The controversial debate on whether we should legalize marijuana or not for medicinal or personal use been a hot topic for the better part of the new millennium. In the United States particularly, debate has been raging at the state and federal level; is it really addictive or does it have some medicinal properties? This dispute has been of public interest but with the advent of advanced technology, scientists and doctors have added a professional voice to the debate. Statistics reveal that more adults have taken up the habit of using marijuana but the levels have held steady in teenagers over the years. As such, marijuana remains an illegal Schedule 1 drug, meaning, it has a high potential for abuse and has no acceptable medicinal use. Despite any reported harm caused by the use of marijuana, it is not perceived as a harmful substance by many people, with an estimated 7000 new users each day(CDC). As of 2016, several States had decriminalized (reduced penalties from criminal sanctions to fines) possession and use of marijuana while others have legalized it for medical and recreational use.
Why Legalize Marijuana?
Marijuana should be legalized for its several medical applications. Foremost, a 2012 study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal was carried out on multiple sclerosis(MS) patients. The study found a 30 percent average drop in muscle spasticity — painful muscular contractions in the limbs of MS patients. Furthermore, a more recent 2015 study, presented at the American Academy of Neurology, was conducted on 213 severely epileptic patients. It tested their response to a drug containing canabidiol (CBD), an active compound in marijuana. The study subjects recorded an average of 54 per cent reduction of seizures. Such promising results certainly merit legalization to allow further research on the plant.
Further research on toxicity levels puts forth a strong case for the legalization of marijuana. A comparative risk assessment on legal and illegal recreational drugs by Dirk W. Lachenmeier and Jürgen Rehm in 2015 found alcohol to be 114 times more toxic than marijuana. This is empirical proof that marijuana is not as dangerous as it is perceived. Additionally, opting to legalize marijuana will create proper infrastructure for generation of revenue through licenses, fees, and taxes: this is otherwise revenue lost to the black-market run by drug cartels. The overall effect is job creation — lowers the unemployment rate, boosting the economy.
Marijuana Shouldn’t be Legalized
On the other hand, the authorities cannot legalize marijuana due to the harmful effects the drug causes to the body. Long-term smoking of cannabis causes several respiratory illnesses due to impurities in the smoke and the hundreds of compounds in marijuana. Early teenage use has been shown to cause slow learning and eventually lowered intelligence quotient by up to eight points. One immediate effect of cannabis use is momentary judgment impairment: this causes the user to be a danger to themselves and the public.
Moreover, it has often been argued that marijuana is a gateway drug to hard drugs. This theory draws a causal mechanism between use of marijuana and desensitization of the user that encourages them to experiment with other drugs. Such drugs have a high risk overdosing and are very addictive. Finally, the hidden cost of marijuana use in the society will far outweigh the economic benefits that it might bring. This includes the costs of rehabilitation and treatment of side effects, accidents caused while under the influence (may also lead to prosecution) and waste of money to feed one’s addiction.
The above arguments prove that further discussion is needed to determine the direction of current and future research, policy, and legalities surrounding the changing landscape of marijuana laws in the US.
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