- Education and Science
legalizing marijuana for recreational use
Why I wrote this
For my college writing class I had to write a paper about a controversial topic. I had to pick a topic that I didn't know much about so I could write a non-biased paper and do research. After checking out a few topics I finally decided to write about legalizing marijuana. So I hope my essay does a good job of informing you about BOTH sides of the legalization debate over marijuana. (If anyone really cares its written in MLA format... kind of) On another side note, it wouldn't let me indent new paragraphs. You might not even care, but it really bothered me.
Should marijuana be legalized for non-medical use
Many people smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol even though there are medical risks to all of them, but, minus some of the more extreme cases, these are all socially acceptable. So if most people don’t mind that people smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, why is smoking marijuana such a big deal? Maybe it’s because of the types of people that are usually associated with marijuana use. Maybe it’s because people don’t actually know just what marijuana is or its effects on you. Maybe people just don’t want change, or to take the time to look at all the facts. But before people decide whether or not marijuana should be legalized, (aside from medical use) they should look at the facts on both sides of the argument.
On November 2, 2010, California voters voted on Proposition 19, legislation concerning marijuana. Some states have legalized marijuana for medical usage, but very few have tried to legalized marijuana for recreational use. Proposition 19 would have allowed people over the age of 21 to have and use marijuana, grow it on private property in a 25 square foot area, and It would have allowed marijuana to be taxed and regulated by local governments. Proposition 19 also had several safety measures in it, such as prohibiting smoking marijuana in public places, smoking while minors are present, or giving or selling marijuana to anyone under 21. Proposition 19 was defeated, but it was defeated by a smaller margin than some people may think. 53.5% of California voters voted against Proposition 19 and 46.5% of voters voted for it, so it was only defeated by less than five percent.
Marijuana, as horrible as some people may think it is, could have some very positive impacts if it were to be legalized. One of the biggest reasons some people think marijuana should be legalized is for the good economic impact it could have. The biggest economic impact legalizing marijuana would have would be tax revenue. In the case of Proposition 19 in California, an editorial in The Nation magazine states that “...experts estimate that the state could capture $1.4 billion a year in taxes and fees” (Just). Legalizing marijuana would also save money by eliminating the need to spend money to prohibit it. Harvard economist Jeffery Miron estimates that $1.87 billion is spent annually on prohibiting marijuana in California alone (Just). Legalization would also create jobs growing and selling marijuana. One of the arguments in favor of Proposition 19 was that legalizing marijuana could create 60,000 to 110,000 new jobs in California (California). With legalization of marijuana, there would also be more regulation of marijuana. Activists for Proposition 19 pointed out that “...it’s actually easier to keep kids from pot in a legal market, since legal merchants check ID and illegal drug dealers don’t” (Doherty). An open, regulated marijuana market would be much safer because drug dealers don’t care how old the person buying from them is, they just want to get them hooked in hopes that they can eventually get them to try more dangerous, expensive drugs. Another reason legalizing marijuana could be beneficial is that it would most likely eliminate or significantly reduce the use of K2. K2 is a mixture of herbs and spices that is sprayed with a chemical similar to marijuana that gets people high. The problem with K2 is that it is legal in many parts of the country, and some people are smoking it as a legal substitute for marijuana. K2 is also much more dangerous than marijuana. According to the WFAA news station in Dallas, Texas, studies have shown that it is addictive, and can cause: higher heart rate, loss of consciousness, paranoia, hallucinations, and psychotic episodes. In June 2010, David Rozga committed suicide after having a panic attack right after he had smoked K2 with his friends (St. James).
Despite all the good things marijuana could do if legalized, there are also reasons why legalization could be a bad thing. There’s no sugar-coating the fact that marijuana isn’t healthy. According to The Christian Science Monitor, “Pot is associated with cognitive impairment (affecting the ability to think, reason, and process information), poor motor skills, and respiratory and mental illness” (Christian). Although many people for the legalization of marijuana say its not addictive, it is. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “More than 30 percent of people who are 18 and older and who used marijuana in the past year are either dependent on the drug or abuse it.” (Christian). Looking at marijuana solely health-wise, there are no good reasons (other than a few medical uses) to legalize it. Another reason legalizing marijuana would be a bad idea is that even though there would have to be laws about smoking marijuana, not all people would follow them. Drunk driving is a crime, but people do it all the time and some people even die because of it. With marijuana, there could be a law against smoking around minors, but some people would still do it, if they think they won’t be caught doing it. One of the arguments for the legalization of marijuana was that it would save money on prohibiting it, but the argument overlooks the cost of legalizing it. If marijuana were legal, there would have to be money spent to enforce the new laws for its use. Legalization would probably increase marijuana abuse which would also lead to the need of more money to be spent on treatment.
One point that was used by both those for and those against Proposition 19 was the affect legalization of marijuana on the Mexican drug cartels. Those for legalization said that it would have a huge impact on the cartels profit. According to Daniel Wood, the “... US government estimates that marijuana sales make up 60 percent of the drug cartels’ revenues.” (Wood). However, RAND says “This 60 percent figure is a truly mythical number, one that appeared out of nowhere and that has acquired great authority...” (qtd. in Wood). RAND estimates that legalizing marijuana would only decrease the cartels’ revenue by 2-4 percent. So although it would have a small effect on the cartels, it wouldn’t have as much of an effect as many people thought it would have, thus making it much less of a reason to legalize marijuana.
Looking at both sides of the argument, I think marijuana should be legalized for non-medical use. The biggest thing about the issue to me was the economic impact it could have. With our economy the way it is right now, I think taxes on marijuana would be a great new source of revenue. If taxes on marijuana in California alone could bring in $1.4 billion yearly, just imagine how much it could bring in if it was legal across the whole country. Even after all the added expenses of regulation and treatment, I think it would just basically counteract having to spend the money to prohibit it. The job creation would also be very beneficial to our economy, and would lower the unemployment rate. Another good thing about legalizing marijuana is the easier regulation. Drug dealers don’t care who you are, or what age you are, they just want to sell to anyone that will buy. Legal merchants, on the other hand, would have to check your ID to make sure you are of age to purchase marijuana. Also, drug dealers main goal is to make money, so what they really want to do is get you started with marijuana and eventually get you to try much more expensive, harmful drugs. Legal merchants would only be able to sell marijuana, so they wouldn’t have those other drugs to be trying to push onto people. The last reason why I think marijuana should be legalized is that, within a reasonable realm, people should be able to do what they want. As long as something isn’t infringing on other peoples rights or health, and it isn’t unreasonably unhealthy to yourself, you should be able to do it. Even though drinking and smoking are proven to be unhealthy, they are still widely accepted in society. I’ve heard of people dying from lung cancer from smoking for years, and I’ve heard of people killed in drunk driving accidents, but I’ve never heard of a person dying from smoking marijuana. Although maybe it’s because alcohol and tobacco are legal that we hear so much about people dying from using them. The thing that I think would be the biggest problem of legalizing marijuana would be the second hand smoke, especially with small children. Some people would probably smoke with their children around, and the children most likely wouldn’t do anything about it. However, in the end I think the benefits of legalizing marijuana greatly outweigh the negatives.
In conclusion, legalizing marijuana has some great benefits, especially economically. It could raise huge amounts of money in taxes, create jobs, and eliminate the need to spend money prohibiting marijuana use. A legal marijuana market would also be much more regulated than the current illegal one. Legal merchants would check your ID, and wouldn’t have other drugs to try to sell to you. Finally on the good side of legalization, it would decrease the amount of K2 usage, because people could smoke real marijuana instead of using K2 to get high. Even though K2 is legal, it has many dangerous side effects and can even lead to death. On the other end of the argument, marijuana is addictive and unhealthy. Other than a few medical uses, marijuana has no health benefits. Legalizing marijuana would also create laws about its possession and use, which would cost money to implement and enforce. Along with that, not everyone will follow the new laws, and not all of those that don’t will be caught. Some people drive drunk, but not all of them crash, and not all of them get caught. With marijuana, there would probably be people that smoke by their kids, or smoke while driving that don’t get caught. One argument that worked both ways was the impact legalizing marijuana would have on Mexican drug cartels. The people for legalization were saying that up to 60 percent of the cartels’ money comes from marijuana, but a study by RAND showed that it was really only about two to four percent. When the number drops from 60 percent down to around four percent, it seems like it would be an argument against legalization, but if you really think about it, they are still losing money event though it may not be as much as some people thought. Judging by how close the votes were in California for proposition 19 in 2010, marijuana might some day become legal for recreational use.
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