in the answer (like, “Would marijuana use increase if it was legalized?”).
One similarity of Cartwright’s stance and other articles is the the claim that prohibiting the use of marijuana is unconstitutionally, and making the government seem like the bad guy. In “Medical Marijuana 2010: It’s Time to Fix the Regulatory Vacuum,” Peter Cohen claims that restricting doctors from recommending marijuana to alleviate symptoms is a violation of free speech and that “science, not ideology, should be dispositive” (3). Cohen continues to set up the government as the villain by describing two seemingly non-coincidental events in which fullyfunded teams of qualified scientists were denied access o marijuana by the DEA, while simultaneously being supported by a long list of research organizations
An argument in the article, “Obama, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Drug War,” by Martin D. Carcie uses the Constitution as the backbone in justifying its position. According to Carcie, marijuana prohibition directly violates our Fourteenth Amendment, “under the Fourteenth Amendment, bodily autonomy– i.e., the control over the borders and contents of one’s body burdened by laws like marijuana prohibition–is a fundamental right” (308). Cartwright does not explicitly mention the Constitution in his article, but makes the same claim that Cohen and Carcie make; “Some people will use drugs no matter what the consequences, but…the user primarily harms himself. When he harms others, we do something about it, just as we arrest those who drink and drive” (Cartwright 88). Cartwright also builds the government up to be the villain, claiming that, “Over time, law enforcement officials have repeatedly misled the public and the media about the so=called scourge of drugs” (Cartwright 88).
Both authors do this to give the reader the ability to look at the article with a blank slate. They know their audience is anti-legalization, so they want to make sure that the readers know, before they choose a stance, they’ve been lied to. This makes the authors seem like more trustworthy and rational choice. By using the Constitution to back up their arguments, there is no real way to justify anti-legalization. Assumptions will be made that you’re anti-Constitution, and in turn, anti-American. Another similarity between Cartwright’s stance and other arguments for marijuana legalization is the huge emphasis on the effects it will have on the economy. In the article “Up In Smoke,” Kelley Beaucar Vlahos describes the economic benefits of legalization, while giving real number estimates of how much revenue could be brought in or saved. She writes, “Proponents of Prop 19 claimed taxes on legalized cannabis could bring upwards of $1.4 billion into beleaguered state coffers” (Vlahos 18).
Cartwright does this in his article as well, stating that “In America, we spend nearly $8 billion trying to enforce the laws prohibiting the use and possesson of marijuana” (Cartwright 86). Cartwright further supports this argument by providing more proof of the waste of taxpayers’ dollars, stating that “in Texas, 97 percent of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession–an ounce or less–at a cost to taxpayers of $480 million a year” (86). Cartwright chooses to provide the reader with these statistics for deliberate reasons: it provides a shock factor that he utilizes to sway the reader’s opinions. Vlahos also uses this same technique by including several statistics. This is much more effective than giving ambiguous amounts, like “a lot or “millions” because giving an exact estimate shows that there has been a significant amount of research about the economic benefits of marijuana, making the
reader more likely to trust the numbers. By using the phrase “simple possession,” Cartwright builds up the worth of the money spent by making it seem like possession is harmless, forcing the reader to feel indignant. The authors also choose to talk about the economy because it is the highest concern of the counrty right now, and they present marijuana as an instant solution. The argument for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in Cohen’s article is consisten with Cartwright’s article as well.
Cohen’s article is mainly about the benefits of marijuana as a medicine. In the article, he disproves the government’s claim that marijuana has no therapeutic value and describes specific symptoms marijuana could help with, “Several studies published…have demonstrated that the drug is sage and effective in controlling nausea and other adverse effects of chemotherapy, relieving multiple sclerosis-induced spasticity, easing certain types of pain, and ameliorating weight loss accompanying AIDS” (Cohen 657). Cartwright does the same thing using more of an emotional technique by describing a group of people in wheelchairs that use marijuana for relief from pain. Both articles advocate for medical marijuana, but the way they go about making their arguments differ.
Cohen approaches the topic of medical marijuana more scientifically than Cartwright does, using several studies and scientific evidence as his argument’s support. Cohen is also much more specific in the particular ways marijuana can be used, and provides suggestions on how to regulate the drug. The reader automatically feels sympathy for the people in wheelchairs and they become victims in the reader’s mind. Cartwright also gives a second example of a quadriplegic man that was thrown into jail for possession without regard for his medical needs, further establishing a feeling of empathy from his audience. Cohen uses such an ample amount of hard evidence it’s impossible not to trust him. By doing this, Cohen reaches out to his specific audience, the American Medical Association, in a much more effective way.
The topic of marijuana legalization is very complex. The multiple points of views, though sharing the same goal, differ regarding how to succeed at accomplishing those goals and for what purpose. Through the different means that each of these authors use to convey their message, they all, in the end, support their individual arguments effectively.