The Arguments for and against the Legalization of Marijuana
• Issue Identification
Today, more than half of the states have already legalized marijuana in some form for various purposes and several more are slated to follow suit this year (see Figure 1 below). The reasons for this trend are multiple, but include fundamental changes in social attitudes about marijuana, the recognition that the federal government’s so-called “war on drugs” has been an abject failure, and the realization on the part of state lawmakers that marijuana sales can provide an enormous boon to state coffers in the form of additional excise taxes and a reduction in the costs that are associated with more serious substance abuse practices.
Figure 1. Status of marijuana laws by state: as of January 2020
• Position Statement
At first blush, the push for the nationwide legalization of marijuana at the federal level would appear to be a “no-brainer” given the recent trends across the country, but there are some factors that are involved that must be taken into account when formulating an opinion about this issue. For example, in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical and recreational use, cultivators are using innovative technologies to concentrate the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to unprecedented levels, meaning that casual users may experience more intense effects than they expected (Domestic cannabis suppression, 2020). In addition, as discussed further below in the position statement section below, the use of marijuana is also believed to cause some other physical and mental side effects, some of which may be severe, but most of the scientific research into cannabis was largely stopped for the past 84 years for the reasons discussed below.
• Evolution of the Controversy
For many Americans, marijuana has either always been illegal or always been legal for most of their lives, meaning the pace of the evolution of the controversy over whether marijuana should be legalized has accelerated over the past 2 decades or become moot. In reality, though, the origins of the controversy date to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. While physicians in the United States continued to prescribe cannabis products for various disorders into the 1940s, increasing reports about Mexican immigrants bringing marijuana across the border and committing violent crimes in their drug-induced states resulted in a nationwide racially motivated “reefer madness” reaction that resulted in views about the drug changing to the point where marijuana use was against state and federal laws as well as the prevailing social views about its use (McAllister, 2019). In addition, in 1970, the Controlled Substances Act further solidified the country’s moral stance against the use of marijuana for any purpose, including for medical applications with rare exceptions during an especially turbulent period in the…mandate what is best for them based on some spurious and outdated moral code that was racist in origins when it was developed.
The research showed that a new type of “reefer madness” is sweeping the nation today in the form of increasing numbers of states legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use due to the relaxation in social views towards this drug as well as the recognition on the part of taxing authorities that cannabis is a golden opportunity to enrich states’ coffers. While the research also showed that there are some legitimate arguments against legalizing marijuana, the numerous benefits that have already been achieved by states where the drug has been legalized more than offset any of these downsides. In the final analysis, the day will soon come when marijuana is sold openly in convenience and liquor stores like beer and tobacco, and billboards proclaiming the quality of one brand of marijuana over others will likewise become commonplace on the American landscape. In the final analysis, it is reasonable to conclude that Americans in the 22nd century will likely look back at the nation’s experiment with legislating yet another type of morality with its arcane laws against marijuana being tantamount to its failure with Prohibition, and will have a hearty chuckle while taking a toke at the neighborhood pub over the country’s collective stupidity in allowing the Marihuana Tax…
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Overdose death rates. (2020). National Institutes on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://www. drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates.
Paluszek, E. (2020, January 2). Side effects of smoking marijuana every day according to science. Yahoo! Life. Retrieved from https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/side-effects-smoking-marijuana-every-205845314.html.
Reduced fatalities for third consecutive year. (2020, May 5). Reduced fatalities for third consecutive year. U. S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/early-estimates-traffic-fatalities-2019.
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