Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States (“Center for Substance Abuse Research”). It comes from the leaves and flowering tops of the Cannabis sativa plant, and is usually dried and rolled into a “joint” before being lit and smoked. It first became popular with immigrants in the 1920’s, though it did not read peak usage until the 1960s (“Center for Substance Abuse Research”). However, today the push is on to legalize the drug and take away the stigma of being found in possession of, or smoking, marijuana. According to a poll taken in 2009 by CBS, an overwhelming 52% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, almost comparing it to alcoholic beverages, which are legal in all 50 states to consume, provided a person is over the age of 21 (Hechkopf). Yet, inexplicably, marijuana is still an illegal substance, carrying a fine and a criminal record to those who are caught with it. Marijuana use should be legalized to everyone in the United States, no matter what their purpose in using it might be, because it would allow the legal and justice system to save money, support the right of everyone to make their own choice about using or consuming marijuana, and because in some areas of the United States, marijuana is already a legal option for medicinal purposes.
Since marijuana is an illegal drug, it falls under the laws of illegal drugs, and though they vary from state to state, they all boil down to the same thing: a person can be arrested and go to jail or face a fine for possessing marijuana. The state of Connecticut alone spends $130 million dollars every year enforcing marijuana prohibition (Lorenzo). If marijuana were legalized, even if it were heavily taxed and regulated, the money would then be flowing into the coffers of the state and federal government. It would not be spent feeding, housing, and clothing jailed inmates who were caught with a bag of weed and had no desire but to smoke it in the privacy of their own home.
Marijuana use also falls within the limits of a personal choice for everyone, and by making the choice to use it criminal, the United States is infringing on a personal choice. In 1857, John Stuart Mill wrote in an essay, “Over himself…over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” (“American Civil Liberties Union”). Marijuana usage, especially in a private home or residence, is a personal choice, and by making it criminal, the government is taking away a choice and a personal liberty. In addition, the fact that the use of marijuana is criminal is only the tip of the iceberg; in doing so, the government has forced thousands of businesses and services to institute drug-prevention programs and random testing procedures (“American Civil Liberties Union”). While I do agree that some limits should probably be set to people working certain jobs (e.g. nuclear reactor operator, construction worker, etc.) if marijuana was made legal, these drug programs would not be taking money away from the business.
Marijuana possession and usage is already legal throughout the United States, though not from shore to shore, for medicinal purposes. Fifteen states and the area of Washington D.C. have passed legislation making marijuana a legal substance for medicinal purposes (“Medical Marijuana”). While there are some stipulations, such as in thirteen out of the fifteen states proof of residency is required, and further laws are put into place regarding the growing of marijuana as opposed to simply consuming it (“Medical Marijuana”), the fact remains that it is a legal substance. These states did what they did because they saw the benefits in having marijuana as a legal alternative to those that were in extreme pain or already suffering from a terminal illness in the first place. Even former Surgeon Generals in the government have weighed in, stating that there was overwhelming evidence that marijuana could take away the pain of an illness (“Medical Marijuana”). It is my opinion that usage and consumption would not be so different if marijuana would be made legal across the nation, no matter where you were in the United States.
There is, however, another side to the story. While idealists would like to believe that legalizing marijuana would solve all of the problems it currently is responsible for, that will probably not be the case. For instance, there are those that say that if marijuana were legal, the amount of people using it would not decrease, but increase. Today, there are 15.2 million marijuana users for an illegal substance, compared to the nationally regulated substances of alcohol and 129 million and 70.9 million users, respectively (DuPont). Also, those that are passionate about “new policies” that would tax and regulate marijuana seldom, if ever, have a concrete plan to present on this subject of exactly how they would accomplish this, as they cannot come up with a credible plan that would deliver on their claims (DuPont).
Legalizing marijuana would, in some cases, not make life that different from how it already is. Plenty of people use marijuana, both for recreational and medicinal uses. Legalizing it would save the taxpayers and businesses throughout the United States money should those that are using it be caught, along with allowing freedom of choice in marijuana use.
DuPont, Robert L. “Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana.” Marijuana and Money: A CNBC Special Report. CNBC – NBC Universal, 20 Apr 2010. Web. 12 May 2011. .
Hechtkopf, Kevin. “America's Love-Hate History with Pot.” CBS – US. CBS, 10 Nov 2009. Web. 12 May 2011. .
Lorenzo, John. “Sunday Debate: Should Marijuana Be Legal?.” The NewsTimes. Hearst Conneticut Media Group, 05 May 2011. Web. 12 May 2011. .
“Marijuana or Martinis?.” The American Civil Liberties Union. The American Civil Liberties Union, 06 June 1998. Web. 12 May 2011. .
“Marijuana.” Center for Substance Abuse Research. University of Maryland, 02 May 2005. Web. 12 May 2011. .
“Marijuana Legalization Organization.” Marijuana Legalization Organization – Why Should Marijuana Be Legal?. Marijuana Legalization Organization, 31 Dec 2007. Web. 12 May 2011. .
“Top 10 Pros and Cons.” Medical Marijuana. ProCon.org, 09 May 2009. Web. 12 May 2011. .