Legal Recreational Marijuana: When not If

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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4 Comments Add yours

  1. By regulating marijuana, we get rid of the rebellious allure that attracts youths and could place
    black-market drug dealers out of business.


    1. oraimes says:

      Agreed, criminalising marijuana doesn’t stop it getting into the hands of young people, if anything it makes them more likely to explore it as something rebellious. Its illegality simply lowers the quality and therefore increases the risk when consumed. As you’ve mentioned, we should be going after the dangerous drug dealers, not wasting money prosecuting non-violent users.


  2. I lost one of my best friends addicted for MH. He was a talented young fellow, but lost his family, daughter, friends… He became completely indifferent and nothing more was interested in but finding MH again and again. MH changed him immediately after he started to use it. I can not imagine a tank or a bus or a taxi driver under the effect of MH. Or a Policeman, or a Teacher… Do you? By the way – an old policeman said somewhere that the human being, our civilization will disappear not because of wars, ecological disasters – but because of drags… Legal or Illegal – doesn’t matter. I am sure he knew what he was saying. Me personally, I can understand the families where the parents are drinking a glass of good wine at the table with their kids, without affecting them, but I can not imagine the parents smoking MH in the same atmosphere… Can you?


    1. edward_white says:

      I am really sorry to hear your story, and I empathise for your scepticism toward legalisation. Is it okay if I ask if he died due to medical complications towards MH or was it something else, and did he have a medical condition before? feel free not to answer.

      I do feel that there is some evidence towards your addiction argument, The truth is that along with every drug, regardless of strength, legality or popularity, it can become routine, causing addiction. However, i feel that, from your example, there is a possibility that legal marijuana could have benefited his situation. Many people, especially teens, start marijuana use for the “thrill” of the illegality. Legal MH stops this, and takes away a stigma from the drug. In addition, legalisation improves the quality of the MH, meaning that it is less likely to cause damage to someone.Furthermore, the strength can be carefully regulated, ensuring that recreational users who do not want strong forms can find weak, and less harmful MH.

      I also feel that, to your final point, a comparison between alcohol and MH is not fair. Alcohol has a huge cultural background, ensuring that it is ethical and common to drink around children. a fairer comparison is between cigarettes and MH, both of which would be legal, and both of which are NOT acceptable to do around children. So, to your question, I can not imagine someone smoking MH around children, and i do not feel this has to happen due to legalisation.

      Also again, i disagree with your premise about the bus driver under the influence. Presently, i do not feel that there is enough research into whether someone driving, or working, can be under the influence of Marijuana. Also i feel it should be clear the legalisation does not mean that a teacher/bus driver can be under the influence, and MH could be legal in a similar way to acohol.

      Overall i empathise towards your stance, however i feel that legalisation, in some ways, limits addiciton and also help addicts. Also i believe that legalisation does not mean that it must be legal to smoke MH around children, or to be under the influence as a teacher/bus driver.
      Again my condolences go out to you and your friends family.


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