Marijuana also known as Cannabis Sativa and a psychoactive drug is the most widely used illicit substance in the world. The main active ingredient of Marijuana is Tetrahydrocannabinol and is as a stimulant and hallucinogenic (Kailash 2007, 62). It has been used for recreational, religious and medicinal purposes since historic times. Currently it is estimated that about 162 million people in the World, that’s about 4% uses it on a daily basis (Kailash 2007, 72).
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The production, preparation, trade and use of marijuana has been prohibited in most parts of the world and a lot of resources are used every year to combat it. It is a banned substance because it’s thought to cause diseases and promotes crime. Netherlands is one country that has legalized the sale of small quantities of marijuana in a regulated environment. There has been a longstanding controversy on the prohibition of marijuana. This paper examines the reasons for and against decriminalization of marijuana.
Reasons for Legalizing
Marijuana should be legalized because the prohibition of Marijuana goes against the individual’s rights to Liberty and freedom of choice. Individuals who use Marijuana do so conscientiously and are aware of the dangers of using it. The government should not prohibit personal use unless its use by an individual affects other people.
The negative effects of using Marijuana are far less than those of alcohol and tobacco which are both legal and highly regulated. Alcohol and tobacco related diseases and accidents are one of the leading causes of deaths in the USA. The medical costs incurred in treating those disease runs into billions. According to the proponents of Marijuana no single health related death has been reported to have been caused directly by Marijuana.
The cost of policing Marijuana is very high; for the last 30-40 years, governments have spent Billions of dollars yet the trade is still thriving. These resources could be used to provide social goods such as education and medical care. The failure to tackle the demand side of the illicit drugs market makes the commodity scarce, expensive and the trade lucrative. Illegal trade in drugs is worth about $322 Billion globally (UN 2007, 170).
This has attracted highly organized criminal gangs and has engendered corruption in supplying countries most of whom are third world countries. Drug related violence is also common as criminal gangs fight for the control of the lucrative trade. Thus, decriminalization of Marijuana is likely to reduce the attractiveness of the trade and the demand for the drug (Kailash 2007, 90).
In addition prohibition ignores the benefits of Marijuana such as its medicinal, industrial and agricultural use. Further research on medical use of Marijuana has been hampered by its illicit status. Religious use of Marijuana by Buddhists and Rastafarians is frustrated contravening the First Amendment Act, which guarantees the freedom to exercise religious practices freely.
Reasons for Illegalizing
It’s a dangerous substance and it’s not its illegality that makes it dangerous but its intrinsic nature (Califano, 2007, 101). Legalizing Marijuana will increase its availability leading to its increased use especially by the youth. Research has shown that a young person who stays away from any type of drug until the age of 21 is likely to never use it.
On the other hand young people who start using drugs in their teens are likely to continue abusing them even into their adulthood (Zucker 1987, 170). They are even likely to graduate to high- level drugs such as Cocaine and LSD; marijuana is therefore the so called gateway and a pass to more hard drugs (Welte and Barnes 1985, 131).
Proponents of the freedom of choice ignore the fact that drug use starts at a tender age and at this stage individuals are not mature enough to make right choices. By availing Marijuana, young people are likely to use it and eventually get addicted. According to research when teenagers get stressed, it’s likely that they will get involved in drug abuse and the pattern of drug abuse is linked to availability and affordability. (Hoffmann, Paris, Hall and Schell 1988, 377).
Another argument against easing access to drug is that teenagers are certain to use drug to relieve tension, to feel high, and to get into the party mood (Kovach and Glickmann 1986, 120).
They normally use alcohol which is easily available and less potent than Marijuana. On the other hand marijuana is highly addictive and dangerous drug; it causes brain cells damage and it leads to memory loss and this can have drastic effects on the lives of the users especially the young. Sociologists argue that Marijuana should not be legalized because it is linked to crime, violence and family breakdown.
According to Psychologist the need to escape from the stress, reality and “humdrum” of life is an almost permanent need in humans. Alternative and safe ways should be provided to the youth through sports, travel, music, arts among others (Katz 1971, 39).
Califano, Joseph. A. Jr., “Should drugs be decriminalized? No.” British Medical Journal, 335:967 (2007):101
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Hoffmann, L., Paris, S., Hall, E. & Schell, R. Developmental Psychology Today 5th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988.
Katz, M.M. “What this country need is a safe Five Cent Intoxicant.” Psychology Today, 9:30(1971): 394
Kovach, J. A. and Glickmann, N.W. “Level and Psychosocial Correlates of Adolescent Drug Use.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 15 (1986): 61-78
Kailash, Chand. “Should drugs be decriminalized? Yes.” British Medical Journal, 335:966 (2007):90
United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC). UN World Report on Drugs 2007. Pg 170.
Welte, J.W. and Barnes, G.M. “Alcohol.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 14 (1985):487
Zucker R.A. “The Four Alcoholisms.” In Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 14 (1987):Ch. 14