“Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug among adolescents in the United States” (Pardini et. al. 1204). Since it is so widely used, a large amount of money could be made if the government legalized and taxed it. Even though opponents argue that marijuana is a harmful drug that kills brain cells, the US should legalize it because of economic benefits, health benefits, research opportunities, and population control.
Since Colorado legalized marijuana in November of 2012, the state experienced massive economic growth. Licensed dispensaries generated more than $14 million within the first month of sales. In total, about $69 million was collected from taxes on marijuana in 2015 (Borchardt). If marijuana were legal in all 50 states, each state most likely would not make this much. Instead, the money would be distributed throughout the states rather than being put into one single state. Although they would not all make almost $70 million, they would still receive a very beneficial economic boost. Marijuana taxes almost doubled the money made on alcohol taxes ($42 million) (Borchardt). Even though marijuana is now legal for recreational use in Colorado, it is still bought on the black market simply because it is much cheaper. Legal marijuana is taxed at 29%, which means that $30 of pot would cost an additional $8.59 (Borchardt). That is $8.59 more than most people are willing to pay; but it would be much easier to pay some extra money and not have to worry about getting in trouble with the police rather than save a few dollars and be at risk. However, people must make decisions for themselves.
Along with revenue from tax dollars, the legalization of marijuana also creates jobs. Colorado reported 10,000 new jobs (Hudak 650). The marijuana industry now makes up 0.4 percent of Colorado’s 2.6 million jobs. One may think that legalization would cause the unemployment rate to increase, but Colorado’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation (Hudak 650). It looks like potheads are not as lazy as their stereotype makes them out to be!
Marijuana can also be beneficial to one’s health. It can be used for muscle and joint aches caused by fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. It can also be used to treat migraines and irritable bowel syndrome (Women’s Health 156). Unlike pain killers, it is not possible to overdose on marijuana. Many people prefer using marijuana over pain killers. With some, it is the only option to get relief. Plus, pain killers such as Valium and Vicodin are extremely easy to get addicted to. Smoking pot is also rumored to damage lung function, but according to a 2012 government funded study that followed more than 5,000 people for over 20 years, “There is no apparent correlation between occasionally inhaling marijuana and lung function” (Women’s Health 156). Some have even said that smoking pot allows them to breathe better than normal.
Another health benefit of marijuana is its ability to fight disease. Medical marijuana is often used to treat glaucoma by lowering eye pressure (“Marijuana’s Moment” 42). Glaucoma is defined as a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball that causes the gradual loss of sight. It normally occurs in people 60 years of age and older. Taken by pill or injection, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can help keep eye pressure at a low level. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but blindness can be prevented through the use of eye drops and THC pills. Marijuana can also help people with anxiety, as it normally has a calming, relaxing effect (“Marijuana’s Moment” 42). However, some people experience paranoia which is the exact opposite of relaxing. It all depends on how the drug affects the person’s body. Nausea from chemotherapy can be treated with medical marijuana and it can help cancer patients regain their appetite (“Just Saying No” 38). This will allow them to take in the nutrients they need to fight off the cancer.
The legalization of marijuana would also allow more research to be collected on long term effects. The Colorado Department of Public Health has started to look at “marijuana related hospitalizations, emergency department visits, payer claims, mortality, and birth defects” (Ghosh et al. 22), which will give them more information about the acute and chronic health effects of the drug. “The department tried to use existing health behavior surveys, but there were not many validated surveillance questions such as on frequency, dosage, methods of use, behavior while impaired, storage, cultivation, and manufacturing” (Ghosh et al. 22).
In order to effectively obtain information, new tests would have to be created that would include all the necessary surveillance questions. In the past, tests have produced unreliable information that has contradicted itself. With newly developed surveys, the health department could produce more accurate results. These results would also be much easier to collect.
A problem that the legalization of marijuana has caused is a large population increase. Since Colorado voted for Amendment 64 to the state constitution in November of 2012, the population has skyrocketed (Hudak 649). Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska are the only four states in which recreational marijuana is legal. This has caused a large number of people to flock to these places. An increase in population means an increase in real estate prices. Since 2012, real estate prices have increased by 17% (Hutmacher). The average house in Denver costs around $450,000. “The average person would have to make $35 per hour to live comfortably” (Hutmacher). Many people have to work multiple jobs in order to stay on top of rent. If recreational marijuana was legal in all 50 states, people would not need to move somewhere else. This way, the population would eventually even out and real estate prices would go back down.
An increase in real estate prices leads to an increase in the homeless population. Some people are not able to keep up with the $35 per hour they need to be making in order to stay on top of rent. While walking the streets of Denver, tons of people can be seen living in tents and sleeping on benches. “A reduced number of homeless shelters have certainly exacerbated the issue” (Hutmacher). Considering the temperature regularly dips below zero there, Denver is definitely not a great place to be homeless. Again, legalization of marijuana in all 50 states would help to decrease real estate prices and even out the population, thus allowing more people to find homes.
One of the reasons why marijuana is still illegal in some places is because it has been rumored to kill brain cells. This would especially be a problem amongst teens, considering they are still in school. Scientists have been doing many tests in order to figure out if there is a correlation between marijuana use and long term memory impairment, issues with attention, and other academic problems (Pardini et. al. 1204). These tests have produced mixed results. “For example, one longitudinal study found that former adolescent users (5+ joints per week) who were abstinent in late adolescence were not significantly different from non-users on several tests of cognitive functioning (e.g., IQ, processing speed, memory), after controlling for premorbid cognitive abilities” (Pardini et. al. 1204). “In contrast, a recent prospective study of a large birth cohort found that adults who reported engaging in heavy marijuana use (four times per week) before age 18 and were later diagnosed with cannabis dependence exhibited a significant decline in IQ from childhood to adulthood, whereas non-users and adult-onset users showed no significant change in IQ” (Pardini et. al. 1204).
Smoking an extensive amount of pot is not the best idea before the age of 18, as it could possibly affect grades. This is why the legal smoking age is 21. Although it could affect grades, there is a low chance that marijuana use will affect how daily tasks are performed. It could never do so much damage that one would not be able to function normally.
At the end of the day, marijuana is still a drug. There are both positive and negative effects that it could have on the body and on the world. This is the same with alcohol, which also took some time to get legalized. As long as it is used responsibly and in moderation, marijuana can be very beneficial.
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Borchardt, Debra. “Colorado Now Reaping More Tax Revenue from Pot Than from Alcohol.” Forbes, 16 September 2015, www.forbes.comsitesdebraborchardt20150916colorados-pot-tax-revenues-are-higher-than-alcohols#4552b55b716b
Ghosh, Tista, et al. The Public Health Framework of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado. American Journal Of Public Health, vol. 106, no. 1, 2016, pp. 21-27, OmniFile Full Text Select (H.W. Wilson).
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Pardini, Dustin, et al. Unfazed or Dazed and Confused Does Early Adolescent Marijuana Use Cause Sustained Impairments in Attention and Academic Functioning Journal Of Abnormal Child Psychology, vol. 43, no. 7, October 2015, pp. 1203-1217, OmniFile Full Text Select (H.W. Wilson).