Pros and Cons of Legalizing Marijuana

Face it, this has been a controversy in our country for years. What are the benefits? Why should we legalize it? Where is it legal today?

In recent years, there has been a push to legalize Marijuana; in fact, it already has been fully legalized in Colorado, Washington State, Washington D.C, Nevada, California, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Vermont, Michigan, and Massachusetts. Even more states have made it legal for medical use or decriminalized it. According to vox.com, over 60 percent of Americans now support the legalization of recreational marijuana, and most of them are millennials.

Marijuana is a relatively safe drug, but it does have its own risks. There are no reported deaths from overdosing on marijuana, however, that does not mean it is harmless. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, found that pot poses a variety of possible downsides — including for respiratory problems if smoked, schizophrenia and psychosis, car crashes, general social achievement in life, and could possibly affect babies in the womb.

There are also benefits. Those include soothing chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and it doesn’t cause issues that are typically linked to tobacco, such as lung cancer, head cancers, and neck cancers.

Critics of legalization claim that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that can lead people to try more dangerous drugs, like cocaine and heroin, because there’s a correlation between marijuana use and use of harder drugs. However, researchers argue that this correlation may just indicate that people prone to all sorts of drug use only start with marijuana because it’s the cheapest and most accessible of the illicit drugs; so if cocaine or heroin were cheaper and more accessible, there’s a good chance people would start with those drugs first.

Supporters of legalization say prohibition has failed to significantly reduce access to and use of marijuana while wasting billions of dollars and resulting in hundreds of thousands arrests each year.  Legalization, by comparison, would allow people to use marijuana without the threat of arrest and let all levels of government raise new revenues from pot tax sales and redirect resources to bigger needs, such as infrastructure, public works, and international affairs.

On the other hand, opponents of legalization worry that fully allowing recreational marijuana use would make marijuana too accessible and, as a result, expand its misuse. Legalization opponents worry that any move toward legalization will attract powerful for-profit forces, especially since the marijuana industry has already started in several states. “The reality is there are myriad other forces at work here,” Kevin Sabet, head of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, the nation’s leading anti-legalization group, said. “Chief among them are the very powerful forces of greed and profit. When I look at how things are set up in states like Colorado, where the Marijuana industry gets a seat at the table for every state decision on Marijuana policy, it troubles me.”  Other critics of legalization support legalizing marijuana for medical use but not recreational use.

The arguments on both sides of this issue are great and well constructed, but it really is a matter of opinion. The legislature should be sure to consider both sides of the argument, and weigh in the benefits as well as the downfalls when writing a bill.

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