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Substance Abuse - Legalize Marijuana?

Updated on December 29, 2013
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Recent Elections and Events

In light of elections and events in the past couple of years, many interesting decisions have been made in regards to leadership and several propositions of all types throughout the United States. Some propositions passed won’t have much effect on all states, or even the country as a whole, but some new laws passed will not only effect the states they were passed in, but the entire country. For example, the states Washington and Colorado passed new laws that legalize marijuana in their states. With any new law comes the qualifying rules associated with it. So, regulations have been established in an attempt to control how marijuana is used, but the fact that they have legalized a substance that has always been prohibited and illegal is a big change that certainly won’t go unnoticed. According to The Denver Post, in Colorado it is now legal for an adult to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes, anyone over the age of 21 can now purchase up to one ounce of the substance at regulated stores, and possession is now legal if you aren’t using in a public place (Gurman). I wonder how some will define the concept of a public place and how that will in turn affect the general public. Rules are meant to keep things under control and to not cause any unfavorable effects on those that don’t want anything to do with what is being regulated, but people always find loopholes and the problem, at times, explodes into an even bigger problem. Legalization of marijuana just might be one of those decisions that may explode into a problem that has the potential to blossom into more than just the legalization of a substance.

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Is Marijuana Legal at the Federal Level?

Just because it is now legal statewide in Washington and Colorado does not mean that it’s legal on the federal level in either, or any, state. Any discrepancy could pose problems for those who decide to start to use or grow marijuana. In the same post by Sadie Gurman, in The Denver Post, a government official was interviewed about how those whom decide to take advantage of the new state laws will be affected by federal laws that were not changed during the election. The official, while addressing the issue of marijuana legalization, said that even though it’s considered legal to now possess marijuana in the two states, someone could still be arrested because it’s breaking a federal law. In my opinion this causes complications and confusion. Different views, such as the ones mentioned, make it clear that the legalization of marijuana is an issue. It isn’t only an issue that is complicated at state and federal levels, but even more importantly it is a complicated battle for those who end up using the substance now because it is legal. Using could put them in a place they weren't expecting to be. The battle that the legalization of marijuana brings to users is one of increased use of marijuana and eventually other illegal substances. Other illegal substances are far more dangerous than marijuana.

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Should Marijuana be legalized?

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Marijuana is the Most Popular Illicit Drug

Throughout the United States marijuana is illegal, but that hasn’t hindered the use of the substance. According to Jeffery DeSimone, a professor at Yale University, marijuana is considered the most common illicit drug on the market used in the United States (149). Even when all state and federal laws prohibited marijuana, people all over the country still were able to get their hands on the illegal substance. This is a problem. What will happen now that in some states it’s now perfectly legal to get your hands on, and even grow, a substance that has always been banned?
Pros and cons exist when you analyze the legalization of marijuana. Washington and Colorado are banking on the opportunity to make a lot of money off of taxes that will be placed on marijuana purchases. Marijuana will be taxed just like cigarettes and alcohol. It is estimated that both states will see massive increases in their revenue numbers. Is money worth putting more people at risk of eventually using marijuana? Is it worth the potential escalation of addictions to other hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin? These questions bring to the surface an interesting debate about whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug.

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Marijuana Facts: Gateway Drug

Facts:

- Those that use marijuana have a much greater probability, “85 times” more probable, of using more hard drugs in the future.

- Those who never have used the substance don’t usually (become) addicts of hard drugs, however, persons that do use marijuana have a tendency to experiment with, and eventually use, hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

- Denise B. Kandel, PH.D., Kazuo Yamaguchip, PH.D., and Kevin Chen, PH.D. concluded that marijuana is one of three drugs that precede other hard or illicit drugs.

- Psychologically the use of marijuana could lead to an increased use of hard drugs.

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

In order to assess the possibility of marijuana being a gateway drug, it is essential to know what is meant by the terms gateway and gateway drug. A gateway drug can be defined in a few different ways. On dictionary.com, one of the definitions of the word gateway is: “allowing entry, access, or progress to a more extreme form: gateway drug; gateway drink.” With this definition in mind we can conclude that marijuana could act as a gateway drug in the sense that it can lead to more hard drugs. In a book entitled Stages and Pathways of Drug Involvement, a hypothesis called the “Gateway Hypothesis” is described. In a nutshell the hypothesis says that a drug that isn’t considered a hard drug can lead to the use of a drug that is considered harder and could eventually lead to even harder drugs (Kandel 4). Of course, this doesn’t mean that this will hold true to all users of a gateway drug. It is a hypothesis. A gateway drug simply has the potential to increase the risk and possibility of an increased use of other drugs, hard or not.
So, does marijuana fall under the definition of a gateway drug? Some argue yes, while others argue no. There is evidence that suggests that marijuana will lead to hard drugs. Therefore, they consider it a gateway drug. In an article written by two individuals that have their PH.D’s, they analyze marijuana, gateway drugs, hard drugs, substance abusers, etc. In their manuscript, they discuss those who use marijuana and those who never have used marijuana. Those who never have used the substance don’t usually (become) addicts of hard drugs, however, persons that do use marijuana have a tendency to experiment with, and eventually use, hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine (Golub and Johnson 607). Their studies aren’t the only ones that have the same or a similar stance about the debate involving marijuana and gateway drugs. One study conducted in 1994 by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse acquired some interesting facts about individuals that use marijuana and individuals that don’t and how other drug habits were fueled. Their study, which was conducted in the United States, showed that those that use marijuana have a much greater probability, “85 times” more probable, of using more hard drugs in the future (Morral, McCaffrey, and Paddock 1494). This means that most of those that start to use marijuana have an extremely high chance of using cocaine, heroin, or other hard drugs. Another study conducted by Denise B. Kandel, PH.D., Kazuo Yamaguchip, PH.D., and Kevin Chen, PH.D. concluded that marijuana is one of three drugs that precede other hard or illicit drugs (447). It is the only one of the three that precede hard drugs that is an illicit drug, up until recently in all states. Do these studies prove that marijuana is a gateway drug in the sense that it leads one to use other hard drugs? If that’s not enough to prove that it does lead to other drugs, then lets look at the term gateway drug in a different way, a psychological way.

Psychologically Speaking: Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

If we approach marijuana and the possibility of it being a gateway drug psychologically then we find a whole different perspective. In this sense the term gateway drug could mean that mentally a person feels they need more of a stimulus that marijuana just can’t give them anymore, so they start to experiment and eventually use more hard drugs to satisfy their growing cravings. Their bodies are becoming too accustomed to the current drug and they cease to receive satisfaction from marijuana. We can see this trend when we take medications for headaches or other common illnesses. If these medications are used on a consistent basis we eventually find ourselves taking more than when we started because that original amount just doesn't cut it anymore and has no apparent affect on our condition.

While talking with addicts about their drug history, most of them have something in common about the drugs that they have used. Marijuana was either the first, or one of the first, drugs that they used before they started to use hard drugs. When asked about the different substances, they often express similar answers. Marijuana just wasn’t enough after a while. They felt that they needed something else to give them the same great feeling they got when they were high off marijuana. Therefore psychologically the use of marijuana could lead to an increased use of hard drugs. The fact that they progressed to hard drugs after using marijuana for a time suggests that mentally they felt they needed something bigger. Marijuana, along with hard drugs, can do a lot of damage to those who use and to those who love those whom use.

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Will Legalization Cause Controversy?

Will legalization of marijuana cause more problems than it’s worth? Yes, marijuana can do good if it’s used correctly, but most of the parties that use marijuana aren’t using it for it’s medical attributes. What are they using it for? To get a high. To feel good for a small span of time. To get away from reality. To fit in at school. These reasons are all momentary and won’t last very long. Yes, it’s satisfying in the moment, but it’s not worth the risk of potentially using more serious and dangerous drugs.

If marijuana can do so much damage to a person, why then would people want to legalize it? It’d make more sense to increase the penalties if caught with it. The legalization of marijuana would make it okay for people to use the drug, buy the drug, and even grow the drug without getting in trouble. Imagine what will happen to people that begin to use it extensively and then find that it’s not doing the trick anymore. It’s very probable that they will turn to hard drugs. Then what? Their families will be punished along with the user. Aside from families having to deal with these addictions, so will the public. The public ends up paying for addicts in a variety of ways: prison costs, facility costs, and if addicts commit crimes while high. As it was mentioned above, Colorado and Washington are the first states in the United States to legalize marijuana. Legalization will produce lots of money for these states, but it will be devastating to those who live in those states. Also, the legalization of marijuana will increase hard drug usage because the legalization will produce more gateway users.

Works Cited

Works Cited
DeSimone, Jeffrey. “Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?.” Eastern Economic Journal. 24.2 (1998): 149. Web. 9 Nov. 2012.
“gateway.” Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon. Dictionary.com, LLC. 9 Nov. 2012.
Golub, Andrew, and Bruce D. Johnson. “The Shifting Importance of Alcohol and Marijuana as Gateway Substances among Serious Drug Abusers*.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol. (1994): 607. Web. 9 Nov. 2012.
Gurman, Sadie. “Coloradans Say Yes to Recreational use of Marijuana.” Denver Post 07 Nov. 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2012.
Kandel, Denise B., Kazuo Yamaguchi, and Kevin Chen. “Stages of Progression in Drug Involvement from Adolescence to Adulthood: Further Evidence for the Gateway Theory*.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol. (1992): 447. Web. 9 Nov. 2012.
Kandel, Denise B. Stages and Pathways of Drug Involvement: Examining the Gateway Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 4. eBook.
Morral, Andrew R., Daniel F. McCaffrey, and Susan M. Paddock. “Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect.” Society for the Study of Addiction to Alcohol and Other Drugs. (2002): 1494. Web. 9 Nov. 2012.

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