The attitude towards illicit drugs has changed considerably during the past decades, which has led to the legalization of such formerly illicit drugs like marijuana in some states of the USA. However, the debate is ongoing, and people are still unsure about the benefits and harms of such policies. Some researchers stress that these policies are likely to contribute to the increase in marijuana consumption and to have adverse effects on public health (Miech et al., 2015). Proponents of such policies argue that the use of marijuana is associated with a number of benefits for the public in such spheres as health, crime, economy (Anderson & Rees, 2013). At the same time, all people agree that there is a need for a nationwide policy concerning the issue as the availability of marijuana in some states undermines the effectiveness of the corresponding policies in other regions. People will still be able to access the drug, but public opinion on the matter is changing. It is important to make sure that American society is not eroded due to the lack of understanding, consistency, and clarity concerning the use of marijuana.
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As for the negative perspective on the matter, Miech et al. (2015) focus on the way people perceive the use of the formerly illicit drug. The researchers claim that the legalization of marijuana in California led to the development of the acceptance of marijuana use as well as the increase in this drug consumption. Miech et al. (2015) stress that young people (12th graders) have become 20-25 % more likely to see regular consumption of marijuana positively have used it during the past month, and less likely to see the use of marijuana as something extremely negative. It is noteworthy that 60% of the participants reported that they were likely to use marijuana during the following five years. The researchers stress that the shift towards the positive perspective of marijuana use has already resulted in an increase in its consumption and is likely to be associated with various health and social issues related to drug abuse.
On the contrary, Anderson and Rees (2013) identify various benefits of the legalization of marijuana. The authors note that marijuana legalization is likely to increase the consumption of this drug, but it will also result in a decrease in the use of alcohol, which is regarded as a positive effect (Anderson & Rees, 2013). The researchers also mention certain economic outcomes that include the development of the industry (marijuana production, sales). Anderson and Rees (2013) assert that the legalization of marijuana is likely to have a number of positive health outcomes as such conditions as depression and anxiety will be successfully addressed, the number of suicides is likely to decrease, the use of hard drugs is also likely to decrease. The researchers emphasize the potential positive impact of marijuana legalization as it is likely to decrease the number of traffic fatalities as research shows that users of marijuana take fewer risks as compared to those using alcohol. Anderson and Rees (2013) note that the legalization of this drug is potentially beneficial for American society.
When comparing the two perspectives, it is necessary to keep in mind that the evidence available is still rather insufficient. One of the major concerns is associated with public health. The long-term (as well as mid-term) effects of the use of marijuana are still unclear. On the one hand, it can soothe pain and help in addressing such health conditions as depression and anxiety (Anderson & Rees, 2013). Nevertheless, the availability of the drug will make other (healthier) strategies (for example, physical activity, meditation) less attractive to many people. The legalization of this drug has already translated into a significant shift in public opinion regarding marijuana (Miech et al., 2015). There are significant chances that other illicit drugs can be accepted in the nearest future as well. There is certain evidence that marijuana users are less violent or risk-taking than alcohol users (or users of hard drugs), but these people are still more likely to get involved in various criminal activities (for example, reckless driving, violent crimes, property crimes, and so on) as compared to non-users.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that two opposing views exist regarding the legalization of marijuana. Some claim that legalization is a harmful policy that should cease to exist, while others acknowledge the benefits of the policy and even emphasize the need to legalize marijuana nationwide. Nonetheless, the two perspectives are still improperly grounded, and additional research is essential. Researchers should concentrate on health outcomes as well as such aspects as the economic and social welfare of Americans. In this case, government inaction is the most appropriate strategy as it is necessary to examine the outcomes of legalization in the states where it is already a fact. The government should not try to ban the use of marijuana in the regions where it has been legalized, but the enactment of federal policy concerning legalization would be premature. When the government has some sound evidence concerning the outcomes of marijuana legalization, the federal policy can come into existence.
Anderson, D., & Rees, D. (2013). The legalization of recreational marijuana: How likely is the worst-case scenario? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(1), 221-232.
Miech, R., Johnston, L., O’Malley, P., Bachman, J., Schulenberg, J., & Patrick, M. (2015). Trends in the use of marijuana and attitudes toward marijuana among youth before and after decriminalization: The case of California 2007–2013. International Journal of Drug Policy, 26(4), 336-344.