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Marijuana users are accustomed to consuming the substance even with the fact that they risk greatly from the act. "Few people claim that they would change the amount they used if marijuana were legalized (Johnston, Bachman, & O'Malley, 1981). A poll of 1,400 adults found that over 80% claimed that they would not try the drug even if it were legal (Dennis, 1990)" (Earleywine 232). Numerous people who have not yet used marijuana are nonetheless aware of the fact that it is very easy to procure the substance and are likely to do so if they want to with or without waiting for support from the government. "Every year since 1975, over 80% of high school seniors have reported that marijuana is fairly easy or very easy to purchase (Johnston, Bachman, & O'Malley, 1996). Most teens find beer more difficult to buy than cannabis (Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [CASA], 1996)" (Earleywine 232). If the authorities were to consider that they could relocate the funds spent every year to fight marijuana on other activities (such as fighting real crime), they would most probably reduce crime levels countrywide as a consequence. In addition to that, the government would gain supplementary funds from taxing marijuana. Given that there are many individuals who respect the law in general but have difficulties because they use marijuana, it would be better if the drug was made legal, as this would remove their vulnerability regarding an absurd system that is solely interested in enforcing laws, regardless of their immorality. Being in accordance with the law does not always mean being good, considering the high number of cases when authorities were responsible for implementing legislations that directly harmed particular groups of people, in spite of the fact that those respective groups were not guilty of performing any crime. Drug trafficking would become equivalent to alcohol trafficking if marijuana were to become legal and people would only be punished only when they would try to evade taxes. Marijuana users are presently put at risk because drug dealers can alter the substance and because they never have the guarantee that what they are buying is actually what they believe it is. In addition to all of this, the U.S. government should look in the case of other countries for inspiration, given that because it has become tolerated in particular parts of the world marijuana has generated positive feed-backs, as governments and people alike have profited as a result of the act. All things considered, in order to devise a competent system to deal with the legalization of marijuana, the government needs to go through great efforts, especially given that the number of teenagers (believed to be among the individuals most vulnerable to consuming substances) is expected to experience a notable rise in the near future (Levinson).
Marijuana users are presently forced to buy the substance at a high price, mostly because of its illegal status. Even with that, because the drug is generally cheap in comparison to other drugs, people are not necessarily impeded in buying it because of its price. The price is not expected to decrease along with the drug's legalization, but the product's quality is likely to increase along with this act, considering that the substance would have to be produced in accordance to several requirements. "Current estimates suggest that marijuana is the fourth most valuable crop in the United States, behind corn, soybeans, and hay (NORML, 1996b). This estimate assumes a wholesale price near $2,700 per pound, generating approximately $15 billion" (Earleywine 236). Given these numbers, it is only natural that the crop will generate large amounts of money through taxes and licensing fees, benefiting the government and the country as a whole. Prohibition costs are approximated at ten billion dollars, money that can be spent with other purposes and particularly with the purpose of educating people regarding drug abuse.
While the federal government did not change its position concerning the use or marijuana over the years and while laws actually became harsher, particular states were reported to display a tolerant behavior toward the substance. A number of states have decriminalized marijuana in the early 1970s and even though most kept this position, California went further in 1996, as voters ratified Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which no longer penalized individuals who cultivated and consumed marijuana as long as they had written or oral recommendation from a qualified physician. To some people, "marijuana is a "gateway" drug. Children who have used marijuana are more than 85 times likelier to use cocaine than children who have never used marijuana" (Khatapoush, and Hallfors). This is surely alarming, as children would most certainly have troubles understanding the risk they are exposed to. In order for marijuana to be legalized the authorities need to devise an efficient industry that would also assist people in learning everything there is to learn about the substance. Even though there is no proof for this, contemporary marijuana usage is associated with stronger drugs because cannabis is illegal. If marijuana were to be legalized, it is likely that it would actually come to be compared to alcohol and tobacco instead of being compared with heroin and cocaine (Khatapoush, and Hallfors).
When considering presidential positions regarding legalization of marijuana, most presidents who actually seemed to be tolerant changed their opinion because they could not stand against the numerous conservatives in the government who did everything in their power to prevent the drug from becoming legal. It is likely that government officials are reluctant to support legalization of marijuana because they associate the drug with antigovernment groups. This is most probably due to the events that happened in the U.S. during the Vietnam War, when numerous peace promoting individuals rebelled against the government because they believed the conflict to be immoral. These individuals were associated with the hippie movement, which was known to be related to marijuana. Government officials accordingly came to the conclusion that marijuana consumers could not be controlled and did not want to respect the law (Gerber 140).
Although most of the general public likes to believe that one can oppose legalization of marijuana for the fact that "it leads to the use of more dangerous drugs, because it causes crime, because it produces insanity and brain damage, because it makes a person unsafe behind the wheel, because it creates an unwillingness to work" (Goode 58), this is not necessarily true, as this most often happens because the respective person "believes these things because he thinks the drug is evil" (Goode 58). Most people have a preconceived opinion regarding marijuana because of society and because of what they heard. Given that they are reluctant to accept other views, they are directly responsible for preventing the substance from becoming legal. In order to legalize marijuana, its supporters need to do everything in their power to raise public awareness concerning the substance and how it is not as evil as most like to believe it is.
Earleywine, Mitch. Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
Goode, Erich. The Marijuana Smokers (New York: Basic Books, 1970)
Goode, Erich ed., Marijuana (Chicago: Atherton, 1969)
Gerber, Rudolph J. Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004)
Khatapoush, Shereen and Hallfors, Denise. "Sending the Wrong Message": Did Medical Marijuana Legalization in California Change Attitudes about and Use of Marijuana?,"…[continue]
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