The paper used a review of literature related to the debate on legalization of Marijuan in the US and its impacts on the US economy and society. The research hypothesized that the costs related to the legalization of Marijuana outweigh any benefits that can be drawn. The literature review revealed that it is postulated that legalization of Marijuan would reduce costs of patrolling, controlling, arrests, trials and housing of felons in relation to illegal sales. It will also accrue savings and taxes for the government of the order of $10 billion to $14 billion per year (Miron, 2005). On the other hand, the costs in terms of increase in crime rates, health and mortality rates due to increased addiction to Marijuana and other drugs, loss of quality of life and social and psychological affliction are immense. The paper concludes with the understanding that legalization should only be limited to medicinal purposes and not completely just as a total remedy for providing the US economy a boost.
Table of Contents
1.1 Background of Study
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1.4 Rationale of the Study
1.5 Definition of Terms
1.6 Limitations of the Study
2. Literature Review
2.1 The Legalization of Marijuana and Its effects in the Economy
2.2 History of Usage of Marijuana
2.3 Marijuana Laws
2.4 Arguments in Favour of Legalization of Marijuana
2.5 Arguments against the Legalization of Marijuana
Summary of Literature Review
Discussions and Recommendations
List of Figures
1.1 Background of Study
Marijuana has a long legal history in the United States and has always been in the centre of controversies for a long time. The debate related to marijuana stems from the lawful use of marijuana for medicinal purposes or as a recreation drug. During the early 1900s, marijuana became a prohibited drug in many states of America (Deitch, 2003). According to Deitch, after the formation of the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Regulation, marijuana was put under prohibition in all the states of the United States of America. After the 1970s, there was a wide uproar to remove the prohibition on Marijuana and legalize the sale of medical marijuana. This attempt led to a widespread debate among the different factions about the legalization of marijuana. Legalization of Marijuana was a subject of additional controversy after it was argued that with if drug is made legal; the economy of a state could flourish because of the excise duty that would be imposed on it. This sparkled further debate with regard to marijuana as it is very difficult to understand whether the benefits of legalizing marijuana would be higher than the negative effects that this legalisation may bring about. Hence, the legalization of marijuana has become a very controversial topic in the United States of America. This has resulted in two different schools of thought, the pro marijuana legalization group and the anti marijuana legalization group. The group that favours the legalization of marijuana include the Physician’s Association for AIDS care and the National Cancer Foundation as it comes in very useful to help the terminally ill patients. The Drug Enforcement Agency and the police force are against the legalization for marijuana for they strongly believe that there would be an increase in the crime rate, once this drug is legalized.
1.2 Problem Statement
Will legalizing Marijuana in the United States will benefit the economy and society?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The aim of this study is to understand the impact of legalization of marijuana from an economic perspective. In light of the controversial and debatable process of legalization, it is necessary to understand the different pros and cons of each side of argument. This study would explore all different aspects that would be involved in the debate of legalization of this drug. It would involve looking at the economic, social and psychological impact of making marijuana legal. The study would also look at different statistics that can be used to compare the crime rates with marijuana consumption, the economic expenditure for war against drug abuse, the consumption rate of various drugs and so on. From this statistical and data analysis, it would be possible to understand the different implications that would need to be addressed in the event of the drug being legalized. The study would also use historical facts to trace the history of marijuana laws over the years and the rationale behind the debate of legalization. The study would focus on understanding the scenario in which medical use of marijuana was legalized under the use of Medical Marijuana Card in fourteen states of America, and look at aspects related to the ethical use of this drug. It would further attempt to understand the various results of legalization of the marijuana on the various factions of society. Through empirical data as well through legal terminology, this study would try to establish the co-relation between the various aspects that are involved in this debate. Any law that attempts to legalize a drug should be considered only after a strong legalization procedure, that gives due consideration to all the different aspects involved. The aim of this study is to understand and analyze the different factors that would be affected.
1.4 Rationale of the Study
Legalizing a drug like Marijuana would have economic as well as societal implications. Hence, it is mandatory to understand the numerous factors that would come into play. Hence, exploring and analyzing the different factors forms the basis of this study. It is also necessary to look at a statistical perspective, as that would help in understanding the popularity of the drug and how much investment has been made in fighting the menace related to marijuana. A comparative study would also reveal the way in which crime rates are linked to marijuana consumption. One of the key arguments that have been made in favour of prohibition is that legalization of marijuana would result in increased crime rates among the citizens. Therefore, it is necessary to find out statistics that would support this argument. Similarly, the main argument in favour of legalization of marijuana is that the tax generated from this drug would prove to be important of economic revival. For this, it is also necessary to ascertain how much of marijuana is consumed even when the drug is placed under prohibition. While undertaking a study of legalization of marijuana, the potential effects that it would have on law and order, economy, quality of life, crime rates and healthcare sector also needs to be analyzed in detail. In addition, the medicinal worth of marijuana would also be analyzed in order to understand the medical conditions in which this drug proves to be a relief to the patients. As marijuana has been subjected to various laws, this study would also take a look at the current and previous laws in order to understand the impact these laws have had on the society and the economy. Finally, this study would also aim to find a suitable answer to the debate based on the research and analysis.
1.5 Definition of Terms
Before moving on to further analysis, it is necessary to understand the definitions of a few terms that would be used repeatedly in this study.
Legalization can be described as the process by which, a restriction or a prohibition is removed against any object, service, practice or system that is currently not approved by law. The process of legalization is not a simple one and involves various stages of approval from different authorities. Drug legalization is the process by with the government-enforced prohibition or restriction for the legal sale of any prohibited drug comes to an end. Drug legalization can be partial or total. Full legalization or total legalization would mean that all forms of governmental control over the sale and possession of a drug would not exist anymore. Partial legalization would mean various levels of regulations where the drug would be available for purchase, but some form of governmental control would still exist over the concerned drug. These forms of regulations could be various, ranging from medical warnings, to restrictions of advertisements and promotions, restrictions on age limit to purchase the drug, limitations on the quantity during a single purchase and special licenses to purchase. Along with drug legalization, drug decriminalization would also come into effect, as it would need reduced or controlled laws against the usage of the drug that has been legalized.
Marijuana or Cannabis as it is popularly known as refers to the numerous products that are made from the Cannabis plant in order to work as a psychoactive drug. This drug creates a feeling of intoxication in the users and also has some medicinal values. This drug has proven to boost the appetite of terminally ill patients who suffer from cancer and AIDS. It is one of the largest consumed drugs across the world and is known for illegal drug trafficking.
1.6 Limitations of the Study
It is also necessary to understand that there would be certain limitations associated with this study. As the drug is restricted, most of the assumptions made would be an estimation based on the previous trends of marijuana. Hence, the empirical evidences as well as data analysis would have an estimation or assumption associated with it. Similarly, it should also be considered that the drug usage statistics could be different from what it is in actuality because of the restriction imposed on the drugs. In light of the prohibition, one limitation of the study would be that many consumers would not admit to the consumption of this drug. The different states of America have different laws related to Marijuana. For example, the states of California, Oregon, Nevada and 12 others have decriminalized the medical use of Marijuana. Each of these states has various levels of decriminalization of this drug and hence, have various restrictions imposed on them. As there are different types of laws in different states, it is difficult to ascertain the facts about the drug usage at a national level. Hence, that is another limitation of this study. Even though most medical practitioners advocate the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the research is still on to decide the effectiveness of marijuana for terminally ill patients. While the drug may provide some relief to the patients, it has also been noticed that this drug may have other side effects that aggravates the disease. Hence, the ongoing research and the lack of clarity on the exact medical implications of marijuana as a medicine is another limitation associated with this study.
1.7 Research Hypothesis
The intention of this study is to systematically think and analyze the factors that influence the different outcomes of the process of legalization so that there is a clearer picture of the various types of impact that the uncertainties of legalization may have on the society and the economy. The research hypothesises that the harmful impacts of legalization of Marijuana will outweigh the benefit that it may have on the US economy.
A good understanding and a clearer picture are necessary before deciding on a unanimous decision related to the advantages or the disadvantages of legalization of marijuana. The hypothesis is however not tested on the basis of a cost to benefit analysis of legalization in the United States, but it would be a comparison of the factors that would have an effect after the legalization process.
2.1 The Legalization of Marijuana and Its effects in the Economy
Cannabis or Marijuana, has been a very controversial as well as sensitive topic in the context of American political debates. This drug, with its popularity has the potential to change the economy of an entire nation. On the other hand, its increased use can result in increased crime rates, homicide rates and intense addiction. In the United States, this drug was once legal and a tax was imposed on it. However, due to the increased growth rate of its consumption, the Marijuana Tax Act was introduced in 1937 where it was declared that it is illegal to possess or transfer Marijuana barring some exceptional cases like medicinal or industrial use. Even in these cases, a heavy tax was imposed to prevent the misuse of the drug. In the United States, at present fourteen of the total fifty states grants permission to its residents to purchase this drug for medicinal purposes from their medical practitioner if they have the Medical Marijuana Card. California, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico and Michigan are some of the states where an individual can purchase Marijuana for medical reasons after enrolling in the state sponsored program for the issue of a Medical Marijuana Card. The legalization of Marijuana is a long-standing debate with very strong arguments both in favour of and against this act. Those who are in favour of legalization of Marijuana argue that this drug is a big relief to terminally ill patient as it brings them appetite and makes life easier for them. In addition, Marijuana is a heavily taxed drug across the world, so legalizing it would amount to additional earnings from tax revenues. Those who oppose the legalization of marijuana think that it could easily lead to substance abuse and consider it as a way that would lead them to other dangerous drugs such as cocaine or heroin. They feel that legalization of marijuana will affect the quality of life led by Americans and can cause drug related diseases such as depression, suicidal tendencies and addiction. Hence, in light of these two strong arguments, legalization of Marijuana remains a very controversial topic n America and it may take a while before the government takes a legal stand on making it as a medical drug. This article will take a deeper look at how the legalization of marijuana will have an effect on the economy of the United States. Through examples and illustrations, the attempt is to understand the various arguments that are in favour of marijuana being beneficial for the economy and can lead to an economical revival, especial during a financial crisis or recession. In all the States of USA, marijuana related discussions and proposal for legislation are very debatable topics. As with all the main legislations in the Federal system, the marijuana laws are handled on the state level. (ProCon.ORG, 2010)
2.2 History of Usage of Marijuana
Marijuana has a long history and it can be taken to primitive ages, where it was used as a plant for home remedies. It was considered as a medicinal plant back then. However, in modern times, the history goes back to the time when doctors started treating the patients. With time, the usage gradually decreased as doctors realized the addiction factor and started moving away from the use of marijuana. After that, instead of being known as a medicinal drug, it started to be known more as a recreational drug. Instead of helping in curing diseases, people started smoking marijuana as well as eating products that contain marijuana to get the feeling that they would get while consuming other drugs such as cocaine or heroin, that is to get to an intoxicated state of mind. Even though it is a banned substance, it is not available easily, and commercially, The United Nations Office for drugs estimates that there are over 160 million people who regularly consume marijuana (Marijuana Myths, 2009).
The effects of marijuana on people are not just psychological, but it also leaves a physiological impact on the individuals. For example, the state of conscience is altered and the individuals feel that they are in euphoria. With the increase in stress levels, marijuana often asks as a relaxant and helps in soothing the nerves, stress and reducing anxiety level. The consumption of marijuana starts in small doses but the body soon gets on hooked to it. The anxiety level increases and marijuana is required to soothe the anxious state of mind. However, in the absence of marijuana, the body shows a lot of anxiety and becomes weak. In spite of these negative effects, there is an argument in favour of legalizing the sale of Marijuana because of the big benefits that it brings in term of improving the economy of a the country. In Europe, a few countries have legalized the sale of medical marijuana and some other countries have made it legal based on the amount that is owned. As in the United States, many countries have made attempts to tackle the consumption of illegal drugs, but have not been successful because a considerable percentage of the population are hooked on to it. However, in recent times, the debate related to the pros and cons of legalization have intensified and have become a very popular topic in media as well as politics. There are strong arguments both in favour of and against the legalization of this drug. It is necessary to understand both these aspects to put the debate in the right perspective. In addition, this is not a very small decision because the result may have a very huge impact on the citizens of the state. Hence, a lot of thought and consideration needs to be put in before a legislation is passed in favour of legalization.
2.3 Marijuana Laws
Marijuana is a drug that has been subjected to many different kinds of laws during the past century. Restrictions related to marijuana started to be introduced in the various states during the early 1910s and 1920s in states like Maine, Columbia, New York, Iowa and so on. However, once the Federal Bureau of Narcotics came to the forefront in 1930s along with the Marijuana Act of 1937 (Musto, 1972) Marijuana was declared as an illegal drug. Even for a medical use, a heavy cess was imposed on Marijuana. In 1996, Cannabis was legalized for medical use in California after the voters passed a proposition. Following suit, Oakland approved medical use in 2001. After that, Oregon, California, Alaska, Colorado and Ohio moved ahead to decriminalize the various restrictions for Marijuana for non-medical use. Voters rejected the 2010 proposal in California for the complete legalizaztion of marijuana with tax imposed. At present, the debate related to legalization of marijuana is a controversial topic.
2.4 Arguments in Favour of Legalization of Marijuana
There are several arguments that have prompted the legislators to think that it is indeed favourable to legalize marijuana. The most important argument, which works very strongly in favour of legalizing marijuana, is that it will have an impact on the economy.
It has been considered by many scholars that legalization of marijuana would work well to revive an economy that has been struggling. This argument came to the forefront especially in the state of California that faced a severe economic crisis during the time of financial depression. As the Information Technology industry struggled to make profit, the silicon capital of America saw its economy struggling. Hence, the thought about legalization of marijuana became very vocal. The argument in favour of marijuana is that government would be able to regulate the distribution as well as sale of marijuana; hence, these sales could be taxed with a heavy duty. The collected with the sale of marijuana can be used for any other purpose that the tax is generally used, hence adding to the exchequer of the state (Stigler, 1970). It is also argued that legalization of marijuana will contribute to increased jobs in the economy, as a considerable workforce is required to operate and distribute this substance. It would also contribute to an increase in agriculture, as more marijuana would be needed to cultivate additional marijuana to meet the demand. Another argument that is in favour of legalizing marijuana due to economic benefits is that it will save a huge amount of money that the government is currently spending in its efforts to fight the battle of drugs.
America’s War on Drug
America’s War against substance abuse is not a small one and it involves a considerable amount of investment. To prevent the use of drugs, the government has assigned responsibilities to many officers, enforcement staff, screeners and others who are directly responsible to ensure that the drug usage is reduced. In addition, police staff and rehabilitation centres are also involved to fight this problem. This involves a considerable amount of investment to ensure that the machinery to fight America’s war on drug is strong as well as successful. However, in spite of such strong measures being put in place, it has been noticed the consumption of any form of drug has not reduced and both it is possession as well as consumption has increased over the period. Hence, these bodies have not been able to fulfil their responsibilities and make sure that there is enough regulation to prevent the spread of usage of drugs. Over the past few years, it has been noticed that the consumption of marijuana has increased when compared to other drugs such as Heroin and Cocaine. See fig below –
Figure 1:Trends in Drug Enforcement – 1982 to 2002*. * = Chart adapted from data in Pastore, AL and Maguire, K (Eds.): Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2001. United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC: USGPO, 2002.
Along with increase in drug consumption, arrests also have increased and that has resulted in additional expenses on jails, courts and rehabilitation facilities. After 1991, the budget for the enforcement of drug laws has increased from $4.6 billion (or 42% of the federal drug control budget) to $9.5 billion (or 51% of the federal drug control budget) in 2002. This increase of around $4.9 has occurred during the phase when the maximum number of arrests happened for marijuana (Pastore and Maguire, 2002). Hence, the opportunity costs for the implementation of marijuana laws is huge. According to a recent study, the marijuana market would exceed $10 billion a year and hence, the estimated annual cost for enforcing the laws would be around $7.7 billion (Miron, 2005). In 2003, over 750,000 arrests were made for Marijuana, and out of that, 88 percent were for the possession of the drug. (Earleywine, 2005).
Hence, the government is spending a considerable amount of funds to prevent the use of drugs without any results. What this means is that the expenses have increased, without being able to stop the use of marijuana and other drugs. Knightly (1999) feels that now drug taking has become a very established practice and hence, it is necessary to explore other radical options that go well with a free society need to be explored. According to him, marijuana is no longer a ‘controlled substance’, because of its rampant spread. The stringent laws in place have not been able to control the intake of drugs; instead, it has pushed it to the realm of underground activities and has benefitted criminals who have been able to successfully sell it. Therefore, law enforcement is not the way to reduce the increased demand for marijuana; instead, it only contributes to its increased price, which contributes to increased profit margins for the drug traffickers. Hence, prohibition of drugs can also cause increased burden on the economy in indirect ways.
A good amount of support for legalization of marijuana is based on the fact that it is immensely useful for medicinal purposes. According to scientists, many terminal diseases such as HIV, Cancer, and Liver Scorosis lead the patient to a dull phase where they feel lack of motivation to live or to eat. In such cases, Marijuana has proven to stimulate appetite Egendorf, 2003). It provides a lot of relief to people and reduces their suffering. Research also shows that it can be used to treat many diseases as well as to reduce the recovery time of many diseases. One such disease is Glaucoma where there is high pressure on the eyeball that can lead to blindness. Marijuana also is used to provide relief from pain during the extremely tough stages of illness. Hence, it has been recommended by the doctors that marijuana should be made legal in the United States. Around 14 states have already legalized the sale of marijuana for those who possess the Marijuana medical card. However, the procedure to get this card is long and hence, many patients who genuinely need these medicines do not get it in time.
Violation of Bills of Rights
According to the First Amendment of the United State Constitution, the government cannot make laws that would affect the free practice of religion. In the religions that originated in Africa, Middle East as well as Asia, Marijuana has a crucial role to play. For example, Rastafarians have been known to use Marijuana in order to increase the consciousness of the relationship between God and Man, between the creator and the creator. In Hinduism, God Sheba had bought cannabis to the earth so that human beings have enjoyment as well as enlightenment. Hence, many individuals feel that it is a violation of human rights to make this substance illegal as it affects the religious choice of many individuals.
2.5 Arguments against the Legalization of Marijuana
Marijuana has been categorized as an illegal drug due to various reasons and those in support of prohibition think that the negative effects of these drugs outweigh the positive impact and hence, it should continue to be an illegal substance.
Negative Effects on the Citizens
The argument against marijuana is that it is really harmful for both the body and mind. According to Brown (1995), it is not yet the right time for legislation as the society is not yet matured enough to handle the free availability of drugs. In fact, it would be surrender to those forces that would contribute in poisoning the youth as well as communities. The easy access to this drug would mean that more people would get addicted to it, which would mean that people would be easily prompted to move on to other dangerous substances too, as it has been found that marijuana increases the tendencies to get addicted to other illegal drugs. Hence, these drugs may work in the favour of solving the economic crisis in the states, but it can pose a serious threat of increased drug addiction and drug consumption in the nation. The figure below shows the arrests trends during the period of 1990 to 2002, it is to be noticed that the total marijuana related arrests are very high (Source, Crime in the United States, 2002 Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Figure 2: Marijuan linked Arrest Trends for 1990-2002 in the US.
Increase in Crime and Violence
If the sale of marijuana is legalized by the removal of criminal sanctions, then this drug would be widely available, therefore the number of users would increase. One direct effect of increased drug consumption could be that there would be an increase in crimes (Resignato, 2000). This is because, there would be a larger number of drug addicts who would not be able to support their addiction of marijuana with the income that they legal earn. Hence, the chances of violence associated with consumption of drugs would increase and along with it, there would be more cases of mental illness as well as physical illness (Incardi and Saum, 1996). Increase in crime rate can also give rise to many issues in terms of the economy. If a particular region has more drug consumption and therefore, increased crime rates, the government would be required to introduce additional forces to fight the crime. This would require investment and hence, would be burden on the economy. In addition, the value of the place as a tourist destination can take a hit. Places with high crime rate also lose their value as economic and business hubs. Hence, increased crime rates are not good for the economic growth.
Marijuana: A Getaway Drug
Most people, who move on to become drug addicts, initially start their addiction with marijuana. It is relatively rare for the people to start with other drugs. Hence, marijuana becomes a getaway drug because an increased tendency is noticed that the brain gets more susceptible to getting addicted to other drugs because of an increased exposure to marijuana. If this drug is legalized, it has to be understood that the demands for other drugs such as heroin and cocaine would go high. Hence, the government would be forced to make a higher investment in curbing the trafficking of those drugs. This would prove to be an additional burden on the economy.
Harmful to Health
Even though Marijuana has proved to be very useful to treat some diseases, it also has some long term as well as short-term effects on the health of the person who abuses it usage. The lungs get severely affected by marijuana and can cause cancer. Marijuana has fifty to seventy percentage of carcinogens more than the regular tobacco. This drug also stays in the lung for a longer period, hence is more dangerous. Apart from the cancer tendencies, Marijuana also causes respiratory diseases such as cough and breathing problems. The chances of developing a heart disease also become very high because of the effect it causes on the blood.
An argument that is made in favor of legalization is that marijuana is not addictive because it is not a chemical like other drugs. However, even though the chemical presence is negligible, a lot of people do go into rehabilitation because of addiction to marijuana. If used continuously, marijuana can cause withdrawal symptoms, just like any other chemical based drug.
Quality of Life
Apart from the physical effects, marijuana also has a negative effect on the general lifestyle, social life and normal routine. This is because marijuana can cause effects on short-term memory and reduce the level of concentration. Other important aspects like hand-eye coordination, reaction time and response ability also get negatively affected because of increased use of this drug. Hence, the drug can prove to be very detrimental if its use is not regulated and if it is consumed without any restrictions.
2.6 Summary of Literature Review
The literature review is a comprehensive study of the various pros and cons about the legalization of marijuana. The advantages of legalizing marijuana would include the economic benefits, saving of a considerable amount of money that is now spent on war against drugs and many patients would find good relief with marijuana. The negative effects of legalization of this drug could include a bad quality of life, increase in crime rates, negative effects on the body with excessive use and indirect effects on the economy. Furthermore, the drug abuse rate as well as the rate of adaptation of other dangerous drugs is also bound to go up.
The following are the key findings in the study –
Marijuana laws differ from state to state as some states like California, Oregon and Oakland have approved the medical use of marijuana for the patients. In some other states like Colorado and Nevada, the use of marijuana has been decriminalized with some restrictions and the punishments have been reduced. Other states continue to have stringent laws against the use of marijuana.
The federal government has been making a considerable investment on enforcement of drug laws and the expenditure for enforcement of drug laws increased from $4.5 billion to $9.5 billion from 1991 to 2000. The high number of arrests related to marijuana propelled this large increase. Hence, it is noteworthy that a huge contributor of increased burden on the exchequer is caused due to increase in the usage of marijuana. Enforcing marijuana related laws, preventing drug trafficking, arresting those who break the laws, prosecuting them and finally collecting fines or imprisonment all contribute to the expenditure of law enforcement.
In 2003, more than 750,000 arrests were made for Marijuana, of which around 88% of arrests were due to the possession of the drug. Hence, it can be said that a considerable amount of investment is done in order to prevent trafficking. As this drug is not legal, it has given rise to the menace of drug trafficking.
As per the statistics, the rate of consumption of marijuana is much higher than the rate at which other drugs are consumed. Hence, the argument in favour of legalization of marijuana is that in any situation, the consumption is very high. Even after enforcing many different laws to prevent drug abuse, there is no reduction in the rate of consumption of marijuana. Hence, it is proposed that making marijuana legal would help the institution collect additional tax and cess, which can be useful for the economy.
As per the study done by Miron in 2005, Marijuana market would soon exceed $10 billion and as the market grows, additional investment would be required to enforce the laws, which is estimated around $7.7 billion. Therefore, the chances of the reduction of illegal traffic of marijuana look very slim and the expenditure to enforce marijuana is predicted to be high.
Increase in the consumption of any drug can increase the crime rate of an economy. As the illegal drugs prove to be expensive, people who consume it cannot afford to buy it with their regular income. Hence, the resort to different types of crimes or begin drug trafficking in order to get access to marijuana. This significantly contributes to a higher crime rate. The pro legalization supporters feel that legalization of this drug can lead to a drop in the crime rates because then people would get access to the drug without resorting to criminal steps.
Marijuana comes as a boon to the terminally ill as it is known to be the only drug which is able to provide relief to the patients who are terminally ill and who suffer from incurable diseases like AIDS or Cancer. It is known as an appetite booster. Medical experts feel that it is necessary to provide relief to such patients so that they could die with dignity. At present, only fourteen states of the United States of America have medical authorization to sell marijuana. It is a wide spread proposition to make marijuana legal for medical purposes in all the states so that the patients would get the much needed relief.
Many drug users because of the easy access to it can misuse legalization of marijuana. Marijuana is also known as a getaway drug, which paves way for further addiction to drugs like cocaine and heroin, that are very dangerous. Hence, the use of marijuana is often considered as the first step to drug addiction. If legalization is without any regulation, there may be chances of massive drug addiction.
Marijuana also can cause serious health hazards due to the addiction factor that comes along with this drug. It is extremely injurious to health and pro prohibition group feels that a free access to this drug in the market can bring down the healthiness of the social set up. Marijuana can cause cancer of the lung and heart diseases. The prolonged use of marijuana can also affect the mind and lead to depression and anxiety related issues.
Marijuana legalization can affect the standard of life and quality of life led by individuals as a society that has a high level of marijuana consumption cannot be considered as a healthy society. The United Nations and most of other countries have joined hands to fight the menace of drug legalization. Hence, it is necessary to join the global fight against illegal drugs.
The debate related to the legalization of marijuana is very controversial because of various pros and cons that need careful consideration. The vote margins are very narrow when both the sides are compared, which shows that the support for both the sides are very strong.
Discussions and Recommendations
After the United States faced its biggest recession in 2008-2009, the economy took a turn for the worst. The unemployment rate shot up and many people lost their jobs. One way of reviving this economy was to legalize the sale of Marijuana. The tax and the excise imposed on the sale of Marijuana would add inject additional benefits to the economy. Hence, there was a wide spread demand to legalize the sale of Marijuana across all the states of the United States. However, before such legislation is passed out, it is necessary to understand the impact of legalization of Marijuana on the economy. It is indeed true that the additional tax imposed on Marijuana would be a boost for the economy, since the demand for this drug is very high. However, it is also important to understand the indirect effect of the legalization process on the economy. A robust economy is characterized by many factors, and one of this is lower crime rate of a particular state. Critics argue that if the sale of marijuana is legalized then the crime rates would increases, which in turn would affect the reputation of the state and affect the economy adversely. Hence, the argument on both the sides is strong and it is not an easy task to pass legislation with regard to this issue. According to Jeffery Miron’s report that came out in June 2005, it is said that replacing the prohibition on marijuana by imposing tax, just like it is done in the case of alcohol (Pacula, 1988), would help in providing a combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year (Miron, 2005). However, the drug addiction rate would increase, which can be disastrous step in the long term for the social state.
A very crucial and important aspect to note is that the topic of legalization of marijuana came into the forefront because of recession. The dire economic situation led the legislatures to think of injecting the economy with cash immediately. One such easy was considered to be the legalization of marijuana. The legalization would mean that a very high tax could be imposed on the drug, and it could be passed on to the citizens, just like in the case of alcohol. In addition, with legalization would come in the aspect of decriminalization of this drug. This would mean that the government could save a huge amount of money as they would not need to enforce the marijuana laws. While this proposal is very exciting in terms of the economic context, it is also necessary to look at the different type of impact that it would have on the society as a whole. Easy access to a drug like marijuana would mean that there would be a definite increase in marijuana consumption rate. This drug is especially popular among the youth and it can cause some serious implications (MacCoun and Reuter, 2001). Even when the drug is under severe regulations, many people undergo rehabilitation against over-use of marijuana. Hence, critics argue that the rate of drug addiction would increase. High drug addiction rate is not good for an economy in the future. For example, any new business venture would prefer to open their business in a location where the drug addiction rates as well as the crime rates are relatively low. Therefore, legalization of marijuana to improve the economic scenario of a state would just be a temporary solution.
It is also necessary to understand the correlation between drug addiction and crime rates. If the drugs are made legal, they would come in with a huge tax that would be passed down to the citizens. The price of this drug would vary from state to state depending on the tax imposed and it would be beyond the means of a person to purchase it regularly. Once a person gets addicted to this drug, the chances are that they would crave for this drug. Hence, they may take the route of crime. The chances of increase of crime rates along with the increase in drug consumption are very high. High crime rates are also a deterrent to a good economy in the long term. Hence, it is necessary to impose certain regulations with regard to the decriminalization of marijuana.
No discussion of marijuana legalization is complete without the discussion of the medical use that this drug has. As it has proven to be very useful to provide the much needed pain relief and appetite increase for patients who are in their last days, it should be ensured that these patients have access to this drug to alleviate this pain. Considering this argument, the medical legalization of marijuana has been already approved in fourteen states of the United States. While the legalization for strictly medicinal purposes is ethical and should be enforced, there are chances that the marijuana that has been approved only for medical use has been misused and has contributed to the drug traffic industry. Hence, stricter regulations need to be enforced around the use of marijuana for medical use. Similarly, the states that are contemplating the decriminalization of marijuana to provide medicinal support to the patients, should take steps to make sure that this drug is available to support the patients when they need it the most.
Decriminalization of marijuana would mean relaxation of the drug rules in a particular state. While the debate of legalization as well as decriminalization of marijuana is on, the concept of partial decriminalization should also be given due consideration. This would mean relaxation of the laws around the use of marijuana, different laws for consumption and possession, and lowering the crime charges from a felony to a non felony crime. In addition, several restrictions related to the supply of marijuana can also be enforced. This could include strict regulations around the availability by supplying it only at a couple of legal places. This drug should also be provided only in restricted quantity in line with the medical need for the patient. Similarly, the drug should be provided only for people who are above a certain age and those who have something like a Medical Marijuana card. This can help in making sure that the right people have the access to the drugs.
Marijuana is an addictive drug and those who get addicted to it, even if they face different types of social, psychological as well as physical impairments. The reasons why they continue to use marijuana vary, for some it could be relationship or family issues, financial crisis, work crisis, low productivity levels, memory issues and even the guilt factor associated with the use of drug (Gruber et al., 2003; Stephens et al., 2002). Hence, when they try to quit the drug, they experience severe withdrawal symptoms. There is a wide spread notion that marijuana does not contain a lot of chemical elements, unlike cocaine or heroin and hence, does not require rehabilitation. However, that is a false notion because Marijuana is also like any other drug, but is not dangerous as them. The addiction factor that it brings about is high and it can cause serious physical and mental trauma to the users. Hence, due consideration needs to be given to the fact that marijuana is a dangerous drug in itself.
Marijuana has been decriminalized in different states of America. According to Thomas(1998) and Gettman (2000), the federal government’s current policy related to marijuana policy interpret the arrest and use trends as evidence of a crack-down by law enforcement against non-violent drug offenders. The argument is that the federal government has placed a burden that is unnecessary on the criminal justice procedures. Hence, those in favour of legalization of marijuana argue that if a change is enforced in the legal status of marijuana, then it would help the criminal justice system by affecting the demand in a minimalistic manner. In this regard, if various levels of decriminalization is introduced, for example, the punishment severity is reduced by imposing more fines and not imprisonment, there are good chances that the burden on the criminal justice system would be reduced. However, if total decriminalization is introduced, it is highly possible that the criminal justice system could be subject to additional burden because of the increase in other drug related crimes.
Legalization of marijuana would also send out wrong signals to the citizens and the message that would be conveyed is that it is not wrong to consume the drug. This message is not something that would suit a healthy society as well as growth of a robust society. Moreover, the nations across the globe have joined hands to fight the menace of increasing drug use. In such a situation, legalizing marijuana would not send out a good message to the society. Legalizing marijuana for the medical use is ethical and can be made legal, with some regulations. However, total legalization and decriminalization can have many repercussions.
The arguments related to both the sides are very strong and hence, it is indeed a very complicated issue. Much more deliberation is needed before any action because the chances of abuse of this drug are very high. The society also needs to be more matured before any legislation is passed. Medical use of marijuana is essential because it helps in giving a decent life to those people who are terminally ill and who find it difficult to live each minute. Hence, medical availability of marijuana should be made legal across all the states while its access to the general public should be under regulation. This will reduce the availability of the drugs to unauthorized people and will ensure its availability to the needy patients. In addition, a sudden change to legalize and removal of all the restrictions could result in a sudden paranoia, hence decriminalization of the drug needs to be carried out in various stages.
From the way in which the trends related to the controversy have shaped up in the past few years, it is clear that the legislation related to legalization of marijuana is not something that would get approved easily, given the huge economic benefits that it offers. Many critics argue that though it is an easy way to revive the economy, the long-term effects of legalization of marijuana would not be beneficial for the economy. However, medical legalization of marijuana is necessary to provide comfort to patients who are suffering from diseases. This also becomes an issue related to ethics when it comes to the use of marijuana as a medicine. Hence, medical legalization of marijuana is necessary, but with regulations such as regulation of the quantity or issue of medical cards. However, total legalization of this drug without any regulations may bring in short term benefits to the economy with the help of higher taxes. However, in the long term economy may have to undergo certain setbacks due to the negative effects of legalization without regulation.
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