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Marijuana refers to “the dry, shredded green and brown mixture of flowers, stems, seeds and leaves derived from the hemp plant” (Caullins and Kleiman 13). Marijuana is used both as a recreational drug and as a medicinal drug. In some communities, it is used to perform religious and spiritual rites.
Marijuana is normally smoked in blunts, cigarettes and pipe. Blunts refer to cigars filled with a blend of marijuana and tobacco. Marijuana is one of the most abused illicit drugs in US and other parts of the world. Drug abuse refers to “habitual taking of addictive or illegal drugs” (Simpson and Weiner 321). While marijuana remains illegal in most states in America, its possession and use is legal in countries such as Holland.
The debate on the legal status of marijuana revolves around its negative effects and its benefits to the society. Those opposed to the legalization of marijuana base their arguments on the negative effects. Proponents of legalization of marijuana emphasize its benefits such as its use as medicine. This paper argues for the premise that legalization of marijuana will improve the welfare of US citizens.
Arguments against Legalization of Marijuana
Consumption of marijuana is opposed due to the health risks associated with it. Short term effects of marijuana include impairment of memory, poor psychomotor coordination, as well as, loss of concentration. High consumption of marijuana can also cause hallucinations and delusions.
Consumption of marijuana normally results into a rise in heart rate by between 20% and 100%. Consequently, users of marijuana have a “high risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug” (Caullins and Kleiman 77). The risk of heart attack as a result of marijuana consumption is greater among individuals suffering from cardiac diseases and the aging population. Smoking of marijuana also causes irritation to the lungs.
Interest groups opposed to drug abuse discourage legalization of marijuana on the ground that it is a gateway drug (Joffe and Yancy 632-638). This means that the use of marijuana encourages the consumption of other drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes. Consequently, the combined health risk on the user will be very high.
Such interest groups also argue that marijuana is very addictive, and thus, its legalization will increase the dependency rate. The increase in the number of citizens who depend on marijuana will lead to high medical costs or rehabilitation costs. Finally, the use of marijuana is associated with increase in crime. Examples of crimes associated with marijuana use include robbery and street fighting.
Arguments for Legalization of Marijuana
The production, consumption and possession of marijuana should be legalized due to the following reasons. First, empirical studies have proved that marijuana has medicinal value. Scientists have proved that marijuana has therapeutic effects. Consequently, it can be used to relieve pain, control nausea, as well as, stimulating appetite. Marijuana can be used to effectively treat glaucoma since its consumption reduces pressure on eyes (Caullins and Kleiman 98).
Additionally, marijuana can be used to reduce ocular pressure. The government should, thus, legalize marijuana to enable the public to benefit from its medicinal effects. Legalizing marijuana will enable doctors to prescribe it without fear of being prosecuted. Those who can not afford alternative medicine will also benefit from marijuana prescriptions which are relatively cheaper. Consumption of marijuana under the supervision of a doctor will help in avoiding any side effects that might arise.
Second, marijuana is not as dangerous as alcohol, and cigarettes. The use of alcohol and tobacco causes thousands of deaths every year through accidents, disorders, as well as, illnesses. For instance, in every thirty minutes, at least one person loses his or her life due to alcohol consumption. Currently, over thirty five people are suffering from chronic lung diseases as a result of tobacco consumption (Joffe and Yancy 632-638).
Approximately, 342, 000 people die every year due to lung diseases resulting from smoking tobacco. Unlike tobacco, marijuana does not cause lung cancer. Additionally, over consumption of marijuana can not cause death. Users of marijuana tend to reduce the frequency of consuming the drug over time. This is explained by the fact that “even the heaviest marijuana smokers rarely use as much as an average tobacco smoker” (Reinarman and Cohen 836-842).
Marijuana dependency can be treated through behavioral interventions. The symptoms experienced after quitting the use of marijuana normally disappear after one week. Contrary to the popular belief, marijuana is less dangerous and its use can easily be stopped by the users.
Besides, scientists are yet to prove that consumption of marijuana results into the use of other illicit drugs (Reinarman and Cohen 836-842). Hence, the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug is not valid. Since marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, it should be legalized too. Besides, regulated use of marijuana will reduce its negative effects on the health of users.
Third, legalization of marijuana will lead to reduction in crime rate instead of increasing it. Approximately 700,000 citizens are arrested and charged with marijuana related offenses every year. These arrests cost taxpayers between seven and ten billion dollars every year. This has significantly reduced the amount of resources available for controlling other crimes.
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The rapid rise in the level of violent and non-violent crimes in the last decade is partly attributed to lack of sufficient resources to improve national security (Joffe and Yancy 632-638). Besides, the prisons have become more congested and expensive to maintain due to marijuana arrests.
Thus, the debate on government expenditure on national security focuses on the choice between fighting non-violent crimes such as marijuana or fighting violent crimes and more dangerous drugs such as cocaine. Legalizing marijuana will enable the government to save the funds, currently, being used to arrest and reprimand marijuana offenders. Consequently, it will be possible to allocate more resources to fighting violent crimes such as robbery and rape.
The overall effect will be a significant reduction in crime in the society. The use of marijuana in countries with decriminalization policies tends to be less than or equivalent to use in states/ countries where it is prohibited. Additionally, the use of marijuana tends to increase at a higher rate in countries with stringent laws against marijuana (Reinarman and Cohen 836-842). These trends indicate that criminalizing marijuana will increase its use instead of reducing it.
Finally, legalizing marijuana will enable the government to generate more revenue. Currently, the production and sale of marijuana occurs in the black market since it is criminalized. The sales transactions in the black market are not recorded, and thus, can not be traced by the government for taxation purposes.
Consequently, sellers or distributers of marijuana benefit from tax-free profits from the illegal trade (Caullins and Kleiman 134). Legalizing marijuana will transform the industry from an informal sector to a formal sector. All producers and sellers of marijuana will be registered tax payers. Hence, the government will collect more revenue by taxing the production of marijuana (Caullins and Kleiman 231).
Marijuana taxes can be used to provide public goods such as education and healthcare, thereby improving the welfare of the populace. Additionally, part of the taxes can be used to promote responsible use of marijuana through public awareness campaigns.
Decriminalizing commercial production of marijuana will result into tremendous growth in the marijuana industry. The producers will be able to focus on production instead of using more time and resources to avoid arrests. More firms are likely to join the industry as it experiences a rapid growth. The overall effect will be an increase in job opportunities and reduction in poverty levels.
Marijuana remains an illicit drug in US and other parts of the world. Those opposed to the legalization of marijuana base their arguments on the negative effects of the drug. The use of marijuana is associated with health risks such as heart attack and lung irritation.
Additionally, the use of marijuana is associated with increase in crime and consumption of other illicit drugs (Joffe and Yancy 632-638). However, empirical studies have revealed the benefits of marijuana. Contrary to the popular belief, legalizing marijuana can lead to reduction in crime.
Marijuana is also a less dangerous drug compared to alcohol and tobacco. Besides, dependency on marijuana can easily be treated through behavioral interventions. The regulations, currently, being used to promote responsible use of tobacco and alcohol can be used to avoid the dangers of marijuana. Additionally, marijuana has medicinal value and its production can lead to high tax revenue and creation of jobs. This leads to the conclusion that legalizing marijuana will improve the welfare of US citizens.
Caullins, Jonathan, and Mark Kleiman. Marijuana Legalization. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.
Joffe, Allan, and Samwel Yancy. “Legalizing marijuana: potential impacts on youth.” Pediatrics 113.6 (2004): 632-638. Print.
Reinarman, Craig, and Peter Cohen. “The limited relevance of drug policies: cannabis in Amsterdam and San Francisco.” American Journal of of Public Health 94.5 (2004): 836-842. Print.
Simpson, John, and Edmund Weiner. Oxford English Dictionary. London: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.