Marijuana in the 21st Century Term Paper

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The state currently spends a great deal of money on detaining people on marijuana related offenses. Legalization could help to free up some of these resources which could then be used on more important programs throughout the state.

When examining the economic benefits of marijuana legalization it is important to weigh the social costs related to outlawing access to goods, because such restrictions create black markets. Black markets are associated with social costs because they assists in the perpetuation of that affects innocent citizens and communities. This violence takes place because gangs start to compete form markets and a natural outcome of black markets is a decrease in respect for established laws (Boyd). Additionally one aspect of the impact of the black market that is usually overlooked is the cost of production that dealers are able to lower (Boyd). Dealers on the black market do not have to adhere to labor laws and as such costs can be greatly reduced. Additionally, the author explains that Standard economic theory explains that taxation can be utilized as a tool to counterbalance some of the social costs associated with the black market (Boyd). Therefore as a result of legalization of marijuana the harmful impacts of the black market can be minimized (Boyd).

In addition the author explains that" there is no control on the quality of the cannabis sold in the black market. Its D-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content can vary in unpredictable ways, and minors can purchase it in the absence of age restrictions. The retail cannabis black market is also not separated from that for cocaine and heroin, so cannabis buyers may be offered other illicit substances (Hall & Lynskey)." Exposure to these other substances can be much more detrimental to youngsters than the ability to obtain marijuana legally. Any effort to keep marijuana illegal must take into consideration the aforementioned issues which can have grave consequences, particularly on the lives of young people.

Indeed the legalization of marijuana could benefit the economy as it pertains to the budget crises that many states are dealing with and in terms of social costs. On the one hand, the tax revenue realized from the legalization of marijuana could assist in offsetting the decrease in tax revenues. In addition legalization of marijuana could serve the purpose of decreasing the social costs associated with the presence of a black market. The black market for marijuana increases crime and disparity in certain communities. In addition the resources used to shut down the black market could be better used in the realms of education and assistance for those that are truly in need. With these things understood proponents of legalization believe that the legalization of marijuana could result in the development of communities that are safer and economies that are sustainable.

Still others argue that while marijuana has been prohibited thee has been a great deal of misinformation fed to the public concerning the health risks associated with marijuana. They argue that exaggerated claims about the adverse health effects of cannabis make young people skeptical about any health information they are presented with as it pertains to drugs (Hall and Lynskey). Those that support legalization of marijuana posit that when young people are told that the health related effect of marijuana use are as severe as those associated with heroin or cocaine, the benign experiences they have with marijuana may cause them to underestimate the more malignant health risks associated with the use of heroin and cocaine (Hall and Lynskey).

Lastly as it pertains to the arguments that support the legalization of marijuana, the medicinal benefits of marijuana must be discussed. Although some states, such as California allow people with a prescription to carry marijuana most states have no such provisions. In addition although the carrying of medical marijuana is permissible under state law in California, the possession of Marijuana is still a federal crime and can be treated as such. Hall and Lynskey report that laws against the distribution of marijuana prevent some individuals with chronic diseases such as cancer from having the ability to access marijuana for medicinal purposes. The medicinal qualities of marijuana has been correlated with the THC present in marijuana. Research has found that THC is a reasonably effective "antiemetic in the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy, it stimulates appetite in patients with AIDS-related wasting and it has analgesic and antispasmodic effects." The number of persons being denied these benefits is hard to quantify, but one estimate was that there were 14-000 potential patients in a population of 5-000-000 adults in New South Wales, Australia (Hall and Lynskey)."

Although my personal inclinations lead me to believe that the legalization of marijuana is the most effective way to ensure public health and safety while also providing tax revenues, there are also some logical arguments against the legalization of marijuana. Just as there are many arguments that support the legalization of marijuana there are also many arguments that challenge the legalization of marijuana. One of the primary arguments against marijuana legalization is "internal harms" or the direct internal costs of marijuana use. An article published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, at the University of Essex the direct internal costs of marijuana use pertains to harms experienced by the user. These harms are inclusive of health risks, curtailment of life and loss of productivity and earnings (Pudney).

The literature related to the topic of marijuana use does report that there are health risks associated with marijuana use. For instance an article entitled "The challenges in developing a rational cannabis policy" reveals that health risks associated with marijuana use are most prevalent amongst individuals who use it chronically. These health risks include

"cannabis dependence syndrome; chronic bronchitis and impaired respiratory function in regular smokers; cardiovascular disease in older adults who continue to smoke into middle age; respiratory cancers in very long-term daily smokers; and psychotic symptoms and disorders in heavy users -- especially those with a preexisting history of such symptoms, a family history of such disorders or who begin use in their early teens (Rofmann et al.; Hall & Lynskey 259) ."

There are also psychosocial effects associated with regular marijuana use among adolescents. These psychosocial effects include marijuana addiction; poor academic performance and decreased amounts of educational attainment; and an increased risk of using other illicit drugs (Hall & Lynskey). The author further explains that the presence of these correlations "between adolescent use of marijuana and psychosocial outcomes remain contentious because of the possibility that the associations are due to residual confounding rather than cannabis use (Hall & Lynskey)."

Additionally studies have also found that people who consistently consume marijuana are more likely to have gum disease. According to Seppa, a New Zealand study "assessed participants' use of marijuana…One-fifth of the people had smoked it about once a week in the years preceding two of the dental exams, while nearly half had smoked pot less often and 32% had never used it. By the time they reached age 32, the heaviest cannabis users were three to five times as likely as the nonusers to have an area of severe gum detachment, the researchers report in the Feb. 6 Journal of the American Medical Association. Heavy users were also twice as likely to have incurred some oftheir periodontal damage between the ages of 26 and 32 (Seppa)."

Gum disease is more likely to occur in people who consume marijuana because after consuming the drug, users tend to have an increase in appetite and they tend to crave sweet foods (Walsh & Seppa). It is likely that after consuming these foods people do not brush their teeth and as such they acquire gum disease at a higher rate than people who do not consume marijuana (Walsh & Seppa).

Those that oppose the legalization of marijuana assert that the aforementioned health risk are reason enough to ban the use of marijuana for any reason. They contend that the harms produced by the ingestion of marijuana far outweigh any benefits that could be associated with the legalization of marijuana. To this end they argue that one of the primary function of government in general and legislation in particular is to ensure public health.

Furthermore as it pertains to internal harms the literature reports that there are dangers associated with cannabis use and driving. An article published in Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse even though there are fewer studies that have examined the impact of marijuana use on driving there is evidence that indicates that the use of marijuana can be attributed to an increased likelihood of being involved in a traffic accident. In addition the authors point out that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is found in marijuana can have a profound effect on motor skills. This retardation of motor skills in combination with inexperienced driving means that younger drivers are at an increased risk of having an accident if…[continue]

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