Advocates of legalizing marijuana cite benefits such as minimization of government crime enforcement expenditures. Other stated benefits include increase of revenue related to taxation, and licensing of a regulated market. Therefore, in my opinion with public education regarding health risks, and integrated law practices, marijuana should be legalized.
To date there are twenty-three States that have legalized medical marijuana use ranging from Arizona, to Washington. Some states will accept medical marijuana cards from other states whereas others require them to be issued there. As with other industries like alcohol and tobacco, there are associated fees for medical marijuana use (ProCon.org, 2014). These fees are useful for generating revenue for States, and also eliminate the stigma associated with illegal marijuana use. In addition with possession limits there are also standardized law practices which create greater protection and monitoring.
There are risks associated with legalizing marijuana. One of the identified risks is drugged driving, which leads to numerous safety issues. Studies such as the British Medical Journal have discovered that drivers under the influence of marijuana have increased risks of causing accidents. In fact there is an emergent trend in states like California where drugged drivers are more rampant than intoxicated ones. To combat this trend law enforcement must institute drugged driving laws and programs in each state (Evans, 2013).
There are also adverse effects associated with marijuana use, whether or not the use is for recreation or medical use. Identified effects include information retention, focus, response speed, and the processing of complex data. Other potentially destructive effects include somnolence, lassitude, and even laziness. The impact on memory cognizance can be significant, especially in youth. For those that have protracted medical use, there is increased risk (Evans, 2013).
Additionally, opponents of legalizing marijuana have emphasized the potentially long-term dependency especially among youth. Three years ago there were more than four million individuals with documented dependency on marijuana. This could be due to the fact that the strength of marijuana has significantly increased over the last two decades. Subsequently, emergency room visits have increased due to the necessity of critical care associated with marijuana use (whitehouse.gov, n.d.).
I agree with Jeffrey Mirion who projected costs associated with the criminalization of marijuana. Legalizing marijuana use will save approximately seven and a half to thirteen and a half-billion dollars, annually. These costs are associated with prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and police resources (Evans, 2013). In fact I believe that many if not all of the twenty-three states that have legalized marijuana are currently saving substantial money.
In fact, public opinion is quickly trending towards legalization of marijuana leading to ballot initiatives. In more than ten years there has been a twenty point upward shift of public support. This has been attributed to many persons no longer view marijuana use as immoral. I believe that young people and other key demographics will continue to support such sentiment through ballot initiatives. Although there are those that are 65 and older that currently oppose legalization, I believe this position will eventually reverse (Galston & Dionne, 2013).
In the past one of the reasons behind staunch opposition to marijuana has been public opinion about what such use leads to. As such there are those that had previously viewed it as a gateway to harder drugs. Using this same logic we would have to ban alcohol sales as this could be considered a gateway drink (Galston & Dionne, 2013). I have read little evidence of medical advantages associated with alcohol use and yet it remains a legal substance. Although I believe that uncontrolled marijuana use can lead to addiction, there are ways to mitigate such addictions. If the objective of medical use remains the focus then I feel that marijuana can be an herbal alternative that enhances medical practice.
However, unmonitored it could lead to addiction and destructive tendencies. Yet this should not be a compelling reason not to legalize marijuana use. If we don’t legalize marijuana use because of fear of misuse then we don’t mitigate the problem. The only thing that we do is force those who have used it for medical purposes to continue use illegally.
Using the same logic we would also need to reevaluate psychotropic medications and other medicinal products that currently enhance medical practice. In other words I feel that we cannot discriminate against one specific drug and support other equally potentially addictive drugs. It becomes a slippery moral and legal slope that creates a dangerous legal precedent.
According to various studies the issue of legalization of marijuana is still a divisive issue. There are approximately fifty-two percent that support legalization and forty-five that are opposed. The majority of men and women disagree that marijuana use leads to harder drugs (Galston & Dionne, 2013). I support the majority opinion as I feel that as with alcohol there are ways to mitigate addiction. I am not suggesting that addiction is not possible, however that possibility does not mitigate the health and economic benefits that are associated with legalizing marijuana use.
I feel that there is compelling evidence indicating that governmental efforts to enforce marijuana laws are more costly than they are worthy. Recent surveys show that the majority of Americans, approximately seventy-two percent hold a similar position (Galston & Dionne, 2013). This would be further validated by having a fiscal analysis of precisely how much infrastructure costs are associated with such governmental efforts. I really support any monitoring and regulating at a state as opposed to federal level. When states are able to monitor marijuana use in their state it seems more appropriate. This is because any established laws will be more aligned with the will of the people in that specific demographic.
When looking at this from a macro perspective I feel that there is a trend towards legalization in all fifty states. If current patterns and surveys are apposite indicators then public opinion will continue to support legalization. I also believe that eventually medical evidence will provide critical data to the growing conversation. The more case studies we find that discuss the medical benefits, the better.
I think it would be helpful for state governors to begin to work in a collaborative format. Perhaps there could be the establishment of a marijuana board with representatives from each state. This would enable the sharing of ideas relative to enforcement and best practices. Best practices would be specifically related to things such as mitigating the probability of overdosing. One of the greatest challenges moving forward will be determining how medical facilities can create a system that moves beyond the authorization of a marijuana medical card.
This may involve working with pharmaceutical companies to create drugs that have marijuana within them. Instead of simply providing a medical marijuana card perhaps there can be prescriptions and use specifically for a medical condition. Right now because marijuana use for medical purposes is still at the infancy stage there are still many things to be figured out. However, the legalization of marijuana similar to same-sex marriage appears to be a foregone conclusion. It is not so much when but if it becomes a standard practice in each of the fifty states. That is why I support the legalization and collaborative sharing of marijuana use best practices. The focus should be on solutions and leveraging natural resources for good, not hindering them because of fear.
Evans, D. G. (2013, December 30). THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. Retrieved from http://www.globaldrugpolicy.org/Issues/Vol%207%20Issue%204/The%20Economic%20Impacts%20of%20Marijuana%20Legalization%20final%20for%20journal.pdf
Galston, W. A., & Dionne, E. (2013, May 29). The New Politics of Marijuana Legalization: Why Opinions are Changing. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2013/05/29%20politics%20marijuana%20legalization%20galston%20dionne/dionne%20galston_newpoliticsofmjleg_final.pdf
ProCon.org. (2014). 23 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC. Retrieved from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881
whitehouse.gov. (n.d.). The Public Health Consequences of Marijuana Legalization. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/issues-content/marijuana_and_public_health_one_pager_-_final.pdf
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