How Is the Legalization of Marijuana a Matter for Public Concerns?
American attitudes towards marijuana in recent years have undergone a major change. In 2006, there were only 32% of people who support the legalization of marijuana. Today, according to the recent polls, there are as many as 53% of marijuana legalization supporters (Ruschman 57). At the same time, the viewpoint of the ‘crowd’ is reflected in the legislative process. Most recently in, for example, Washington, all adults are allowed to carry a small amount of marijuana, share it, and grow up to six bushes of cannabis for personal use at home (Gallstone and Dionne 2013). However, smoking marijuana, buying, and selling it in public places is prohibited. However, is the question of marijuana usage clarified to the extent that it can be safely grown at the neighbor’s backyard? No, it is not. There are plenty of studies giving strong evidence that marijuana in small doses is not harmful for a human body but, in fact, it is useful in terms of stress reduction. On the contrary, there is a wide variety of researches, studies, and surveys proving that marijuana has not even a tiny positive effect on the human body, unless it is used for medical purposes (Carroll 2005). Therefore, the question of marijuana legalization should be discussed in public at wide audience involving all the opinions and attitudes on the matter. This paper is going to discuss ten most widespread issues for the marijuana legalization and explain why the mentioned pros should be further discussed and thought over before the official legalization takes place.
The first and foremost argument to discuss is the fact that marijuana legalization activists claim that authorities have banned marijuana to take strict control of its production and consumption (Roffman 2). Nevertheless, this plan failed: despite the fact that it was for the law provides criminal penalties, every year about 25 million people in the US consume marijuana (Pacula 2010). Cannabis was the largest cash crop in the United States, and it was anonymously grown throughout the country. The statements of some politicians that the ban on marijuana has justified itself are unfounded because the real facts show otherwise. Moreover, the idea of extermination of hemp as a culture, which until recently was very popular in America, has been recognized as laughable even by the most inveterate opponents of marijuana (Ruschman 39).
In the current situation, stronger bias towards ethnic minorities is associated with marijuana. According to statistics, mainly representatives of African-American and Hispanic population are arrested on charges related to marijuana in the United States (Caulkin 28). In case it is legalized, the amount of sales will obviously rise up. This contributes to the negative opinion on the national minorities as drug addicts and drug dealers. African-Americans, for example, account for about 13% of the total US population, and 13.5% of those who regularly use marijuana. At the same time, they are accounted for as much as 26% of all arrests related to cannabis (Carroll 2005). Recent studies have demonstrated that it is Hispanics and Africans who are frequently arrested in New York for possession of marijuana and its use in public places. Law enforcement agencies have not been able to prove that the law is the same for all: it is obvious that the ‘white’ population is much less exposed to the risk of being arrested (Galstone and Dionne 2013).
Regulated market of marijuana will reduce the level of consumption among adolescents, according to the opinion of marijuana legalization supporters (Joffe and Yancy e634). It is the illegal status of marijuana that gives it a special value in the eyes of teenagers. First, it is a ‘forbidden fruit’ that definitely should be tasted simply because it is not allowed. Second, one can make a lot of money by trading banned substances (Choo et al. 162). After the legalization, getting profit from trading hemp will no longer be possible, and teenagers will have no incentive to sell this stuff to each other (Patton 173). Similarly, it may be objected that high consumption of alcohol and tobacco among adolescents is also a serious public health problem. Is the problem of teenage alcohol abuse or smoking fought thanks to the legal status of these substances? In fact, it is not. After the legalization of marijuana, teenager will want it not less but more since for teenagers, it will still be banned as alcohol and tobacco are.
Legalizing marijuana will greatly reduce the outflow of capital from the economy to the hands of international criminal groups (Pacula 2010). The illegal status of cannabis allows one to get the most benefits from its cultivation for subsequent smuggling to the United States. The plant itself is cultivated in other countries. The shadow economy of these countries takes American money rather than promoting the development of its own production in the United States (Patton 189). On the other side, taking into account the existing practices of legalization, it can be said that the production will not be transferred to the ‘legal’ country since growing in large amounts will still be forbidden (Pacula 2010). Therefore, the money will still be drown out of the country.
Inspectors never check the manufacturing practice of even legal manufacturers of marijuana. Scientists never assess their products. If something is wrong with the party, there is no comment. In most countries, the quality control for marijuana production is illegal. This means that marijuana cultivation and production is hidden from the public eye. Unlike legal drugs or food, there is no public control. For example, in order for a drug to be approved for use in the USA or the UK, it must be thoroughly tested. Hundreds of studies have to be conducted and hundreds of reports and documents are to be written. The manufacturer must prove that the drug meets the requirements of the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). This means that the factories producing it must be flawless and comply with all regulations of the country (Ruschman 64-77).
The prohibition of marijuana is based on lies and misinformation. They say that to justify the illegal status of marijuana, the real facts were significantly distorted and selective approach to research results was practiced (Carroll 2005). As a result, the reputation of individual academics, lawyers, and teachers across the world has suffered irreparable harm. Danger for marijuana consumption is greatly exaggerated (Ruschman 65). Most opponents of legalization base on outdated prejudices popular in the last century, which were formed when the science was unable to explain the mechanism of effect of marijuana on the human body (e.g., existence of the cannabinoid system only became known in the late 1980s). The current research does not give grounds for concern about safety of marijuana (Roffman 3; Linn 716). Of course, everyone will agree that cannabis is the substance not for kids, like alcohol or tobacco (Joffe and Yancy e316). However, its moderate consumption by adults does not bear any negative consequences for people and society as a whole.
The above argument is one of the most slippery ones. They say that selected approach was applied to the issue. However, saying that the harmful effect of marijuana is exaggerated is also the selective approach. Additionally, the image of marijuana as a harmful narcotic substance could not be formed from scratch. People at the beginning and the middle of the 20th century, could observe some effects and were able to conduct some investigations confirming the harm of this substance.
Marijuana is not a ‘deadly’ drug and is much safer than alcohol (Ruschman 45). The fact is that marijuana is not toxic to humans. This substance is practically impossible to overdose on. Mild psychological dependence can be formed, but it does not go to any comparison with the dependence, which cause alcohol and cigarettes. Therefore, the pursuit of marijuana smokers is, at least, unfair, given that consumers of alcohol and cigarettes do not suffer from such bias.
Indeed, during conducting the current research, there was no direct evidence of marijuana being an extremely toxic substance. However, there were several dozens of statements that marijuana is insidious because, unlike other drugs, it destroys the body very slowly. It slows reflexes in humans; people experience apathy, hallucinations, and obsessive and distorted visual perception. It is because of such influence marijuana lovers are so often hit by cars. From a psychological perspective, marijuana is even more insidious: a person changes so slowly that he or she does not notice this moving away from normal life and focus on money, drugs, and sex (Caulkins 12-14). However, this is minor compared to the main objective of marijuana – to encourage the user start taking stronger drugs. Experiments with consciousness are fascinating – people quickly get used to marijuana and start looking for something stronger. This point is important because having tried cocaine, heroin, or LSD, a drug addict will not return to marijuana. Therefore, it is not as harmful as alcohol or tobacco, but it is dangerous in terms of quick elimination of its effect. With time, alcohol addicts simply strive to drink more but they do not drink stronger alcohol-containing substances. Marijuana is the best drug in terms of legalization since it is the first drug for 90% of drug addicts (Roffman, 1).
Marijuana is an effective medication. The positive impact of the use of marijuana can be successfully used for medicinal purposes. Thus, marijuana has relatively mild side effects. Many people already actively use medical marijuana to treat serious diseases. Cannabis has proved to be an effective drug in the treatment of acute and chronic pain, nausea, seizures, and other unpleasant symptoms helping where traditional medicines do not help. It is proved that the use of cannabis as a means of calming and relaxing under stress is much safer than regular consumption of alcoholic beverage (Caulkins 98-101).
This is the only argument one can agree with. Due to the fact that cannabis is illegal and systematically exterminated, instead of using environmentally friendly products, thousands of people are forced to use extremely harmful tobacco chemical mixtures, the use of which gives an effect similar to the effect of smoking cannabis (Pacula 2010). As a result, hundreds of people even die. This is despite the fact that hemp is generally harmless. In case people used it instead of smoking a mixture of chemicals, they would have remained healthy and alive (Ruschman 40). Thousands of people suffer from various diseases and symptoms that cannabis could mitigate and sometimes even heal, such as pain, fear, anxiety, depression, etc. Still, such facts do not completely stand for marijuana legalization. They stand for medicalization of marijuana.
Today, not all those thousands of people can take advantage of the healing effect of cannabis for the sole reason that a long time ago a law was passed to ban hemp based on the idle opinions and possible personal dislike of people who use cannabis. However, still any kind of medical data can be doubted by other medical data, the level of knowledge and capacity in the research. Until there is not a single solution, the issue should be discussed and scrutinized in public.
Another argument that cannot be doubted is that the movement for marijuana legalization has already captured most of the world. Activists of the marijuana legalization movement are determined to reach their goal in spite of anything (Carrol 2005). Their efforts were not in vain: every day more and more people, including politicians and public officials, change their attitude to cannabis for the better. Therefore, marijuana legalization is only a matter of time. However, how long it will take depends on the public debate upon the issue.
Summing up, one can say that every argument for marijuana legalization can be doubted, as well as every argument against it. This only highlights that the common denominator is to be found in public discussion. Such solution may be the medicalization of marijuana, turning it from an addictive drug to the medication, allowed, but controlled.