Should Marijuana Be Legalized?
Drug turnover and drug-related crimes refer to one of the most urgent problems of a modern global society. Marijuana is the world’s most widespread and comparatively illicit substance. Some scientists consider it a recreational drug and recommend using it for treatment purposes. Others warn that the use of cannabis can have irretrievable consequences for a person’s health.
Nowadays, the legalization of marijuana has become a very problematic issue in the United States. More than half of Americans would vote for the free access and legalization of cannabis. They want it allowed not only as a medical treatment but also for entertainment. In fact, many cases of incarceration show a connection with marijuana, while the costs for keeping offenders behind the bars exceed any reasonable capacities. Marijuana law enforcement costs taxpayers up to $15 billion every year (Hickey, 2010). Moreover, the federal budget might be enlarged if the processes of production and sale of cannabis were subject to taxation.
The other half of the U.S. citizens are dismissive and cautious of marijuana use because scientists have not fully studied this substance. On the one hand, there are many proofs of the destructive influence of this drug. On the other hand, forbidden things always attract and allure. Besides, the governmental efforts and programs have proven to be unsuccessful despite funding and official programs of support to the addicted people. There are some research scientists who suggest marijuana’s usefulness, for example, for people with incurable diseases and other disorders. Ethan A. Nadelmann claims that legalization of marijuana is not allowance of drug use, but the way to minimize the negative outcomes connected with this substance.
On the other hand, John P. Walters claims that legal approval of marijuana consumption can become an incentive for the increase of users, especially among the younger generation. The scientist warns that the benefits from cannabis legalization will be minor in comparison with the losses in societal stability and shift in minds, especially among the youth.
Ethan A. Nadelmann’s Vision of Marijuana Legalization
Being a leader of the Drug Policy Alliance supported by Jorge Sores, Ethan Nadelmann has defended the dissertation on the advantages of marijuana legislation, based on profound research and personal experience. He underlines that the problem has deep roots in the history of the U.S. The first attempt to legalize marijuana in the United States took place as a result of the Vietnam War. It happened with the emergence of new social and political movements. In 11 states of the U.S., drug laws were changed, and the ban on marijuana was rejected in 1979 (Hickey, 2010). At the same time, the creation of “Head Shops” and selling of marijuana attributed to the fact that a multibillion-dollar industry developed in those states. Music and movies targeted at teenage audiences praised the consumption of cannabis and hashish and instilled in young people a belief that marijuana was absolutely safe. There was the largest in the history of the U.S. growth of cannabis and hashish consumers. At the end of the 1970s, affected parents living in those states mobilized and formed groups that wanted to divert their children from marijuana consumption (Hickey, 2010). This drug-concerned conflict between the smugglers and protectors of the free access to marijuana and the suffered parents resulted in renovations of the bans on marijuana free access. A second attempt to legalize the drug happened in the 1980s in Europe. The result of the long-term work was moving the discussion on drug conflict and usage to the European Parliament. There have been official calls for all EU member-states for the legalization of cannabis (Hickey, 2010).
The movement for marijuana legislation in the U.S. was renovated with the assistance of a world-known billionaire George Sores. Nadelmann claims that the prohibition of marijuana free access causes many social problems. Some of them are unreasonable incarceration, unnecessary agitation about the subject, and the necessity to provide a number of state officials to combat the problem (Nadelmann, 2004). Statistics have shown that the influence of marijuana on health is less as compared with that of harder drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and even alcohol. American Medical Association, the largest professional organization of about 250,000 U.S. physicians, urged the U.S. government to allow medical use of marijuana (Hickey, 2010).
The partial legalization of cannabis for treatment purposes in America has a supporter in the person of President Barack Obama. The main reason for such a loyal attitude to this burning problem is in the intention not to contradict and oppose radical and aggressive groups when there remains at least a chance for compromise. Fighting this evil should imply more cunning and profound methods than direct oppression and contradictions. People should perceive other joys and opportunities different from those given by drug intoxication. Human nature is weak and tends to follow the easiest way. However, new rehabilitation services and support centers help the addicted in sharing their personal stories and understand their choices and decisions.
Nadelmann presents numerous examples when the prohibitions on drug use did not lead to a decrease in usage, but to the formation of organized crimes, smuggling, and imprisonment of smokers (Nadelmann, 2004). In terms of the budget deficit in the country, tax on marijuana would take the money from criminal turnover. Ineffective spending of large sums directed at combating drug trafficking seems to have no sense. During the fight, a lot of money is necessary for the provision of police, lawyers, courts, and prisons. However, the rate of use does not fall down, but, on the contrary, grows steadily. Moreover, the legalization can lead to a better study of the drug, perhaps even to its transformation into a less friendly substance. Now only some institutions are allowed to study marijuana. If it had been available to more researchers, now people may have known a lot more about the therapeutic functions of the “weed”. Finally, some properties of marijuana can be helpful for medical treatment purposes. It can help to prevent the development of cancer, treat eye inflammation, and different incurable diseases (Nadelmann, 2004).
Nadelmann underlines that the achievements of humanitarian services are considerable and need investment. The development of programs for preventive measures needs additional funding which can be taken for example from taxes on drug selling and shortening the expenses on the incarcerated. Moreover, the legalization can make the discussion of the problems more open and less strained (Nadelmann, 2004). However, it should be accompanied by well-designed non-oppressive anti-drug propaganda.
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John P. Walters’ Vision of Dangers and Threats of Marijuana Legislation
John P. Walters, one of the opponents of the legalization of marijuana, has strong arguments in favor of his position, too. He was the head of the National Drug Control Policy (Hickey, 2010). His strongest argument against the legislation is that official acknowledgment leads to the shift in mind and increases the number of the willing to try it for the first time. The next step is a desire to try harder drugs and finally the increase in the total number of addicts.
Walters highlights that legalization expands the number of marijuana users. Opponents of the planned referenda believe that legalization will significantly expand the number of drug users through advertising marijuana. In addition, the emerging industry selling marijuana can swipe at active consumers and strengthen their relationship. Colorado Experience shows that about 90% of all the marijuana accounts for less than a third of customers, so people with addiction are the most profitable consumers for the industry (Hickey, 2010). However, the same data indicate that the number of teenage drug users remained stable after the legalization.
Walters is convinced that the use of marijuana leads to the attempts to try subsequently heavier drugs. Opponents of this position believe that in most cases marijuana is the first (and the only) drug because of its relatively low price and prevalence as compared with other illegal substances (Walters, 2004).
Economists estimate that financial losses from the ban on cannabis, including lost profits from the collection of the tax, amount up to billions of dollars. However, the dangers of marijuana users’ growth remain and persist. Those who consume it in large quantities often get into accidents. The substance also causes problems with the breath system, fetus, and healthy reproduction.
Marijuana reduces the level of intellectual development. It impairs intelligence and attention, as well as prevents the training of adolescents. Many studies do suggest a correlation between low IQ and marijuana consumption (Walters, 2004). In recent years the public discussion of the drug matter has become even more urgent. The experiments of marijuana legalization in some selected areas such as Amsterdam, the Netherlands, or Oakland, California have shown the possible outcomes of social approval and tolerance with the cannabis regular use. The drugs contribute to the formation of an unhealthy and evil environment. For example, Oakland is considered one of the most criminal cities with the highest death rates. The socio-cultural environment often becomes the most vivid motivator of personal success and future development. Children who see addiction as a norm in their family have a tendency to repeat the behavior they observe in their parents (Hickey, 2010). Quarter in the heart of Oakland in California became a Mecca of modern lovers of marijuana, as experimental legalization of cannabis took place there. There are institutions that locals call “Aucksterdam” (a hybrid of Oakland and Amsterdam, where marijuana has been allowed since 1976). University students have been taught to grow, sell, and consume cannabis for medical purposes since 1996. But the word “medical” is not appropriate here, because any person older than 18 years can get permission to access any of the hundreds of specialized pharmacies with marijuana with the help of a medical recipe. It is a model of what America could be in case of full legalization of cannabis.
There are many signs that the legalization of marijuana is unavoidable in the modern conditions of global international cooperation and trade. The problem needs a closer approach and legal tools for regulation, while drug trade should be driven off the shade economy. It is important to minimize the agitation about smoking marijuana and minimize the secret areole of the forbidden enjoyment. The process should be analyzed and modified on all the stages of implementation.
Drug addiction should be treated on deeper levels of the human consciousness and by non-oppressive methods only. People need a chance to see other values in life, have hobbies, put goals, and achieve them. There should be a shift in perception that intoxication is only an illusion of joy, which could be easily lost and forgotten.
The legalization of marijuana can help to solve the problems of economic deficit; however, there still remains an evident threat of losing even that little control over the properties of the substance. One more reason for the legalization is the necessity of its adequate and valid study. Supporters of the legalization of marijuana in the United States expect to spend up to a dozen referenda in various states over the next few years. In 2016, voting could take place in Arizona, California, and Nevada. U.S. President Barack Obama does not openly support the legalization of marijuana at the federal level, but he also does not intend to impede the referendum in the country. He personally believes that marijuana is as harmful as alcohol. The legalization of marijuana in America is important for the rest of the world. Possible successful experience of the U.S. could become an example for other countries and help in the global fight against drug trafficking, which is currently at an impasse and provokes social tension in other countries.