Marijuana is one of the illegal drugs abused in the United States and the world. Human beings have used marijuana for thousands of years. There are negative effects of using marijuana, including problems related to the health and social well-being of an individual. In spite of negative effects, marijuana has medicinal values and properties. The Chinese have used it as medicine for thousands of years. Today, it is still used as a medicine (Jacob 2). However, in the 20th century, most of the countries banned the use of marijuana both as a recreational and medicinal drug. In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether marijuana should be legalized or not. The paper will discuss marijuana (definition, its history and the current debate about legalization of marijuana) and why it should not be legalized.
Marijuana is defined as a dry, shredded combination of stems, seeds, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant called Cannabis Sativa. Marijuana is generally smoked in a pipe or as a cigarette. It is the most common illegal drug abused in the United States. Marijuana abuse can lead to problems with learning, memory, and social behavior. The drug can interfere with activities linked with school, work, family, etc. Several scientific studies are testing the usefulness and safety of cannabis compounds for the treatment of certain ailments (MedlinePlus 1). Marijuana is a popular recreational drug in the United States, and it ranks third in popularity behind alcohol and tobacco. It is estimated that approximately 100 million Americans have used marijuana (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML] 1).
According to the surveys conducted by the government, approximately 25 million of Americans have used marijuana in the last 12 months. It also estimated that nearly 14 million of people smoke it regularly despite the harsh laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. According to NORML, marijuana is not as dangerous as tobacco or alcohol. Approximately 50,000 individuals die every year due to alcohol poisoning and more than 400,000 individuals die each year from tobacco smoking. In comparison with tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is not toxic and cannot cause death due to overdose (NORML 1).
History of Marijuana Use
Human beings have used marijuana (Cannabis Sativa) for a long time. However, in the wake of the 20th century, it was classified by many countries as an illegal drug. In the past twenty years, there has been a continuous debate as to whether legalize marijuana specifically for medical purposes. The use of medical marijuana has increased in the District of Columbia and 16 states that have permitted its use. However, those who oppose the legalization of marijuana question its importance in the medical field (The New York Times 1).
As stated above, the use of marijuana extends back over thousands of years (approximately 10,000 years). There is archaeological evidence that the Chinese used Cannabis Sativa. Archaeological evidence indicates that the first physical human requirements to be fulfilled by marijuana plant were the cloth making practice to offer protection from environmental hazards and climatic changes. Marijuana plant had other beneficial uses, such as important medicines (medicinal plant) and foods.
Current Debate on Legalization of Marijuana
Proponents of Marijuana Legalization
Among the major proponents of marijuana legalization is the state of California. California has been at the forefront of marijuana policy reform (Kilmer et al. 1). The proponents of marijuana legalization state that the aim of legalization is not to make marijuana easily accessible, but rather to make the communities safer through the regulation of the substance. In other words, to take marijuana out of the underground markets, control it and keep it away from the young people. In Colorado, medical marijuana is legal, and it has more than 88,000 Colorado residents who seek medical marijuana therapy (The New York Times 1).
Opponents of Marijuana Legalization
In the past few years, there have been increasing efforts to make marijuana legal. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it will not legalize any illegal drug. The office of National Drug Control Policy, local officials, state officials, and Federal partners are working together to minimize the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs by developing strategies that fully incorporate the principles of treatment, recovery, effective supply minimization efforts, and prevention. Opponents of the legalization of marijuana argue that marijuana use should be discouraged because it is harmful. This is because marijuana use is linked to mental and respiratory diseases, dependence, impaired immune and cognitive system functioning, poor motor performance and other detrimental effects (Office of National Drug Control Policy 1).
Opponents of marijuana legalization argue that the legalization will lower prices and, thus, increase the use of the illicit drug. Recent research conducted by RAND Corporation indicates that the legalization of marijuana will lead to the lowering of prices and, hence, increase the use of the drug. They further argue that illegality assists in keeping the price high (Kilmer et al. 23). Legalization of marijuana will overwhelm the criminal justice system. This is because legalization will increase marijuana usage and the harm it causes. The consequence will be burdening of the criminal justice system (Office of National Drug Control Policy 2).
Lastly, the opponents of marijuana legalization argue that its legalization will do very little in curbing drug violence. Marijuana only accounts for a small portion of the proceeds from drug distribution. Thus, its legalization will not deter human trafficking and other drug related crimes (Office of National Drug Control Policy 3). Pediatricians argue that legalization of marijuana will have potential impact on the youth. They suggest that most adolescents abuse marijuana and that any change in marijuana legal status (even if restricted to adults alone) will affect the prevalence of marijuana use among adolescents (Committee on Substance Abuse and Committee on Adolescence 1825).
Marijuana Should Not Be Legalized
Marijuana use has more demerits than merits, thus, its effects on the user, community, and nation are adverse. Legalization of marijuana will worsen the present situation in terms of health and morals of the individual and community. Marijuana use can lead to ailments that are terminal, such as cancer, for instance. Opponents of the legalization state that its legalization will have a significant impact on the youth. This is because most of them are drug-addicted and that it will deteriorate their behaviors. These are just some of the reasons why marijuana should not be legalized.
Effect on the Individual’s Health
Marijuana usage is linked to certain conditions that may be detrimental to the user. Users of marijuana usually report conditions such as hunger, relaxation, and euphoria. Other common effects of marijuana use include nausea, dizziness, anxiety, and panic. There are rare cases where marijuana can lead to the increase in panic attacks and paranoia at doses of 20 mg and higher. These adverse effects are generally reported by naïve users of marijuana. The main adverse health impact linked with smoking marijuana is respiratory system damage. Just like nicotine cigarettes smoke, marijuana smoke also contains carcinogens and mutagens. Marijuana smoke is said to decrease pulmonary function and increase airway resistance. The smoke also produces airway inflammation, chronic cough, and abnormal cell growth, which indicates the start of cancer (Ries et al. 206).
Potential Impact on the Youth
Though the proponents of marijuana legalization solely focus on the adults, there is no one who is proposing that marijuana use or possession by the adolescents is supposed to be legalized. Any change in the current legal status of marijuana legality will definitely have an impact on adolescents. Tobacco and alcohol products are among the psychoactive substances that are mostly abused by adolescents. Marijuana legalization can lead to advertising campaigns that advocate for its use and the majority of them may target adolescents. Control measures to stop such advertisements from reaching young people may prove difficult to implement as witnessed by similar promotion in the past (Joffe and Yancy e634).
It is important to note that parental drug use has a significant influence on the adolescent’s use of drugs. A recently conducted research indicates that easy home access to illicit products or substances is linked with greater risk of using marijuana among older and younger adolescents. Some adults may prefer not to use marijuana because the probable risk of criminal sanctions is beyond the perceived benefits of using the drug. When the drug is legalized, these parents may prefer to begin using it, and this may act as a crucial source of exposure for the adolescents. Adolescent use of marijuana will increase significantly if marijuana is legalized because it will be easily accessible. Research indicates that an adolescent who has been provided with marijuana is 7 times more likely to use the drug than an adolescent who has not been provided with marijuana (Joffe and Yancy e636).
Legalization of Marijuana Will Not Control Drug Violence
As mentioned before, marijuana does not account for a larger portion of the proceeds collected from drug distribution. Thus, the claim that it will deter drug-related crimes, such as human trafficking, is not true. This is because marijuana does not yield huge profits that will deter these criminal organizations from conducting human trafficking and other crimes. Proposals to highly tax marijuana circulation will not deter criminal organizations from conducting their illegal businesses. Instead, it will make them grow stronger because they will reduce the legal prices in order to maintain their market share (Office of National Drug Control Policy 3).
Proponents of marijuana legislation have developed many theories regarding the association between violence and drugs. Some argue that there is no connection between violence and drugs. They claim that the use of drugs is a victimless crime, the users are placing themselves in harm situations, and, thus, it is their right to use drugs. Other proponents of marijuana legislation argue that if marijuana is legalized, there will be a decrease in violence and crime. They believe that the illegal character of drug trafficking, production and its use instigate violence and crime and this is not the irrational behavior prompted by the drugs (United States Drug Enforcement Administration 1).
However, in the context of marijuana legalization, drugs black markets will continue to exist and the black market will grow by a big margin. If the drugs are made legal for individuals over 18 or 21 year old, a market for those under that age will emerge. It is vital to state that people under the age of 21 years consume most of the illegal drugs, thus, organized crime and illegal market will continue to thrive. Drug traffickers will continue trafficking cocaine and heroin despite the legalization of marijuana. In other words, legalization of marijuana will not end traffic-related violence (United States Drug Enforcement Administration 1).
Legalization of Marijuana Will Increase Dependence and Treatment Costs
In the year of 2009, there were at least 32,000 treatment admissions linked with the use of marijuana in the state of California. Opponents of marijuana legalization argue that if the consumption of marijuana rises, there will be an increase in dependence and this will place a significant weight on the drug treatment systems. Apparently, if there is legalization of marijuana, very few individuals will be transferred by the criminal justice systems to treatment. This reduction will only be applicable to adults. This is because possession of marijuana by the youth will still be illegal. Thus, in the case of California, this will be a huge burden because young people under the age of 21 years make 62% of all the primary treatment episodes of marijuana (Kilmer et al. 36).
Marijuana Is a Harmful Drug
Marijuana is a harmful drug and, thus, the government should not permit doctors use it as a prescription. Harmful effects of marijuana include suppression of the immune system, carcinogenic, damage to the central nervous system and intoxication (marijuana is an intoxicant and increases the probability of getting injured through an accident) (Barnes 7). Prescription of marijuana is harmful because it has not been tested adequately to justify that there are no serious risks from marijuana use (Barnes 8).
Legalization Will Send the Wrong Message to the Public
The government’s approval of marijuana as a prescription drug will send the wrong message to the public and, thus, lead to extensive usage of marijuana as a recreational drug. In other words, individuals will assume that the government’s approval of marijuana as medicine is an indication that marijuana can be used as a recreational drug because it is safe. Recreational use argument is a common phrase used against the use of medical marijuana by the opponents of marijuana legislation (Barnes 13).
Marijuana has brought intense debate on many nations on whether it should be legalized or not. Those proposing the legalization of marijuana argue that its benefits (such as medicinal value and reduction in violence and crime) outweigh its harmful effects (health problems). In other words, they claim that legalization of marijuana will reduce violence, and it will be beneficial to health of an individual because of its medicinal value. On the other hand, opponents of marijuana argue that legalization of marijuana will not decrease rates, but increase it. They also argue that marijuana has adverse effects on the health condition of an individual. Thus, it will be important if marijuana is not legalized.
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Joffe, A., and Yancy, S. W. Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth. Pediatrics 113 (2004): e632–e638. Print.
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