The public view on the use of marijuana has changed drastically over the last few years. While it is still illegal under federal law, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. (McGinty, 2017, 80-86) The use of medical marijuana in people with diseases such as cancer, Aids and other serious illnesses has shown great benefits like in helping manage pain and increase appetite in those with loss of appetite due to medications. With this new outlook and acceptance of marijuana as a beneficial drug, there has been an increased desire to legalize recreational use.
In 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington passed the first recreational marijuana laws which legalized the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana for recreational use. (McGinty, 2107, 80-86) Other states are looking to follow in legalization in the coming elections including New York and it has been a controversial topic among the public. While many Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, there are those who still oppose it.
The legalization of marijuana would benefit the economy, help reduce crime and help regulate the production to the public. Like with everything there are pro and cons that show the risk involved in the process of concluding whether something is beneficial or not beneficial. The pros of legalizing recreational marijuana outweigh the cons.The first con in legalizing marijuana in the United States is it will not only increase revenue but create new jobs in the United States. According to a new report from the cannabis analytics firm New Frontier, legalizing marijuana on the federal level could result in an additional $105.6 billion between 2017 and 2025, that figure includes projections for business tax revenues, payroll withholdings, and a 15% sales tax. Fully legalizing cannabis would add 654,000 jobs and up to 1 million jobs by 2025. (Zhang, 2018). There will be an increased need for dispensaries that would follow government regulations and codes in the distribution of marijuana. Jobs will be created with the increased need for dispensaries, factories, delivery, plants, sales, advertising and many other jobs associated with the production and sale of marijuana. A report out of the Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research concluded that a taxed and regulated cannabis industry contributed more than $58 million to the local economy Pueblo County, Colorado after marijuana legalization. (Zhang, 2018) In Colorado, marijuana brings in three times more tax revenue than alcohol. The state raised $78 million in the first fiscal year after starting retail sales, and $129 million the second fiscal year. Washington collected a total of $220 million in tax revenues in its second fiscal year. Washington collected a total of $220 million in tax revenues in its second fiscal year of sales. Industries such as tourism, banking, food, real estate, construction, and transportation are just a few of the industries that benefit from legal marijuana. (ProCon.org., 2018) Money from the taxation of the marijuana industry could be used to fund research, education, prevention, and substance abuse treatment. There is no question that legalizing marijuana will create a profitable new industry in the United States.Another potential benefit of legalizing recreational marijuana is the improvement of criminal justice in the United States. One of the main issues of the crime involved with marijuana related crimes is the racial inequalities. The present facts are even though blacks and whites are equally likely to use marijuana, blacks are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for non-violent marijuana crimes. Studies show that legalizing marijuana will reduce prison overcrowding by ending the imprisonment for non-violent drug users and lower law enforcement costs. The United States law enforcement will save $8 billion dollars that is spent on marijuana prohibition. (McGinty et al., 2017) In the United States, 575,000 arrests for marijuana possession alone are made every year. That is a greater number than all violent crimes combined. The facts are American Blacks are nearly four times more likely than Whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates between the two groups. The enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionately affected our nation’s poor and communities of color, contributing to the crisis of mass incarceration. The war on marijuana exacerbates poverty, which is strongly correlated with among other problems such as reduced access to health care. The unjust prohibition of marijuana has done more damage to public health than has marijuana itself. (Nathan, 2017) Therefore, less chance of being arrested for non-violent marijuana crimes that mark a person’s record and prevent them from getting a job. Less police force on marijuana crimes with more focus on the violent crimes and reduction of marijuana related crimes.Another reason that marijuana should be legal for recreational use is that its prohibition is not going to stop people from it use especially minors. In the 1920s, the United States prohibited alcohol consumption for about 13 years. This prohibition resulted in organized crime, increased consumption of hard alcohol and government waste in regulating the law. Although the prohibition of alcohol resulted in these negative consequences, it did reduce alcohol consumption in the country. However, the United States prohibition of marijuana has not only resulted in similar consequences as the alcohol prohibition but has increased the use of marijuana greatly. Every month 22 000 000 Americans use cannabis and even more consume it on a less frequent basis.(Nathan, 2017) This evidence shows that prohibiting marijuana use will not prevent people from using the drug. It will only cause more risk to the public by increasing the chances of organized crime, marijuana use without any regulation and the government waste in pursuit of regulating the prohibition.Opposers of legalizing marijuana argue that early use of marijuana in minors can adversely affect brain development in minors. Studies of underage marijuana users show that health effects are more severe when consumed at a young age and frequently. While marijuana can affect the brain development in minor with frequent use, marijuana prohibition will not prevent them from access to marijuana. Since the 1970s, 80% to 90% of those aged 18 years have consistently reported easy access to the drug. Also, with prohibition of marijuana minors are only told it is harmful, gateway drug and bad for you. Minors do not take this message serious because they know it is not completely true. Prohibition prevents education about marijuana and its effects on brain development in minors. Laws should not prohibit marijuana for adults use but should educate the public instead. These should include public information for adults on the use and misuse of cannabis and youth programs that emphasize the risks of underage cannabis use. For decades, preventive education reduced the rates of alcohol and tobacco use by minors, whereas underage marijuana use has fluctuated despite its prohibition for adults.Anti-legalization arguments typically focused on adverse public health consequences, including the potential for legalization to harm youth health, increase marijuana-impaired driving, and create a powerful new industry that, like the tobacco industry, puts profit before public (McGinty et al., 2017). While there may be a risk for marijuana-impaired driving, there will be laws established just as there is with alcohol. While it may create a powerful new industry unlike tobacco marijuana does not put someone in risk for cancers and tobacco related harms. Let’s face it whether its legal or not, if a person wants to use marijuana recreational they will obtain it by whatever means. The facts are that recreational marijuana use is common and the drug is being sold illegally frequently. So, if it is being consumed illegally regardless of the law, legalizing marijuana for recreational use will only provide more safe way to obtain marijuana, better prices, better quality and regulation on the distribution. Just as with alcohol use, age restrictions would apply and be enforced. Another fact that should be acknowledged in whether marijuana should be prohibited or not for recreational use is that it is not as harmful as it has been treated. Even though it is wrongly classed under the same category as destructive drugs like heroin and cocaine. Evidence shows that marijuana is safer than alcohol which is legal. Marijuana is a drug that is safer and harder to overdose on than alcohol. Therefore, marijuana should not be classed in the same category as these harder drugs but under the category that includes alcohol, tobacco, and even sugar. These drugs are more commonly related to marijuana than hard drugs because even sugar in many health aspects can be considered more harmful than marijuana. (Nathan, 2017). The facts are that alcohol and tobacco are legal, yet they are known to cause cancer, heart failure, liver damage, and more. According to the CDC, six people die from alcohol poisoning every day and 88,000 people die annually due to excessive alcohol use in the United States. Yet, there are no recorded cases of death from marijuana overdose. Americans are three to four times more dependent on alcohol as on marijuana. A study in the Lancet ranking the harmfulness of drugs put alcohol first as the most harmful, tobacco as sixth, and cannabis eighth. A national poll found that people view tobacco as a greater threat to health than marijuana by a margin of four to one (76% vs. 18%), and 72% of people surveyed believed that regular use of alcohol was more dangerous than marijuana use. (ProCon.org., 2018 ) More than 1 in 3 adults (37.3%) believe that secondhand smoke from marijuana is safer than that from tobacco. More than 1 in 3 (38.2%) agree that smoking 1 marijuana joint a day is much safer or somewhat safer than smoking 1 cigarette a day. About 13.5% agree that smoking 1 marijuana joint per day is safer than drinking 1 glass of wine per day. (Keyhani, 2018). The evidence is clear that marijuana is just as or less harmful than legal substances like alcohol so the policy on marijuana should reflect this accurately. One of the most important benefits of legalizing marijuana is it will give the government the power to regulate the product properly and safely. Things like labeling and purity. This will also allow consumers to judge the potency of marijuana like with alcohol and prescription drugs. The government would manage all cannabis production, testing, distribution, and sales. Restrictions on the marketing and advertising of cannabis products could be put in place. For example, cannabis packaging and advertising that targets or attracts underage users would be completely prohibited. All marijuana products would have child resistant packaging and there would be strict penalties for adults who enable the distribution of marijuana to minors. (Nathan, 2017) Therefore, legalizing marijuana for recreational use for adults will allow for effective regulation by the government.The states that have legalized marijuana have not been flawless, but it is far better than the prohibition. The worries of opponents of legalizing marijuana have not occurred. The facts that did emerge were adolescent use has remained level in states where marijuana is legal, motor vehicle accidents and motor vehicle deaths continue to decrease. The state governments that have legalized marijuana have shown a fundamental ability to control the previously untaxed and unregulated cannabis industry. These state’s successes were reflected in polls, which show that popular support for legalization remaining strong among the public. (Nathan, 2017). Based on the evidence, the positive impacts outweigh the potential consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana in the United States. Through proper education and regulation, legalizing recreational marijuana can improve criminal justice system in racial disparities, create jobs, and increase revenue in the economy. References: Keyhani, S., Steigerwald, S., Ishida, J., Vali, M., Cerd, M., Hasin, D.,..Cerd , M. (2018). Risksand Benefits of Marijuana Use: A National Survey of U.S. Adults. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169(5), 282-290. McGinty, et al. (2017). Public Perceptions of arguments supporting and opposing recreationalmarijuana legalization. Preventive Medicine, Vol. 99, pp. 80-86. Nathan, D. L., Clark, H. W., & Elders, J. (2017). The Physicians’ Case for Marijuana Legalization. American Journal of Public Health, 107 (11), 1746-1747. ProCon.org. (2018, November 7). Recreational Marijuana ProCon.org. Retrieved from Zhang, Mona. (2018). Legal Marijuana is a Boon to the Economy finds study. Forbes.