There are many polarizing issues in the United States, and the question of marijuana legalization is one of them. While many conservatives urge a more strict stance on its use, some liberal-thinking people explain the benefits of legalization. This paper will defend the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Observing the experience of other countries, it becomes clear that this approach to some soft drugs is the most humane. Taking into account the other side of the discussion, this essay claims that marijuana legalization is justified by relatively insignificant social impact, low addiction ratio, and benefits of keeping trade in the legal field.
The Pro-Legalization Arguments
One of the integral arguments from which the whole debate on marijuana use starts is the effect on health conditions. In this respect, it is important to trust scholars and their articles in peer-reviewed journals because of the disinformation campaign around this issue. The academic community acknowledges that while marijuana use increases the chance of cancer, lung damage, and poor pregnancy outcomes, visible short-term side effects are relatively minor (Memedovich et al. 339). In addition, only about 10% of users experience marijuana dependency, a relatively small figure (Memedovich et al. 343). These factors indicate that the choice of whether to use marijuana may be given to individuals because its consumption does not create social problems.
Another factor that supports the idea of marijuana legalization is that some other areas of drug consumption demonstrate the constantly deteriorating situation. In the 21st century, the US still has awful numbers of overdose deaths because of opioids. For example, in 2017, the overdose death rate in the United States was ten times higher than in the European Union (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction). It seems the federal and state agencies which are responsible for drug use reduction should mostly focus on these types of drugs.
Finally, an important explanation for the benefit of legalization is the benefit of bringing the black market marijuana trade into the legal field. Such a strategy will help control the quality of the product through a system of licenses and permits. At the same time, the war on drugs can cause a decline in the quality of the product sold. The reason is that sellers will profit from selling low-quality substances without any specific regulatory actor.
Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization
Criticism of policies on marijuana legalization develops from a variety of perspectives. The first is that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ for stronger substances. The logic under it is evident: starting with a soft drug and getting positive effects, people may become interested in more active and severe drugs. This tendency is more vivid in cases of young people who strive for new experiences.
Another argument is that the legalization of marijuana would not benefit society. Such an opinion was widespread in Forbes’s investigation of different points of view on the issue. In this respect, people take some form of utilitarian stance on drugs and measure the consequences of marijuana legalization and prohibition. The conclusion is that the prohibition of marijuana for recreational use brings more happiness and stability to society than legalization. Nevertheless, the final judgment about consequences is heavily influenced by a concrete person’s political views and ideological propositions.
In this part, some criticism of existing counter-arguments will be uncovered in detail. The first outlined concern was the risk of becoming addicted to more heavy drugs through marijuana as an intermediate stage. Scholars disagree with such thinking because the overwhelming majority of marijuana users still do not go on to use harder substances (NIDA 12). For example, alcohol and cigarettes also increase the chances of becoming addicted to harder substances, but the idea of completely restricting them is not on the agenda (NIDA 12). Such a view from a different perspective shows that the arguments for a complete restriction of marijuana are not feasible.
The explanation of prohibition based on social impact also has some real-life barriers. For example, during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump, the president of the US, opposed marijuana legalization, claiming that he strongly disagreed with the legalization experiment in Colorado (C-Span). As a compromise, he indicated that it should be regulated in states, not federally (Johnson). One of the problems is that the US has the highest prison population globally (International Center for Prison Studies), and 40% of US drug arrests in 2018 were because of marijuana possession (Gramlich). The academic community disregards such harsh punishments for minor marijuana possession because it breaks drug users’ links with health and social services (Csete 266). In addition, the large prison population of drug users creates an environment that is very prone to infectious disease infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C (Csete 262). It is an acute problem even now in the US, so it is actively discussed in the media. Therefore, the harsh stance of punishment toward users of marijuana brings more social problems.
To conclude, this essay argues for the idea that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. It should be legalized because it leads to a fewer number of prisoners, does not cause addiction, and does not create adverse effects. The arguments about possible social problems and the role of marijuana as a gateway drug were discussed through counterarguments from peer-reviewed resources and articles.
Csete, John. “More Harm than Public Health in Drug Policy? A Comment.” Drug Policies and Development, edited by Julia Buxton, Mary Chinery-Hesse, and Khalid Tinasti, Brill Nijhoff, 2020, pp. 261-273.
C-Span. “User Clip: Donald Trump on Marijuana.” C-Span, 2015.
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Drug-Related Deaths and Mortality in Europe: Update from the EMCDDA Expert Network. Publications Office of the European Union, 2019.
Gramlich, John. “Four-in-Ten U.S. Drug Arrests in 2018 Were for Marijuana offenses – Mostly Possession.” Pew Research Center, 2020.
International Center for Prison Studies. “Highest to Lowest – Prison Population Total.” World Prison Brief, 2018.
Johnson, Jenna. “Trump Softens Position on Marijuana Legalization.” Washington Post, 2015.
McCarthy, Niall. “The Arguments For And Against Marijuana Legalization In The US [Infographic].” Forbes, 2019.
Memedovich, K. Ally, et al. “The Adverse Health Effects and Harms Related to Marijuana Use: An Overview Review.” Canadian Medical Association Open Access Journal, vol. 6, no. 3, 2018, pp. 339-346. Web.
NIDA. “Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2016. Web.