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The Positive and Negative Impacts of the Legalization of Marijuana

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  • Category: Marijuana

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Marijuana has been the source of much debate in recent years. Many believe that this plant is special, and that this plant is less damaging than alcohol or tobacco. Some individuals believe it offers more than just physical and mental relief. They believe that it has the power to heal diseases. In the medical field, many have questioned where this evidence is. There have been studies of marijuana for decades. Most doctors would tell the general public that without a doubt this drug, like others, will have adverse effects in dealing with disease or pain management. For those who suffer with horrible diseases that can be painful and depressing it is an escape from what they have to deal with on a daily basis. Legalizing medical marijuana may be beneficial to a small number of Americans dealing with disease, but when you consider the negative effects it has on the youth of this country, it no longer seems like an option worth seeking. Dangers of Marijuana

Marijuana is an illegal mind-altering substance. It is federally classified as a Schedule I drug. (Department of Justice, 2012) This means like cocaine, heroin, or PCP; it is illegal to purchase, sell or use it anywhere in America. There are many reasons why the Supreme Court has continually upheld their decisions to keep marijuana illegal. From documented research on health effects to the criminal interaction involved with the use of this drug, it seems fitting that it should be illegal. Many will argue though that it is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. In 2010, more than 10,000 deaths were directly related to alcohol-impaired driving (National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 2011). Many advocates for the legalization of marijuana compare the considerable death tolls of alcohol and tobacco to the minor reports of deaths that stem from the use of marijuana. Very rarely are there reports of marijuana overdoses or accidents involving those under the influence of marijuana alone. Understandably these are obvious arguments that would justify why marijuana should be legal. Tobacco is legal and kills many Americans in the form of cancers and respiratory problems. Alcohol kills the most through accidents, liver complications and overdose.

It is easy to see why so many can simply say just legalize marijuana because alcohol and tobacco are legal and they kill Americans every day. People would have to take into consideration that if marijuana was legalized there would be an obvious increase in its use. With increase in use, you would have more individuals prone to dependency and long term use. Marijuana is like tobacco in the sense that it contains many different types of carcinogens and chemicals. In research done in Canada, they “found that marijuana smoke contains significantly higher levels of numerous toxic compounds, like ammonia and hydrogen cyanide, than regular tobacco smoke”(American Chemical Society, 2010). There is no data on whether or not smoking marijuana will give you cancer. Marijuana smoke does contain higher levels of chemicals and has become increasingly more potent.

“Marijuana is much more powerful today than it was 30 years ago, and so are its mind altering effects. Average THC levels rose from less than 1 percent in the mid-1970s to more than 6 percent in 2002. Sinsemilla potency increased in the past two decades from 6 percent to more than 13 percent, with some samples containing THC levels of up to 33 percent”(Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2002). The side effects of more potent marijuana are not yet known. For medicinal use, the marijuana plant has become a canvas for those who experiment with different ways of growing the most potent and best high possible. At some point these strain will contain such strong levels of THC that they will not only cause harm to the lungs and brain of individuals who smoke them, but also effect normal activities, such as driving, in a very negative way.

Many advocates for the legalization of marijuana consider alcohol to more detrimental for society than the effects of recreationally using marijuana. While alcohol does not necessarily have a great track record, many laws have been put into place to help curb any negative impacts for the average American. Alcohol is used around the world in almost every culture. This does not justify its use for the public. It does show that there are more people around the world who see alcohol as less of a threat than marijuana, and people have accepted alcohol as a social normality. Alcohol has been studied in many ways. Some studies suggest that minor consumption can help avoid heart disease, type 2 diabetes and assist in digestive health (Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits, 2012).

Alcohol does have considerable negative impacts on society in general. “The federal government estimates that 8.9 percent of full-time workers (12.7 million people) have drinking problems. Alcohol costs American business an estimated $134 billion in productivity losses, mostly due to missed work; 65.3 percent of this cost was caused by alcohol-related illness, 27.2 percent due to premature death, and 7.5 percent to crime”(Impact of Alcoholism, April, 2011). If America were to legalize marijuana then the social impacts would be costly, and it would add to the already significant damage that is done by alcohol and tobacco. With so much emphasis put on saving lives from the use of alcohol and tobacco it seems unnecessary to add fuel to a fire that costs Americans a continually increasing amount of time and money. Marijuana Around the World

Many countries have adapted to unique judicial systems that allow individuals to use marijuana. It is still illegal to sell it or to possess over certain weights. It is still classified as a drug by the United Nations and each of the states in the European Union (Possession of Cannabis for Personal Use , 2011) Each country in the European Union has different laws, and offers different fines and jail time for the sale or possession of marijuana. The Netherlands is very well known for its lack of interest in pursuing those who smoke in their coffee shops and established hashish houses. Many advocates for the legalization of marijuana consider Amsterdam to be a perfect example of how a beautiful city can balance the law and recreational use of marijuana. They also fail to take into account the increase in violence, robberies and the use of alcohol and drugs associated with minors (Stimson, Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No, 2010). Even a place such as Amsterdam has realized that the effects of not monitoring the crime associated with marijuana has had a negative impact on the youth. The Netherlands and others in the European Union are currently reevaluating their drug policies and are working towards a stricter environment for drug dealers and offenders.

What has started as an initiative that many believed had no chance of seeing the light of day has gathered am ever increasing following filled with prominent figures from the film and music industry, to politicians and medical experts. Many believed that the legalization of marijuana for medical use would never reach the voting booth due to the fact that it is illegal and harmful. In America there are seventeen states, and more recently the District of Colombia, that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. Each state determines what amount will be considered legal to possess with a prescription. More than half of the states allow individuals to grow their own plants. States like Oregon and Washington allow card holders to grow 15 to 18 plants per person (Laws, Fees, and Possession Limits, 2012).

In eight years the number of states that initiated ballots to legalize medicinal marijuana had doubled. By 2020 two thirds of the United States could potentially follow the same path. States like Missouri and Montana currently have petitions for amendments to the state constitutions that would allow marijuana to be policed in the same manner as alcohol (Altieri, 8 States May Legalize Marijuana This Year, 2012). It seems inevitable that there will be states that will eventually legalize marijuana not just for medicinal purposes, but for personal use too. Some states have taken steps to amend the criminal offense laws to offer no jail time or record of the offense. The person would have to pay a reduced fine for each time they are caught. This would equate to crossing a street illegally or drinking in public. The Gateway Drug: Marijuana

Marijuana is called the gateway drug because it typically is the most readily available and commonly is the first drug that most minors use first. It puts the consumer in contact with dealers who commonly sell other drugs that they may decide to experiment with. “Marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year—a sharp contrast to the considerable decline that had occurred in the preceding decade. Daily marijuana use is now at a 30-year peak level among high school seniors”(Marijuana Use Continues to Rise, 2011). This trend is not only dangerous for the teens of America when dealing with health concerns, but also because they are putting themselves in contact with people who are associated with dealing drugs or having involvement in gangs. Many studies show that just over half of new drug users chose marijuana as there first drug to try (Impact of Drugs on Society, 2010).

America has a long history of dealing with drugs and the gangs that bring them into the country or sell them on the streets. Marijuana is the most widely used and the easiest to access. In 2002, 2003 and 2004 almost 47% of those arrested for any Part 1 offense had used marijuana in the past twelve months (Illicit Drug Use, 2005). Many states that have legalized medicinal marijuana are starting to see increases in crime rates. “In Los Angeles, police report that areas surrounding cannabis clubs have experienced a 200 percent increase in robberies, a 52.2 percent increase in burglaries, a 57.1 percent increase in aggravated assault, and a 130.8 percent increase in burglaries from automobiles” (Stimson, Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No, 2010). Marijuana may not be defined as a gateway drug by some, but it is involved in many illegal activities and sets the stage for other illicit drug use.

Along with crime comes the increase in monetary damages. The taxpayers of these states believe that the taxation on the sale of marijuana will help with the state’s budget. The problem is that the gangs and cartels that have been supplying these drugs are now seeing an increase in users and a decrease in profits. Violent crimes and robberies lead to high costs for policing these areas. The government taxes alcohol and loses money every year from the costs associated with health care and employment performance. This will reach new highs if you add to the table the legalization of marijuana. The government has forced big tobacco companies to sponsor ads for anti-smoking. The government’s agencies and also states spend tens of millions of dollars each per year.

There would have to be a similar set up to warn about the already known danger of smoking marijuana. This would make a significant dent in the possible money gained from taxing the sale of marijuana. It seems that advocates look at gains in profit without considering bottom line cost that would have a large effect on the overall financials of legalizing marijuana. There are health care costs, dependency issues and considerable loss in employee performance. The costs are not only monetary. For future generations there is added pressure when it comes to parenting and helping underage youth stay away from not only alcohol and tobacco, but now a new, proven mind altering drug, that would be legal and readily available for them right around the corner.

There may be some beneficial properties of medical Marijuana though it is proven to have many more detrimental effects on the body over time. In some cases it can help distract those in pain, or who are suffering from terminal diseases. There will always be the argument that alcohol and tobacco are legal, so marijuana should also be legal. For the general public it serves no purpose, and will only hinder our advancement as a society. It has negative effects on the human body. Some effects may be reversible while others may kill. Legalizing marijuana will more than likely add cost to the already unmanageable healthcare system. It will put more kids in front of useless narcotics that will lead to an increase in addicts and eventually deaths. It is a drug for a reason, and without properly keeping it away from the general public there will certainly be more costs and negative effects on American culture that could be avoided by simply saying no.


U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration. (2012, April). Lists of: Scheduling actions, controlled substances, regulated chemicals. Retrieved from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/ schedules/orangebook/orangebook.pdf National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2010) Impaired Driving. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/Impaired Moir D, Rickert W., Levasseur G., Larose Y., Maertens R., White P, Desjardins S. (July 31, 2007). A Comparison of Mainstream and Sidestream Marijuana and Tobacco Cigarette Smoke Produced Under Two Machine Smoking Conditions. Retrieved from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/tx700275p Office of National Drug Control Policy. (2002). What American Need to Know About Marijauna. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/publications/pdf/mj_rev.pdf Harvards School of Public Health. ( 2012, June) Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits. Retrieved from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/alcohol-full-
story/index.html Research Society on Alcoholism. (2011, April). Impact of Alcoholism and Alcohol Induced Disease on America. Retreived from http://www.rsoa.org/2011-04-11RSAWhitePaper.pdf

References Continued
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2012). Legal topic overviews: possession of cannabis for personal use. Retrieved from http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/legal-topic-overviews/cannabis-possession-for-personal-use Stimson C. (2010, September). Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/09/legalizing-marijuana-why-citizens-should-just-say-no#_ftn28 Procon.org. (2012) Laws, Fees, and Possession Limits. Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881 Altieri E. (2012, Feb) 8 States May Legalize Marijuana This Year – Did Yours Make the List? Retrieved from http://blog.norml.org/2012/02/09/8-states-may-legalize-marijuana-this-year-did-yours-make-the-list/

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