Marijuana Legalization and Regulation

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Medications/Drugs are a part of everyday life. We take medications for various ailments, to return ourselves to good health. Yet, as time and healthcare technology have moved along, we have discovered that some medications or drugs are inherently good (i.e.: antibiotics, cancer medications, and insulin) and some are inherently bad or, at least, can be used for bad purposes (i.e.: mind altering substances such as LSD, and cocaine). The “bad” drugs can be deadly.

They have effects that can addict a person to them and sometimes, make a person desire the drug so much they overdose, or they do things that are out of character, such as commit criminal acts. Sometimes the line between what is a “good drug” and a “bad drug” are not very clear cut. For instance, the medications Morphine or Vicodin, are very useful in helping those who are in pain, but can also be highly addictive and abused. Marijuana is one of these drugs. Those who have used it, either as a medication or recreationally, claim a great deal of benefits to doing so.

Others claim that marijuana is an addictive and bothersome street drug that leads to bad side effects and crime. For that reason, drugs, like marijuana, have been placed under the strict control of the government, or banned entirely, as an attempt to prevent their misuse. Government agencies have been created for the purpose of enforcing these laws. The enforcement of these laws has created tension between those who believe and use marijuana for medical purposes or even recreational purposes and those who are tasked with keeping marijuana out of the hands of the public.

This has resulted in what is commonly called, “The War on Drugs”. Massive amounts of money and man hours are being used to enforce laws regarding drugs, particularly, marijuana, while the public becomes more and more conflicted as to whether or not the money should be directed to this and whether or not marijuana, in particular, should be placed under such stringent restrictions.

So the question becomes, in the face of growing support for the legalization of marijuana (academic and public) and the possible advances in healthcare and financial gains to be made by the local, state and federal governments, shouldn’t marijuana be legal for public consumption? After a thorough review of the facts regarding the legalization of marijuana, the only conclusion possible to draw is, yes. It should be legal for the public to purchase marijuana for medical and recreational use. Individual states within the United States have decided to decriminalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes and some have even legalized recreational use of marijuana. Decriminalization on a Federal level would give a more consistent and less costly means of controlling the use of marijuana.

The first and perhaps most compelling argument for the legalization of marijuana is its uses as a medicine. Probably the most famous medical use of marijuana is to relieve Glaucoma symptoms. Glaucoma is an increased pressure in eye. This can cause nerve damage and loss of vision. (Welsh and Loria) It can also be used to treat anxiety, inflammatory bowel disease, relieve pain and suppress nausea related to cancer treatment and hepatitis treatment, along with a whole host of other diseases.

The proof is in the research, for instance: 86% of patients were able to complete treatment for hepatitis C infection when they were able to smoke marijuana. Only 29% of those who weren’t smokers were able to. 54% of hepatitis patients were able to decrease their viral levels when they smoked, as compared to 8% of nonsmokers were able to. (Welsh and Loria)

The more heart-wrenching ways in which marijuana can be used as a medication is its use in pediatric healthcare. Andrea Saretti, a mother or a 9 year old boy, and those like her, are desperate to have marijuana and its derivatives legalized so that her child’s seizures. Her son is on medications which even at high doses with horrible side effects are only minimally effective.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), has evenshown support for legalizing marijuana. Their recommendation states that they believe that it is possible treatment option for children with “life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions for whom current therapies are inadequate”. (Mohney and Neporent) Clearly medical scientists and physicians believing that there is the possibility that marijuana could treat otherwise intractable epilepsy in children, is a powerful statement and should be given great weight.

It should also be considered that it is likely the full extent of marijuana’s usefulness has not been explored and with the current restrictions in place further scientific study is stymied. As Shaunacy Ferro notes in his article: “The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 placed marijuana in the most restrictive use category, Schedule I, deeming it a drug with no medicinal value and high potential for abuse.

To do clinical research with marijuana, you need a DEA license, and you need to get your study approved by the FDA. When it comes to actually obtaining research-grade marijuana, though, you have to go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a process that has proved problematic for some researchers determined to study the potential medical benefits of pot.” (Ferro)

Without further research, further and improved knowledge of exactly what the benefits and detrimental effects of marijuana are cannot be known with certainty. While marijuana cannot be said to be a “wonder drug”, it should be at least considered as a candidate for helpful medications rather than written off as not useful due to its psychotropic effects.

While there are a great deal of medical benefits to marijuana, there are valid concerns regarding the risks of marijuana use. People are concerned about increased crime rates, increased incidents of car accidents and detrimental effects on the health of the people who smoke marijuana. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala correctly points out in the Wall Street Journal that, “Young marijuana users are more likely than nonusers to use other illicit drugs, to have automobile crashes, and to be arrested.

They are less likely to achieve their academic potential, which detracts from national productivity in the long run. They are at greater risk of needing expensive emergency room treatment, which costs us money in the short run.” (Shalala 10) To be sure, there have been studies that show that THC impairs working memory. (Costandi) There is also research showing an increased incidents of pediatric “poisoning” via marijuana edibles. (Wang, Roosevelt and Heard 140) Again, this is a valid concern for marijuana users.

However, Shalala goes on to argue that legalizing marijuana would only normalize its use in society and therefore cause young people to not heed warnings about the dangers. This argument and arguments that the incidents of marijuana related crime would increase hold less water. This type of argument is reminiscent of the arguments made for prohibition. Think of all the criminal activity that occurred during the prohibition years. When people could legally obtain their alcohol, the criminal element had no means by which to receive illicit gain.

While teaching the youth of country responsible drinking is still an ongoing process, with proper regulation and proper enforcement of DUI laws, we have decreased the incidence of drunk driving. In the mid-1970s alcohol was a factor in nearly 60% of traffic fatalities, according to the US. Department of Health and Human Services. That rate has been reduced to 37%. (National Institutes of Health)

In addition, as relates to marijuana, the honest evidence shows that since Colorado has legalized recreational use of marijuana, the number traffic fatalities in the state have decreased to a new low, not seen since 2002 and the amount of Colorado high school students who reported experimenting with marijuana fell by 11% between 2009 and 2011, while the statistics for the rest of the country rose by 11%. (Balko)(Sullum)

So the truth is that there is no correlation between these two factors. Aside from this, there is also a disparity in the way in which the current strict law are applied amongst the races. Black people are more than three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offensives, though they are no more likely to use than any caucasian person. (Keefe) So in the end, the law is unequally applied and very expensive to enforce.

In 1985, the drug war cost 2.75 billion dollars. By 1994 that cost increased to 12.14 billion dollars. (Brumm 509) In 2010, all the individual states spent approximately 3.6 billion dollars enforcing marijuana possession laws. $900 per-capita is spent by California, Nevada and Washington on prosecuting marijuana offenders and it costs about $95/day to house an inmate who’s been incarcerated due to a marijuana offense. (Bradford)

Imagine the lives and productivity that could be gained from these individuals if they were not locked up and tax payers were not paying to prosecute and incarcerate them. Imagine the families that could stay together. Imagine the children who wouldn’t have to be in a foster home or on welfare because their parents aren’t in jail. The “savings” continue to add up as you carry out the ripple effects of legalization. The snowball effect is not just amazing, it is astounding.

Add to that fact the idea that Colorado has raised approximately $117 million in excise taxes and Washington state has raised $83 million in excise taxes from the marijuana sales in its state (as of August). (Ferner) These funds are funding schools in the state and Colorado is funding $8 million for marijuana research. (Ferner) Cigarettes are heavily taxed and very taboo due to the health risks associated with them, yet legal. The taxes go toward educational programs on the health effects of cigarettes and other positive state programs.

Add to that the savings in law enforcement costs and the costs in lost productivity of those incarcerated and the economics might boggle the mind. It is similar to the situation in terms of cigarettes. Imagine what the Federal government could do if it took the similar actions to these states. Could it mean the end of the federal deficit? We don’t know quite yet but the potential is there if these early indicators are to be believed from the states (almost half) and District of Columbia where it is legal (medical and/or recreational).

Additionally, the public is starting to see the common sense behind legalization. 51% of United States public believes that marijuana should be legalized. (Saad)Over half of the population supports legalization and that number will continue to grow based on the trends in younger generations, which more readily support the idea. (Saad)

From all of this information, one can distill only one firm opinion: the legalization of marijuana is not only inevitable but could represent a large positive for our country. For those who still have concerns, those concerns could be addressed, just as they were with the reintroduction of alcohol after prohibition. In fact, instituting the same restriction would likely be even more easily with better adjustment from the public because of the lessons learned from our experiences with alcohol.

The financial drain on the Federal government and the state governments from enforcing the outdated and antiquated laws currently in practice would be over. The money raised from taxation of marijuana could help the state provide educational programs and law enforcement for the new regulations. It would be a tremendous help to those states who need the money the most, such as those in the south. This would be a huge benefit to all involved.

The economics show that the greater good is to be gained by legalization. The logistics are in favor of legalization of marijuana and the social implications are in favor of legalization. The United States should not just consider legalization, it should act on legalization so that economically, socially and scientifically society can advance.

Works Cited

  1. Balko, Radley. “Since marijuana legalization, highway fatalities in Colorado are at near-historic lows.” Washington POst 5 August 2014. 05 December 2015. .
  2. Bradford, Harry. Marijuana Law Enforcement Cost States An Estimated $3.6 Billion in 2010:ACLU. 6 June 2013. 6 December 2015.
  3. Brumm, Harold J., and Dale O. Cloninger. “Drug War and the Homicide Rate: A Direct Correlation.” Cato J. 14 (1994).
  4. Costandi, Mo. How marijuana impairs memory. 2 March 2012. 6 December 2015. .
  5. Ferner, Matt. Pioneer Pot States Have Collected More Than $200 Million In Marijuana Taxes. 26 August 2015. 6 December 2015. .
  6. Ferro, Shaunacy. Why It’s So Hard For Scientists To Study Medical Marijuana. 18 April 2013. 5 December 2015. .
  7. Keefe, Patrick Radden. “Buzzkill.” The New Yorker (2013). Online. .
  8. Mohney, Gillian and Liz Neporent. Why a Mom Seeks Medical Marijuana Despite Pediatric Group’s Opposition. 26 January 2015. 5 December 2015. .
  9. National Institutes of Health. Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths. 2015. 6 December 2015. .
  10. Saad, Lydia. Majority Continues to Support Pot Legalization in U.S. 6 November 2014. 6 December 2015. .
  11. Shalala, Donna E. “Say ‘no’ to legalization of marijuana.” Wall Street Journal 18 August 1995: 10.
  12. Sullum, Jacob. How Is Marijuana Legalization Going? The Price Of Pot Peace Looks Like A Bargain. 10 July 2014. 6 December 2015. .
  13. Wang, George Sam, Genie Roosevelt and Kennon Heard. “Pediatric Marijuana Expostures in a Medical Marijuana State.” Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics(2013): 140-144.
  14. Welsh, Jennifer and Kevin Loria. 23 Health Benefits Of Marijuana. 20 April 2014. 5 December 2015. .
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Marijuana Legalization and Regulation. (2019, Apr 07). Retrieved from

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