Marijuana is a popular recreational drug derived from the dried flowering tops and leaves of Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. It is commonly smoked as a ‘joint’ mixed with tobacco. The psychoactive chemicals enter the bloodstream and are directly carried to the brain and other parts of the body. These compounds bind to brain receptors, giving the user a ‘high’ involving a sense of relaxation, happiness and sleepiness. Colors appear more intense and music appreciation is heightened (Timms). The legalization of marijuana is the focus of contemporary debate in the US. Colorado and Washington have legalized its use and several other states appear poised to follow suit. Legal penalties for the possession of marijuana are being lifted and decriminalized. This legalization of marijuana is extremely bad for society and deserves to be strongly opposed. Marijuana should not be legalized in the US because it has adverse health effects, and legalization will increase its use and its cost burdens.
Marijuana has adverse physical and mental effects, as illustrated by the health problems associated with its usage. According to the National Institute on Drug Usage, marijuana smoking affects the brain and leads to impaired short-term memory, perception, judgment and motor skills. Marijuana users also experience difficulty in concentration, trance-like states, lowered driving and other psychomotor skills, slowed reaction time, impaired goal-directed mental activity, and altered peripheral vision. In another example in the New England Journal of Medicine, 45% of reckless drivers (excluding those under the influence of alcohol), tested positive for marijuana. Intense anxiety, panic attacks or paranoia are also seen in cases of marijuana usage. Marijuana cigarettes contain the carcinogen Benzopyrene which is linked to lung cancer. Other symptoms include airway injury, acute and chronic bronchitis, inflamed sinuses, lung inflammation, and vulnerability to pulmonary infection. Marijuana weakens the body’s immune system and leads to decreased motivation. It affects the hormones, resulting in delayed puberty, low sperm count and menstrual disruption (Frontline).
The legalization of marijuana will increase its availability and its use. This is particularly disturbing as “Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with nearly 17 million Americans age 12 and older reporting past‐month use, and 374,000 people entering an emergency room annually with a primary marijuana problem” (White House web site). Legalization would naturally result in a steep fall in marijuana prices, making it affordable to more users, especially adolescents. This is illustrated by the case of gambling, tobacco and alcohol: statistics show that legalization increased use and availability. The Netherlands is a real-time example. Data from the Rand Corp. shows that, with marijuana legalization, its use “increased consistently and sharply” and tripled among young adults. Legalization “triggered commercialization” (Sabet). This result will be multiplied in America's ad-driven culture. The promise of profit will encourage aggressive marketing. Closer to home, we have the example of Alaska. Alaska legalized marijuana in the 1970’s. Subsequently, “teen marijuana use jumped to twice the national average” (CNBC). The state recriminalized marijuana in 1990.
The legalization of marijuana will increase cost burdens. The tax revenue generated through the legalization of marijuana will be off-set by higher social costs. This is again illustrated by the precedent of tobacco and alcohol. The Federal and State tax on alcohol is “less than 10 percent of the estimated $185 billion in alcohol‐related costs to health care, criminal justice, and the workplace in lost productivity” (White House). Similarly, the annual social cost of smoking lags far behind the tax revenue generated by tobacco. It is estimated that 9 percent of marijuana users become addicted and need clinical help. Accidents would increase, healthcare costs would rise and productivity would suffer. It is evident that the additional costs of drug education, rehabilitation centers, and drug treatment programs resulting from increased marijuana use and sale are all greater than the potential revenue gained through legalization. (CNBC). The obvious consequence of taxing legalized marijuana would be the growth of illegal marijuana drug trafficking.
Marijuana should not be legalized because its harmful impact outpaces any benefits. Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, as in the case of Colorado, conveys a wrong message to youth that marijuana is medically benevolent and therefore is not a harmful drug. The need of the hour is a comprehensive and wide-reaching public education program which spells out the adverse implications of legalizing marijuana. The best policy for dealing with marijuana is to discourage use by enforcement and education. The revenue needs of various states hit by recession must not dictate drug policy. American society is not for sale. It is urgent that the US puts the brake on its acceleration towards disaster.
CNBC. “Legalizing Marijuana Not Worth the Costs.” 20 Apr 2010. 7 Nov 2013. Web
“Marijuana Legislation.” Office of National Drug Control Policy., the White House. 7 Nov 2013.Web
“Memory/Perception/Behavior.” Frontline. WGBH Educational Foundation. 2013. 7 Nov 2013
Sabet, Kevin A. “The price of legalizing pot is too high.” Los Angeles Times. 7 Jun 2009. 7 Nov
Timms, Philip. “Cannabis and Mental Health.” Royal College of Psychiatrists. Nov 2012.
7 Nov 2013. Web.