Of all the illegal drugs in existence, Cannabis Sativa (most popularly known as marijuana) is the most commonly used substance (Pedersen 395). The World Health Organization documents that2.5% of the world’s population indulge in the usage of this drug therefore making it the most popular psychoactive substance.
Despite this apparent popularity of the drug, it remains illegal in many countries including the USA. Recent scientific researches have revealed that the effect of marijuana on a person’s health may not be as potent as previously thought. With this revelations and the increased use of the drug among the population, there have been calls for the government to consider legalizing this popular recreational drug.
Calls for legalizing marijuana have been countered by vocal opposition from people advocating for the drug to be kept illegal since it has many negative effects. This paper will set out to argue that the government should legalize marijuana since the negative effects of this substance are not as dire and legalization would result in many benefits for the society. The paper will rely on research to reinforce this claim.
Why Marijuana should be Legalized
Marijuana is a favored recreational drug which means that its commercial significance is high due to the high demand for the product. Under the current situation where the drug is deemed illicit, the government cannot benefit monetarily from commerce in this drug. This is an important consideration since data on the prevalence of Marijuana indicates that the US is still the world’s largest single market for the drug (Yacoubian 25).
The government could gain a lot of revenue if the drug was made legal and taxes imposed on it. As it currently stands, the sale of the drug only benefits players in the black market who produce and sell the product. These players are mostly criminals who have become very powerful from the money obtained from commerce in marijuana.
Houston who is an outspoken advocate for the legalization of Marijuana confirms that marijuana is the cash cow that has made the Mexican drug cartels such a formidable force. By making the drug legal, the government would benefit from revenues obtained from its sale as well as remove the monopoly held by the criminal gangs thus making the country safer.
The government uses significant amounts of resources in enforcing its laws against marijuana. Maintaining the status quo of marijuana as an illegal substance is an expensive operation and the financial burden is borne by the tax payer.
Yacoubian documents that the US government spends billions of dollars annually to enforce prohibition efforts on marijuana (30). This money that would otherwise have been spent on more socially constructive purposes is currently being used to fund operations ranging from the carrying out of drug raids, arrests and prosecution of drug offenders.
The expenses don’t end there as more money is needed to maintain the convicted offenders in the country’s already overstrained penitentiaries. Making marijuana legal would mean that the government saves all the money that it currently spends in enforcing the law against marijuana. This would be a prudent step since as it is; the efforts by the government while prohibitively high do not appear to have significantly reduced marijuana consumption in the country.
An obvious merit of the legal industry is that it is bound by government control which ensures that the products sold are safe for the consumer. The government can also monitor the production process and issue guidelines to make sure the consumer is not exposed to unnecessary risks.
Since marijuana is illegal, its production and distribution is unregulated which means that the quality of the product is unguaranteed. Part of the contamination also comes from the pesticides used on the plant. In legal crops, there are strict government controls on pesticides which minimize the risks to the individual. McLaren et al. reveal that since marijuana is an illegal drug, there are no guidelines or controls for its cultivation and it is not known whether the pesticides used are safe to humans (1106).
In addition to this, the illegal status of marijuana means that most of it is grown indoors to reduce the risk of discovery by law enforcement. Indoor-grown marijuana is perceived to be more contaminated than marijuana grown naturally since indoor cultivation involves use of additives to maximize yield (McLaren et al. 1106).
Legalization of marijuana would give the government greater control on the product which would make it safer for the user. Currently, the market is unregulated and dealers are constantly increasing the potency of the drug so as to attract more customers. The potency of marijuana is changed by altering the major active chemical in marijuana, THC, which is the component that causes the mind-altering effects of marijuana intoxication.
McLaren et al. attribute the increase potency to the popularity of indoor cultivation which involves practice of cloning from a variety of cannabis with high THC content (1105). The more potent marijuana is the higher the increases of cannabis-related harms such as psychotic and anxiety effects. Legalizing the drug would make it possible for the government to monitor the content of the drug just as alcohol content in beverages is monitored. This would reduce the health risks that result from high potent marijuana.
Marijuana has scientifically proven medical benefits for its consumers. Marijuana has been documented to improve symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. The efficacy of marijuana in this area has been so great such that pharmaceutical companies have begun using Sativex, a derivative of cannabis, in the care of people with multiple sclerosis (Green and De-Vries 2458).
Clinical trial research on the therapeutic role of marijuana in pain management have shown that the drug demonstrated significant pain relief and induce relaxation hence relieving anxiety and depression (Green and De-Vries 2457). These findings are corroborated by reports by the WHO which indicate that cannabinoids alleviate symptoms such as nausea and vomiting in chronically ill patients. Making marijuana legal would ensure that it is more readily available for the sick who would exploit it for its curative properties.
Arguments Against Legalization
Despite all the advantages that can be gained from legalizing marijuana, there are key negative effects that opponents of legalizations point to. The most significant of these claims is that marijuana results in adverse physical and mental effects on the user. Yacoubian states that heavy marijuana use impairs a person’s ability to form memories and users who have taken high doses of the drug may experience acute psychosis (19).
McLaren et al proceed to state that contaminated marijuana has the potential to cause lung disease and respiratory problems (1106). Considering this negative effects, proponents of legalization assert that it would be reckless for the government to even consider making marijuana legal. While it is true that marijuana can have negative effects, these extreme effects are mostly restricted to heavy users and those users who consume contaminated or high potency marijuana.
A major concern by the public is the link between drug use and involvement in crime. Opponents of legalization state that marijuana would result in citizens, especially the youth, engaging in criminal activities as a result of drug use. This stereotypical view is unfounded as research indicates that marijuana use does not play an important role in fostering a general involvement in crime.
A study conducted by Pedersen and Skardhamar on the association between cannabis use and subsequent criminal charges on an individual suggested that marijuana was associated with subsequent criminal activity (116).
However, the authors noted that the bulk of this involvement was in various types of drug-specific crime such as possession and distribution of the drug. Marijuana does not therefore result in general crime involvement and a considerable proportion of its users only get into the penal system because of use or possession of drugs.
A common argument raised by proponents of legalizing marijuana is that its legalization would results in a phenomenal increase in the number of users. This reasoning is based on the assumption that at the present, many people who would be users of marijuana are deterred because of the legal action such as jail time that they would suffer from if they consumed the product.
Houston suggests that this argument is not based on facts since the rate of marijuana use in Netherlands (a country reputed for its relaxed laws on marijuana which permit purchase and consumption of regulated portions of the drug) is significantly lower than in the US where prohibitive laws against the drug are in place.
Discussion and Conclusion
Marijuana consumption is pervasive in the US and this drug has become the favorite recreational drug in spite of measures by the government to curb its supply and discourage its usage. This has resulted in the issue of whether to legitimize marijuana or not been heavily debated in the country.
From the arguments given in this paper, it is clear that many benefits will be reaped from the legalization of marijuana. These advantages include; increased access of the drug for people who require it for medical purposes, a regulated market which would make the product safer and the financial gains that the government would achieve through taxation and savings from the money that is currently used to enforce the law against marijuana.
While proponents of legalization point to the adverse effects of the drug, this paper has shown that many research findings available today indicate that the negative effects of marijuana are mild and the drug has useful medicinal properties.
This paper set out to argue that the government should legalize marijuana. To this end, the paper has engaged in discussions as to the merits and demerits of such a move. Overall, evidence suggests that making marijuana legal would benefit the society more than having it classified as an illegal substance.
Citizens who are keen on bringing about development should therefore petition the government to legalize the drug so that the society can enjoy the benefits stated at the same time avoiding the enormous costs incurred by efforts to keep the drug illegal.
Green, Anita and De-Vries Kay. “Cannabis use in palliative care – an examination of the evidence and the implications for nurses.” Journal of Clinical Nursing 19.1 (2010): 2454–2462. Print.
Houston, Aaron. The case for a domestic marijuana industry. 17 Mar. 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. http://experts.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/03/17/the_case_for_a_domestic_marijuana_industry
McLaren, Jennifer et al. “Cannabis potency and contamination: a review of the literature.” Addiction, 103 (2008): 1100–1109. Print.
Pedersen, Willy and Skardhamar Torbjorn. “Cannabis and crime: findings from a longitudinal study.” Addiction 105.1 (2009): 109–118. Print.
World Health Organization (WHO). Management of substance abuse: Cannabis. Jan. 2010. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/cannabis/en/
Yacoubian, George. “Assessing the Relationship between Marijuana Availability and Marijuana Use: A Legal and Sociological Comparison between the United States and the Netherlands.” Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education 51. 4 (2007): 17-34. Print.