Marijuanashould be legalized in the United States due to the medical andeconomic benefits that have been experienced by those states andcountries that have already decriminalized its use.
TheHistory of Marijuana
From2737 B.C., the traditional Chinese used marijuana for medicalpurposes. Subsequently, the use of this drug spread to India, NorthAfrica, and eventually reached Europe as early as 500 A.D. During thesixteenth century, the Spanish brought marijuana to America, and itwas later introduced in Jamestown (McKenna,2014).In 1611, the English settlers started growing cannabis as a majorcommercial crop alongside tobacco. During the 1890s, some medicinescontained marijuana, but in a smaller percentage as compared to opiumor cocaine. In the 1920s, the jazz musicians and people in showbusiness started using cannabis for recreational purposes.Consequently, people began opening marijuana clubs in every majorcity.
Onthe other hand, the authorities tolerated such activities becausemarijuana was a legal substance (McKenna,2014).Moreover, the cannabissmokers showed no adverse signs such as disturbing or endangering thecommunity thus, it was not considered a threat. From 1850 to 1942,marijuana was prescribed for various conditions such as labor pains,nausea, and rheumatism. However, the United States Federal Bureau ofNarcotics initiated a campaign to show people that Cannabiswas a powerful, addicting substance that has adverse effects on theusers (McKenna,2014).
Theexperience of states and other countries where marijuana is legal
In1996, voters in California accepted the law to allow the use ofcannabisfor medical purposes at the state level. Since then, the twenty-twoother states have decriminalized marijuana use (McKenna,2014).Nonetheless, the details about the legislations vary in each regionbut generally, people suffering from various conditions such asglaucoma and social anxiety can buy marijuana with a physician`sprescription to reduce their symptoms (Grube & Friese, 2012). Thestates that have legalized cannabishave benefited through increased revenues. Statistics show thatlegalization raises billions of dollars in income.For example, the taxes in Colorado increased to more than $70 millioneach year. In 2015, the state collected $113 million, and this valueis expected to increase up to $140 million this year(Ghosh et al., 2016).Decriminalizationhas also led to the emergence of new economic activities such asmarijuana cultivation.
Governmentcost associated with illegal marijuana
Legalizationhas reduced the number of inmates arrested for marijuana-relatedoffenses. For instance, in Colorado, marijuana charges filed incourts reduced from 10,340 to 1,954 between 2012 and 2015 (Ghosh etal., 2016). Consequently, it has saved the local government resourcesused in arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating these offenders.Likewise, California was saving approximately $68.5 million in courtexpenses, 40.3 million for law enforcement costs, and $13.6 millionin corrections expenditure. However, the states that havedecriminalized marijuana impose fines for those who violated thelimit regulations (Ghosh et al., 2016). Consequently, it eliminatesdisparities and allows the police officers to focus on serious crimesin the society. For example, Chicago saves approximately 20,000 hoursof police time that is equivalent to $1 million (Ghosh et al., 2016).
Onthe other hand, Statistics show that 700,933 Americans were arrestedfor violating marijuana laws in 2014. Among that number, 88 percentwere arrested on possession charges. Thus, the states criminalizingmarijuana spend as much as $20 billion per year to enforce the rules.The government incurs $14.2 billion for state and local correctionsfacilities, $9.8 billion for law enforcement expenses, and $6.2billion for supply reduction activities (Ghosh et al., 2016).Furthermore, criminalizingmarijuana forces the police officers to spend valuable time toenforce the prohibition laws (McKenna,2014).
Consequencesof making marijuana legal
Evenso, legalizing marijuana presents consequences because people want touse cannabis as a recreational drug, which presents serious healthrisks (Grube & Friese, 2012). Millions of people are alreadyaddicted to marijuana thus, decriminalizing its use will make themmore dependent as the drug will be more accessible.Decriminalizationcan also result in more drug use among teenagers, which willintroduce them to the health risks associated with marijuana(Grube & Friese, 2012).Researchshows that prolongeduse of cannabis leads to respiratory illness as well as a decline incognitive functions. Legalization of marijuana has also led to asharp increase in accidents. A person under the influence ofmarijuana has an impaired cognitive function, which makes itdifficult to drive or operate any machinery thus, increasing therate of accidents (Grube & Friese, 2012).
Marijuanalegalization forms a controversial debate in the society as somepeople oppose it while others support the decriminalization efforts.Both sides offer logical arguments, but legalization seems like abetter option because it has proven to be more beneficial. Using theevidence from states that have already decriminalized cannabis,legalization will increase the tax revenues, introduce new economicactivities, and save expenses for arresting and prosecutingmarijuana-related offenses. Althoughthe legalization efforts are based on the ideas that depict marijuanaas harmless, studies show that the continued use of the drug cancause severe health problems. Marijuana is addictive, and continueduse among young people introduces the risk of cardiac failure andmental illnesses. Additionally, it increases social problems for theteenagers using marijuana as it becomes hard for them to interactwell with other people. Therefore, even as most states embrace thedecriminalization efforts, they have to protect the youngergeneration by limiting its distribution to persons below the requiredage limit.
Ghosh,T., Van Dyke M. Maffey, A., Whitney, E., Gillim-Ross, L. & Wolk,L. (2016). The public health framework of legalized marijuana inColorado. AmericanJournal of Public Health,106(1),21-27.
Grube,J. W. & Friese, B. (2012). Legalization of medical marijuana andmarijuana use among youths. Drugs:education, prevention and policy,20(1),33-39.
McKenna,G. J. (2014). The Status of Medical Marijuana in the United States.HawaiiJournal of Medicine & Public Health,73(4),105-108.