Over the past few years, the marijuana industry has been booming. As more and more states have chosen to legalize marijuana for either recreational or medical purposes, marijuana-related businesses have been popping up at a breakneck pace as investors hope to get a piece of the multi-billion dollar industry that has grown out of weed legalization.
However, even as legalization has picked up steam in states across the United States, there is a huge divide in the United States about whether legalization is the right or wrong choice. Just over half the country allows legal marijuana for medical purposes, with a fifth of the states in the US also allowing recreational use. At the same time, the federal government still categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I drug and criminalizes the use or possession of marijuana in any amount.
As the debate continues to rage in political circles, social institutions, and at ballot boxes all over the country, it is hard to know what the right choice is on the question of the legalizing of marijuana. Read on to consider arguments from both sides of the fence.
Why Marijuana Should Be Legal
There are a number of strong marijuana legalization arguments, but the following are the top three reasons for passing laws to make marijuana use and possession legal across the United States.
The strongest argument for legalization of marijuana stems from the heart of democracy itself: the will of the people. For a number of years, polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans want marijuana legalization. Depending on the poll you reference, weed legalization support clocks in between sixty and ninety percent when looking at a US-wide sample.
The argument, naturally, is that our lawmakers are elected to carry out the will of the people. If the majority of US citizens support cannabis legalization, then it makes sense that the right outcome would be for federal lawmakers to support the legalizing of marijuana. While not many voters base their votes for state and federal lawmakers solely on the politician’s stance on legalization of marijuana, as public support for cannabis legalization grows, it is likely more and more legislators will (or should) reflect that support in the legislation they draft and support.
Time and time again, scientists have shown that marijuana had a number of valid medical uses, including a number of situations where the use of marijuana can increase the quality of life experienced by patients. The data continues to pile up in support of the positive outcomes that can be realized through cannabis use. Colorado was recently able to boast a 6.5% decline in opioid-related deaths since the legalization of marijuana in the state. Experts suggest the decline in the deaths comes as marijuana is able to be used as a safe alternative to opioid pain medication. As access to cannabis becomes more widespread, additional uses in the medical field will likely be discovered.
As the states that were early to make the switch to legal marijuana quickly realized, a state’s economy can be greatly benefited by legalized and regulated marijuana sales. Economic experts suggest that the cannabis industry will create more than a quarter of a million jobs by the year 2020, which is more than the government, utility sector, or manufacturing sector.
Additionally, states that have legalized pot have reaped tremendous tax revenue benefits. As those states have seen billions of marijuana sales per year, those states have also been able to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in associated tax revenues.
Why Marijuana Should Not Be Legal
Just as there are many loud voices and supporters of marijuana legalization arguments, there is also a loud and passionate minority that opposes legalizing marijuana. The following are reasons why marijuana should not be legal.
Dangers of Marijuana
Though studies have clearly shown the medical benefits that can be derived from marijuana use, some of the same studies have been relied upon by detractors to craft arguments against legalizing weed. Studies have shown that adolescent use of marijuana can have potential impacts on both short-term and long-term memory. If, as the studies suggest, adolescent brain function can be negatively impaired by marijuana usage, it is a compelling argument why marijuana should be illegal or at least restricted in a way that adolescents cannot obtain or use the drug.
Critics of legalizing marijuana often point to the difficulty that accompanies enforcement of regulations related to the legal use of marijuana when making arguments against legalizing weed. For example, law enforcement agencies have developed clear cut, reliable methods for testing drivers who are suspected for driving under the influence of alcohol and determining when those drivers have ingested too much alcohol to be considered a safe driver. However, critics of marijuana legalization argue that there is no easy or consistent method of setting up those same parameters when monitoring and enforcing prohibitions against operating a motor vehicle when a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest a driver may be more adversely affected by the use of marijuana than the use of alcohol. The combination of the increased danger and the difficulty of determining a threshold of exposure makes marijuana too dangers to decriminalize, according to critics.
Another argument made by opponents for why marijuana should not be legal is that widespread legal marijuana cultivation would have an enormous impact on the environment and the United States’ power grid. It was estimated in the year 2012, long before marijuana was legalized in most states that now allow it for either recreational or medical purposes, that grow lights in marijuana farms used nearly six billion dollars worth of electricity per year. Since that time, an additional eight states have legalized recreational marijuana usage and possession, while many more have also legalized medical marijuana. Some people speculate the increasing demand on the electrical grid could overwhelm the grid and cause mass problems.
Additionally, some people worry about the environmental impact, including that on local wildlife and plant species, that might accompany wide-scale marijuana cultivation. Those concerns have given rise to the argument of why marijuana should be illegal.