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Why Should the United States Legalize Marijuana?

Updated on April 22, 2014

Marijuana, A Safe and Effective Remedy

Freedom to use Marijuana

Some states have approved the use of medicinal marijuana, as well as decriminalized possession of small amounts. Recently, Colorado and Washington have legalized it completely. House Representatives have created a bill to remove marijuana from the controlled substance classification. They are fighting the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which labeled marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has no medical use and is strongly abused. There is massive evidence for the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and studies have shown that it has very few harmful effects to the body. The majority of Americans agree that the adults should have the right to legally use cannabis. There are an estimated 14 million marijuana users in the nation. Legalizing it would support the American ideology of freedom for all, and would make a positive impact on the nation’s economy.

Compassion is the Key

There is no doubt that marijuana has medicinal benefits, and progress for legalization is being made at the state level. At this time, 18 states have made it legal for patients to possess it, and in some states, grow it for personal use. The common framework for a patient to become approved for medicinal marijuana begins with a diagnosis of a qualifying condition. The conditions for which it is approved include: Cancer, AIDS, MS, Crohn’s Disease, and other conditions that produce pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and seizures (Mikos). After the physician makes a recommendation, the patient may register with the state and is exempt from arrest and prosecution. However, because of its federal illegality, marijuana is still difficult for these patients to obtain. Compassion is of the utmost importance for ill patients who truly find relief by using it. One solution is for states to run growing and production facilities, but they are threatened by DEA drug seizures and prosecution. In fact, the DEA has raided at least 200 medical marijuana cooperatives in California alone (Mikos). In order to help patients access the much needed cannabis, legalization is the best solution.

An Effective Remedy

The Mayo Clinic has listed some medical condition and symptoms that cannabis has been shown to reduce or alleviate. The active components in cannabinoids reduce chronic pain, by having an effect on the central nervous system and immune cells. For patients suffering from MS, research shows a reduction in neuropathic pain and muscle spasms. It has also been effective for a reduction in seizures in epileptic patients and relief from eczema. Patients use marijuana to reduce the symptoms of Huntington’s Disease and Cancer, because the drug can increase appetite and reduce nausea. Many patients report that the cannabis is more tolerable and has fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs.

What's the Harm in Legalization?

The government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, and claims that it is strongly abused. Many people would argue that there are legal harmful substances being abused, especially alcohol and tobacco. Studies have shown that marijuana is no more harmful than these substances. A person using recreational cannabis will typically experience relaxation, euphoria, and heightened sensations. Many people consider the marijuana to be an effective remedy for anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle strain, and insomnia. To overdose on pot is impossible, and no reported deaths exist due to its use. It is contradictory that the FDA permits alcohol and tobacco, while acknowledging their harmful effects and risks of fatality. Marijuana has less addictive qualities and is not pharmacologically linked with overdose or violence

State Legalization

States that have decriminalized marijuana have good reason to do so. This saves the state from wasting funds on policing and enforcing justice on marijuana users. Besides saving resources, overcrowding of prisons is prevented and funds can be redirected to more important causes. By tolerating the drug, the State is helping to change public opinion, making it more widely accepted. The state is essentially suggesting to the public that it is safe and beneficial, making it less taboo and more mainstream.

A Waste of Resources

The government continues to fight the popular opinion of legalization. By formally condemning marijuana, the government is able to portray the drug as dangerous and harmful. In his article, "On the Limits of Supremacy: Medical Marijuana and the States' Overlooked Power to Legalize Federal Crime.," Mikos explains that,

Since 1998, the Office of National Drug Control Policy ("ONDCP") has spent more than $1.5 billion on an aggressive ad campaign designed to discourage marijuana use - medical or otherwise - particularly among youth, largely by portraying the drug as dangerous, wicked, and uncool.172 To the extent lawmakers can shape preferences and redefine self-interest, they can diminish citizens' desire to engage in prohibited activity without having to impose costly legal sanctions.

The public is not convinced, and the majority of people support legalization. Many people do not trust the authorities to tell them what is in their best interest, and understand that the government may have ulterior motives. One reason for not legalizing it is that many patented medicines would become replaced. Large drug manufacturers would lose billions of dollars in drug sales, from which the government receives financial gains. Additionally, lawmakers fear that if cannabis is widely known as medicine, then children will not get the anti-pot message that the government promotes.

Minorities at Risk

Legalizing marijuana can have a positive effect on minority users. According to a study by the Human Rights Watch of FBI data, African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for use and sale of marijuana. They are up to six times more likely to be busted than their white counterparts, considering that their use of pot is no greater than any other race. If pot was legal, police would be unable to use marijuana as a method of racial profiling. Drug convictions can often lead to a life of crime and disastrous consequences. In the case of young people, time spent in jail can reduce their chances for education and employment. These inevitable results of drug arrests are far worse than the effects of marijuana use.

Is the "War on Drugs" Actually a "War on Cannabis?"

The legalization of marijuana would alleviate the government from wasting resources on search, seizure, and prosecution of marijuana users. The number 1 reason for getting arrested in this country is for violating drug law, and half of those arrests are for marijuana. Of all drug-related arrests, 82% are for possession. In fact, Bush’s “War on Drugs” appears to be mostly focused on cannabis, and has proven to be ineffective in enforcing the CSA on marijuana users. The government spends an estimated 10.7 billion to enforce drug laws, which is a waste of police time and funds. Responsible adults can use it recreationally without worrying too much about prosecution, because they will simply avoid being caught. The legal ramifications of carrying, growing, and distributing cannabis are too harsh. According to federal law, a possessing person would be charged with a misdemeanor, and charged with a minimum fine of $1,000 which incrementally rises if the offender has previous drug convictions. The punishment for repeat offenders includes jail time, and sometimes loss of a student’s financial aid and public assistance.

Legalization is for the Best

There is no effective way to stop marijuana use, distribution, and the cultivation of pot plants. The efforts of the DEA are futile because even if they shut down a large scale marijuana cooperative, another would just take its place. If marijuana was legal, there would be a large reduction in the underground “black market” sales and production. If marijuana became regulated, the government would gain billions in tax revenues, which could lift the country out of its deep recession. Legalization would lead to a savings of $8 billion from government spending on enforcement. Considering the benefits for America and its citizens, legalization is a proper solution for the future of our economy.


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    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Hi Jennifer Reeves, I have mixed thoughts about legalization of marijuana, maybe in part that my societal lens that I view it from tells me it is illegal. I can see the benefits of its use to reduce symptoms related to some really terrible illnesses. However, I do see at this point many young people in my office for therapy who tell their primary physicians "I have anxiety" and they are given a card. There is no way in my mind that anxiety is in any way comparable to the pain of say cancer. I guess that is where I see the issue, is the abuse continues just manifested differently. But if it were to become legal than I think the laws should follow and being pulled over for intoxication should relate to any substance not just alcohol (and sometimes prescription drugs). So if we can see that perspective then people will not avoid arrest, the arrests will just look different. As opposed to simple possession then they will face a DUI which at this time in our country is very pricey and can hold some additional consequences. So again I can see the benefits but that does not remove the costs of legalizing marijuana. Thank you for your perspective, voted up.