Since its illegalization in the early twentieth century, the legalization of marijuana is a prominent social issue which undoubtedly sparks controversy when considering its state of legality. While some rightfully believe that marijuana should remain a Schedule I illegal narcotic, there is a faction that believes that cannabis serves a greater and much-needed use in our American society; I am part of that faction. I believe that marijuana, consumed both for recreational and medicinal purposes, should be one-hundred percent legal nationwide.
Not only will the legalization of marijuana provide immense medicinal benefits, but it would also benefit both local and state economies and help decrease black market and criminal activity. As an important social issue, the legalization of marijuana (or lack thereof) plays a profound effect on our health, economy, and can even determine our level of freedom. Perhaps the strongest (and possibly the oldest) argument that comes from those who oppose the legalization of marijuana is that cannabis promotes mental instability, violent behavior, and outright psychosis if used enough.
However, anyone with internet access and an education within the past fifty years knows that such claims could be nothing farther than the truth. While ample research has shown the incredible medical and therapeutic benefits both THC and CBD have on the body, especially with those who struggle with chronic illness such as depression, anxiety, epilepsy, and even certain forms of cancer, many still choose to deny the facts at hand. As increasingly more people witness the therapeutic relief marijuana can bring into the lives of those who are constantly suffering, more people are beginning to challenge and reject the spew of propaganda and defamation of marijuana; in fact, much of this propaganda has contributed to the criminalization and social issue which surrounds marijuana.
More now than ever, Americans are disposed to an expansive world of research regarding cannabis which was previously unavailable. Fortunately, because of these advancements in research and the availability of information as it pertains to cannabis, I believe it has opened a door which makes the drug less controversial as before since there is more knowledge which is readily available to the public as compared to even a decade ago. In my opinion, I think that the lack of such knowledge is what made the legalization of marijuana such a controversy in the first place because it could not be certain what the benefits or repercussions marijuana had on the overall health of individuals.
Yet, there is so much we still do not know! Another common case which is used in the defense against marijuana legalization is that if cannabis was made legal, then there would be an overall uprise of aggressive marketing which would target persistent marijuana users in much the same way as the alcohol and tobacco industries have in the past. Although this does serve as a legitimate concern, I believe that through ethical and moderate marketing practices, marijuana can be in the hands of every citizen at least twenty-one years old older, in the same respect alcohol is permitted.
I feel like more steps should be taken to ensure that corporations are not entirely driven by profit and revenue and more-so based on the quality of the delivery of a product and service which is being provided to the general public and how that product has fundamentally changed the lives of others for the better; unfortunately, I feel as if it is extremely unlikely that many American corporations will use customer satisfaction and consumer impact as a metric of product success. I
f marijuana was legalized, I believe that it would also dramatically reduce the amount of criminalistic activity and would battle incarceration and minuscule possession charges brought on by marijuana. Unfortunately, many individuals face lengthy and somewhat ridiculous sentences based off one minor incident of drug possession. While I don’t necessarily promote the possession of any uncontrolled substance, decriminalization could be an alternative solution which could help remove the criminal charges of possessions while still keeping the distribution, transportation, and possession illegal if the government so wished. While this isn’t the most impeccable solution to the legalization controversy as full legislation would be, at least marijuana would no longer be associated as a delinquent substance and result in possible jail and prison time.
Additionally, it should be noted that race and racial profiling is quite imminent as it relates to minor charges relating to the possession of marijuana. In fact, according to the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013, “These arrests are hugely skewed by race: Black and white Americans use marijuana at similar rates, but black people were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than white Americans for marijuana possession in 2010. (Lopez, 2018)” With each arrest, not only does it cost local taxpayers money, but it also requires cumbersome amount paperwork for each law enforcement officer to complete. Ultimately, I think our legislation could definitely use some improvement in this area to ensure that Americans are not being discriminated against on the basis of race.
However, I think that such nuisances can be avoided if our elected government officials considered a decriminalization system in which many cities are beginning to adopt, such as the City of Atlanta, to regulate the possession and distribution of marijuana. While previously one would be subject to jail time if caught with under an ounce of marijuana, currently the penalty for possession of marijuana is merely a $75 ticket instead. This is a great first start which I believe is a stepping-stone towards large-scale legalization, however, it only applies to the municipal city limits of Atlanta; so, unfortunately, possession of marijuana outside of Atlanta city limits will still result in jail time and possibly community service.
However, any step to reduce the number of individuals who endure our criminal justice system is one worth taking, especially for those who are targeted based on race and ethnicity. I believe that only through full legalization, will it make a collateral impact on those who rely on black-market and underground transactions in order to possess marijuana. As seen in states such as Colorado and Nevada, prompt legalization will ensure that citizens are receiving safe, quality product which has been regulated and inspected by the FDA.
Without the regulation and control that legalization provides, customers could be getting anything: from old marijuana that contains harmful pesticides and herbicides, to faux-edibles that contain little to no THC and/or CBD content when the packaging says otherwise. In my opinion, the rigorous standards which dispensaries have adopted, is the only tried and true way of consuming and handling marijuana; there is no guessing whether the cannabis oil you just bought is purely food coloring and vapor, and there’s no need to ascertain whether you received a half ounce or rather a quarter-ounce of marijuana. Everything is regulated, controlled, labeled, and tested so it eliminates the somewhat risky guessing game that almost every consumer must take when living in a state where marijuana is illegal. I think the states that continue to prohibit marijuana could learn a thing or two.
There is no denying that marijuana could provide huge benefits to our state and local economies. Using sales and excise tax, our government could generate enough revenue to help rebuild the infrastructure of our communities, provide education and educational resources to students in need, and promote job growth and expansion across the country in the same way cigarettes and beer do. Alongside these changes, I feel as if legalization would also provide exemplary opportunities for capital investment in areas which was otherwise impossible.
In the same way which gambling and the lottery provides economic opportunity for Las Vegas, marijuana legalization can provide communities with unique opportunities from local investors, for which there is demand. However, until full legalization takes effect, it’s hard for investors to do just this because they are limited on a state level, rather than a national one. Conclusively, the social dilemma which regards the legalization of marijuana is a complex one. While I do enjoy that we leave it up to the states to decide on their own legislation, state-wide legalization would be a much simpler solution overall.
All in all, I think the models used in California and Colorado set pristine expectations on how things should be regulated and controlled; I think that we’re at a really good start. However, I think this is barely the beginning; with the contingencies and laws currently set in place across each state, it is unlikely that complete legalization will happen until we learn to modify the legislation completely at a federal level.