Hi! I am Aditya’s friend Ed and I will be writing a few articles on this website. Thanks for reading!
Recently, the debate on the legality of recreational marijuana has become more and more prevalent in American Politics. With 18 states allowing possession of marijuana and 23 allowing medical use, support for legality is on the rise. However, as support has risen, so has strong opposition with Chris Christe (republican presidential candidate) going so far as to say “I will crack down and not permit it”.
A key argument against legality is centred on the premise that marijuana has many negative effects on the human body, specifically psychosis and cancer in young smokers. However, this has been disproven on multiple occasions, with studies showing that young marijuana smokers do not have an increased chance of developing cancer, psychosis or depression. One such study, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, studied 408 males from their teenage years to their mid-thirties. They were split into 4 groups: low/non-users, adolescent users, early chronic users and heavy teen smokers. They found that: “There were no differences in any of the mental or physical health outcomes that we measured regardless of the amount or frequency of marijuana used during adolescence” (lead researcher Jordan Bechtold). This study seems to disprove the negative effects often quoted by opposition to legalisation. Another argument against legality is that it will addict a young generation, having severe effects on the United States both culturally and economically. Again, this is not true, with teenage marijuana use in the United States decreasing in both 2014 and 2015, causing some supporters to claim that legalisation will decrease the potential social risks associated with marijuana addiction. Without any risk of addiction or an increased risk of medical issues, supporters claim that legalisation will not cause any social damage.
Another crucial opposition claim is that “marijuana is what’s known as a gateway drug” (Ben Carson, republican candidate). However, there is no conclusive proof to support this claim and the evidence against this theory seems to be mounting. For example, between 2007 and 2012 marijuana use steadily increased, while use of other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine fell. If marijuana was a gateway drug, then surely if its use increased, so would the use of stronger drugs.
In addition to the clear flaws in opposition points, many supporters argue that the economic benefits of legalisation are too great to ignore, as evident in Colorado. The tax benefits are huge, with Colorado estimated to collect $126M in 2015 from marijuana sales (more than alcohol and cigarettes). This increased income is being spent in improving the city, such as the $5M spent in January 2015. The increased income is so great that the state is planning a $50M tax rebate to residents. Also, the estimated $3.6B annually spent on enforcing marijuana laws would also be significantly reduced. While it is unclear if this tax increase could continue nationwide, it is evident that there would be huge economic benefit to legalisation.
Not only does the end of arrests for possession have a monetary impact, it also has a clear social impact. In Colorado, the total number of pot related arrests has fallen from 39,027 in 2011 to 2,036 in 2014. This means that a huge number of people have avoided gaining a criminal record for non-violent drug offenses. This argument has often be put forward by Republican candidate Rand Paul who argues “If your kid was caught selling marijuana or growing enough that it’s a felony conviction, they could be in jail for an extended period of time, they also lose their ability to be employable, so I want to lessen the criminal penalties on it.”
The legalisation in Colorado has also had a cultural impact. This is evident in Denver, where there are cafes, shops and restaurants in which you can buy both pot-related merchandise and different forms of the drug. This has produced thousands of jobs, including a pot critic in a local newspaper. The change has also increased tourism with many people flying to Denver to experience the culture and the drug itself. Although many claim that this is a NEGATIVE cultural change, such as Chris Christe who argued “it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here”, the positive impact on jobs and tourism is evident.
Overall, the main arguments against legalisation have clear flaws, and the economic benefit seems impossible to ignore. Currently, a majority of citizens, democrats and 39% of republicans want a change in the law, causing it to seem that legalisation has become a question of WHEN, rather than IF.
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