Marijuana policy has been a contentious issue in the United States. In the course of time, “federal marijuana policy has become increasingly restrictive and punitive, while state policy more fluid and lax” (Khatapoush & Hallfors 751). Recently public referenda to legalize marijuana (cannabis) for medicinal purposes have challenged national policy, initiating a national debate. Those opposing the legalization of marijuana argue that medicinal use sends the wrong message to youth for using the drug without restraint.
In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act placed marijuana in Schedule I with heroin, mescaline, and LSD, perceiving the drug as low medical utility while highly liable for abuse, consequently rendering it unavailable for medical use. Despite this classification, the federal government permitted its use for a few patients as part of a compassionate use program. By the early 1990s, increasing numbers of people with AIDs applied for the compassionate use program for relief from nausea and loss of appetite. In 1992 the Department of Health and Human Services officially terminated the program. Opposing federal legislation, nearly half the states as initiated by California and Arizona legalized the medicinal use of the drug by the end of 1996. Although the “possession of cannabis , even for medical purposes, remains a federal offense” (Earleywine 169), its rates of use for medicine continues to be high.
Thesis Statement: The purpose of this paper is to persuade the reader on the necessity for legalizing marijuana. The exploitation of drug cartels, the medicinal and economic benefits, and the requirement for responsible usage will be examined.
Legalizing Marijuana: Elimination of Drug Cartels and its Black Market
If marijuana prohibition ended, the black market in the drug would disappear to a great extent. Better and safer marijuana would be available to buyers, who will not be required to come into contact with criminals or hard drug users. Thus, “legalization would save society billions of dollars now spent on pursuing users, and a legal marijuana industry could bring in billions more in revenue” (Ruschmann 87). Further, the government would still be able to punish abusers of the drug, and educate the public about using marijuana responsibly. Moreover, businesses and schools could discourage the use of the drug and prohibit its use in their domains.
Legalizing Marijuana does not Result in its Increased Use
Other countries have not experienced serious problems as a result of relaxing marijuana laws. For example, in Australia with tough mariguana laws, decriminalizing the usage of the drug in three states resulted in its increased use in all regions including jurisdictions with a total prohibition approach to cannabis, with the largest increase in Tasmania, a prohibitionist state. The Swiss government, as well as the Canadian Senate Committee have found that based on scientific studies there was no relationship between the harshness of marijuana laws and the percentage of people who use the drug. Similarly, in the United States itself, with the decriminalization of marijuana in some states for more than twenty years, the Connecticut Law Revision Commission found that “larger increases in marijuana use occurred in states that did not decriminalize than those that did” (Ruschmann 85).
Further, although in the United States and Canada there are very restrictive laws on the use of the drug, it is used more extensively than in Belgium, Germany and Spain with highly liberal laws. Additionally, there was no consequent increase in hard drug use caused by the liberal policies of Spain, Italy and Portugal or from over thirty years’ experience of relaxed marijuana laws in the Netherlands (Ruschmann 85). Moreover, in Canada despite the increasing numbers of cannabis users, there has not been a proportionate increase in the users of hard drugs.
The Medicinal Benefits of Marijuana
“Medicinal uses for cannabis date back to 2737 B.C., when the Chinese emperor and pharmacologist Shen Neng prescribed the drug for gout, malaria, beriberi, rheumatism, and memory problems” (Earleywine 168). Countries such as Africa, India, Greece and Rome used the drug for obtaining relief from various ailments. It is stated that medical marijuana treatments would not have spread to other countries unless they were meaningfully effective. Introduced to Europe in the 1830s, by the early 1900s, some of the leading drug companies in Europe and America marketed cannabis extracts for treating symptoms including headache, nausea, cramps, and muscle spasms besides symptoms of cancer and AIDs. Even though tinctures of cannabis were of inconsistent potency, as compared to other medications for the same symptoms, they were equally good or better.
In the United States, by mid-2009, fourteen states had legalized medical marijuana
under specific circumstances (Dresser 7). According to Roberts, Stalans, Indermaur and Hough (p.157), England has also undertaken the decriminalizing of marijuana possession for medicinal purposes. British physicians in 1999 promoted the legalization of marijuana on the basis that it did not pose a serious threat to health, and was safer than tobacco or alcohol. Thus, various authors state that for preventing the recreational use of marijuana and its adverse outcomes, it would be more beneficial to regulate the medical as well as recreational use of the drug, rather than criminalize its possession.
The Economic Benefits of Marijuana
Federal marijuana legalization can give rise to economic benefits to the United States. Levinson (p.42) states that marijuana could be taxed and great amounts reaped as revenues. Morgan (p.57) reiterates that “taxation of marijuana sales could produce millions of dollars of annual revenue”. The additional funds accrued by state and federal governments might facilitate their decreasing their debts, improving education and enhancing programs and services for the benefit of Americans.
Rosenthal, Kubby and Newhart (p.27) state that domestic farmers in the United States supply a large proportion of the marijuana market, resulting in analysts estimating marijuana to be the largest domestic agricultural crop, and a billion-dollar industry. As one of California’s largest cash crops, it earns around $14 billion annually through sales. At present that money goes to drug dealers and cartels in the black market. If marijuana were legal and taxed instead of illegal and not taxed, it would result in saving the government a great deal of money. Even through taxing marijuana at the rate of most consumer goods, the savings on prohibition enforcement at the federal, state and local levels are significant. “If the rates were higher as for alcohol and tobacco, revenue from marijuana sales could be as high as $6.2 billion at the federal level” (Morgan 59). Besides the general public, and non-profit organizations such as the Marijuana Policy Project, economists including Nobel laureates support the taxation and regulation of marijuana. On the other hand, opponents of legalizing the drug believe that greater amounts have to be spent on rehabilitation and treatment for addiction.
Implementation of Responsible Usage of Marijuana
A committee of the Canadian Senate in 2002 recommended Canada’s legalization of marijuana along the lines of alcohol. These rules for implementing responsible usage of marijuana can be helpful to all countries legalizing marijuana. These include the general aims to reduce the adverse effects of criminalizing marijuana; and permitting Canadians over sixteen to purchase marijuana at licensed outlets. Additionally, identifying marijuana as a mood-altering drug endangering one’s health, and subsequently regulating its use to prevent risky or excessive use (Ruschmann 86).
The holder of a distributor’s license is required to be a Canadian resident without a criminal record. “A distributor must buy marijuana only from licensed producers, may not advertise marijuana or openly display it, and may not sell it to anybody under sixteen” (Ruschmann 86). The holder of a producer’s license must be a Canadian resident, without a criminal record, and with no affiliation with the tobacco industry. The producer may grow marijuana within the limits specified by the license, may sell the product only to licensed distributors, may not sell marijuana with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content higher than 13 percent, may not advertise marijuana, must comply with all the rules pertaining to security and the maintaining of records, and must submit to government inspections.
An individual is permitted to grow sufficient marijuana for personal use, but may not commercialize the product through advertisement, sale or trade. “International trade in marijuana other than that permitted by law is considered trafficking” (Ruschmann 86). Further, marijuana may not be used in public. Additionally, it is crucial to establish a National Cannabis Board to regulate the industry and to collect taxes to be used for fighting against trafficking, against at-risk use, and for funding treatment for excessive users. Concurrently, local government would be required to prevent at-risk use, as well as support and treatment programs aimed at excessive use of marijuana. For countering smuggling and cross-border trafficking, additional funds and law-enforcement personnel would be deployed.
This persuasive paper has highlighted the benefits of legalizing marijuana. These include the beneficial results of eliminating drug cartels and marijuana sales in the black market. Moreover, legalizing marijuana does not lead to its increased use by the public. By abolishing its black market, crime and the danger of product adulteration would also be reduced. Several million otherwise law-abiding American citizens would not have to fear arrest for possessing marijuana if it were legal. Further, the medicinal and economic benefits of legalizing the drug, as well as the requirement for its responsible usage have been examined. Marijuana has proven medical benefits, providing relief in diseases such as cancer and AIDs besides alleviating the symptoms of other conditions. The drug would reap rich economic benefits if it were taxed and revenues collected. Levinson (p.42) adds that if the use of marijuana is not causing any adverse outcomes, it should be permitted, through legalization of the drug.
Dresser, Rebecca. Irrational basis: The legal status of medical marijuana. The Hastings
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Khatapoush, Shereen & Hallfors, Denise. “Sending the wrong message”: Did medical Marijuana legalization in California change attitudes about and use of marijuana? Journal of Drug Issues, 34.4 (2004): pp.751-770.
Levinson, Martin H. The drug problem: A new view using the general semantics Approach. Connecticut: Praeger. (2002).
Morgan, Kayla. Legalizing marijuana. The United States of America: ABDO Publishers. (2010).
Roberts, Julian V., Stalans, Loretta J., Indermaur, David & Hough, Mike. Penal populism
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