Marijuana is “ the dried leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant, used in cigarette form as [a] narcotic or hallucinogen.”(“Marijuana”) In the 17th century, marijuana production was encouraged and supported by U.S. legislation. Later, “during the 19th century,[marijuana] use became a fad in France and also, to some extent, in the U.S.”(“ Marijuana Timeline”). During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the drug raised fears linked with illegal immigrants and criminal activity. (“Marijuana Timeline”). Then, during World War II, cannabis regained its popularity and support as “Hemp for Victory” (“Marijuana Timeline”). In the following years, the federal government created laws restricting the growth and use of marijuana. Specifically, drug organizations, such as The Bureau of Dangerous Drugs of the Food and Drug Administration, and The Drug Enforcement Agency influenced governmental legislation against marijuana during the 1950s until 1989 (“Marijuana Timeline”). However, in 1973, Oregon became the first state to mitigate their state laws towards marijuana, by reducing the penalty for possession. Likewise,“Since 1996, 23 states and Washington, DC have passed laws allowing marijuana to be used for a variety of medical conditions”(“State Laws Related to Marijuana”). Today, the use of marijuana continues to be a federal offense as well a controversial issue (“State Laws Related to Marijuana”). Arguments concerning the legalization of marijuana have existed for extensive periods in the history of the United States, because of the advantages of using marijuana. After extensive research on both sides of the issue, I believe marijuana should remain illegal in the United States.
Some people believe that through the legalization of marijuana, our nation’s tax revenue will significantly increase. On the contrary, like many other drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, taxation of the drug will cost the nation money. For example, as stated by Marty Nemko, a psychologist and career coach, knowledgeable on the effects of legal marijuana, states that “legal pot does not yield tax dollars, it costs tax dollars”(Nemko). As with the taxation of alcohol and tobacco, tax dollars are not increased as commonly thought due to the cost of dealing with addiction, driving under the influence, and domestic abuse or illness. (Miller) Likewise, if marijuana were legalized, its accessibility would cause a total loss in tax revenue. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education estimates “legalization…[of marijuana] would bring with it additional substance abuse in [states] and long-term public costs… that would vastly exceed the … amount of new revenue legal weed might import.” (Miller) The California Board of Equalization estimates that treating the taxation of marijuana like alcohol or cigarettes would result in a tax revenue increase of a dollar while the nation would be spending $8.95 for treatment of marijuana drug abuse related cases (Miller) Since, the taxation of legal marijuana would be an irrational economic decision, marijuana should remain illegal.
Other individuals believe that the legalization of cannabis will improve law enforcement. However, the issue is that many law enforcement establishments do not want to be advocates of marijuana and its impending consequences. Those who think that legalization of weed will improve law enforcement by allowing them to focus on bigger issues, fail to recognize several things. (White) For example, dealers involved in the buying and selling of this drug are most likely participating in other crimes and are better off incarcerated. (White) In addition, imprisoned marijuana users are usually undergoing rehabilitation. Overall, “ 37 percent of treatment… reported in the state-funded programs were referred through the Criminal Justice System.” (“Why We Should…”) This confirms that law enforcement is invested in the rehabilitation of drug abusers in order for them to become conscious and responsible individuals, in order to prevent second offenses and criminal activities connected to the drug. Marijuana’s strongest links to crimes are homicide, domestic violence, and driving under the influence.(Harnett) As stated by Joseph Califano, a member of President Johnson’s cabinet, “Drugs like marijuana and cocaine are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous.” (Hartnett) For instance, “The DEA reports that six times as many homicides are committed by persons under the influence of [drugs such as marijuana] … and… most arrestees for violent crimes test positive… at the time of arrest.” (Harnett) Legalizing marijuana will not prevent or stop violence related to the use of marijuana. Nor will it to prevent crimes from occurring due to the mind-altering effects of marijuana, therefore, marijuana should remain illegal.
Though many believe that the legalization of marijuana will reduce criminal activity and business for criminals, legalizing marijuana will only burden the government with new responsibilities. Legalizing marijuana will only force the government to pass laws to regulate and monitor the use. For example, “… with pot legal for adults, black markets will redirect its effort towards teens…where [the damage] of marijuana abuse is greater and irreversible.” (Nemko) According to D.A.R.E “just because something is legal… [does not] necessarily reduce the risk of abuse [in the adolescent population].” (Miller) Unfortunately, The new target market for illegal dealing and criminal activity would most likely be minors. Like many unhealthy items such as alcohol and cigarettes, minors may have easy access despite federal restrictions. (“19 Primary Pros and Cons of Legalizing Weed”) Therefore, it is crucial for the government to monitor the use of marijuana because of the detrimental effects towards minors. Nemko states that “people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens [have] lost an average of 8 points in [their] IQ between [the] ages of 13 and 38.”(Nemko)As teens are more susceptible to abuse, they will become the target market for criminals. Thus, minors are to become a heavy burden for the government.
It is true that people are entitled to their freedom regarding the use of marijuana. Nevertheless, individual freedom is limited in this nation for our protection. Freedom is an ideal our nation was built on, in many cases, people feel that they have the ability to do as they please. However. “freedom is not an absolute good. It is a good that should, on a case by case basis, be weighed against the liabilities.”(Nemko) For instance, “nearly everyone accepts the [federal restrictions established in the United States] because of the benefits [it provides for the population].” For example, in the United States, our federal law requires citizens to be at least 21 or over to consume alcohol. This age restriction was established to protect citizens from drinking irresponsibly. (Nemko) Marty Nemko states “[he has] smoked pot, but [he] would gladly have [given it up] for the societal benefit; less disease, fewer car accidents, a full functioning people, and an employable workforce.”(Nemko) While investigating the effects of legal marijuana clear evidence revealed that an outright ban is what the government should do if they care about their citizens. (Nemko)
Furthermore, marijuana causes addiction in many users. As an individual who has interacted with marijuana users before, many users are blind to their addiction. Addiction treatment specialists have found that long-term use leads to an addiction that when marijuana use is refrained causes a variety of withdrawal symptoms that vary from anxiety to irritability. (“19 Primary Pros and Cons of Legalizing Weed”) If marijuana is legalized, the probability that users will become abusers of the drug and damage their personal health by becoming dependent on marijuana is increased. The leading cause of dependency other than alcohol is marijuana. (“Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana”) CNBC found that “in 2008, marijuana accounted for 4.2 million of 7 million people age 12 or older classified with dependence.” (“Why We Should Not Legalize Marijuana”) Dependence causes individuals to rely heavily on marijuana to help them deal with their daily lives. With the legalization of marijuana, addiction will grow as it becomes easier to acquire the substance. Rather if marijuana continues to be an illegal substance, the number of addicts will not increase, and as a nation, we can focus on the treatment current users.
Last, marijuana alters the perception of its users, posing a danger to the person and other citizens. Users and supporters of marijuana deny that the drug impairs driving and daily tasks. However, since marijuana is a drug by nature, its purpose is to change human function. Therefore, the perception of marijuana users is altered when they are under the effects of the use marijuana. That is why it has been found to be prevalent in fatal injures. (“19 Primary Pros and Cons of Legalizing Weed”) For example, “ the highway traffic safety administration found that 18 percent of drivers in fatal accidents tested positive for a non-alcoholic mind- altering drug, mainly marijuana.” (Miller) The effects of under the influence driving could be detrimental if marijuana became available to larger members of the population.
Since marijuana possesses many negative consequences, I believe marijuana should remain illegal for the well-being of the nation. As a teen, I am constantly exposed to teens who are regular users of marijuana. Though there are educated users, the majority of marijuana users are unaware of the real consequences. Our responsibility as citizens is to present the effects of using marijuana, in order to prevent the nationwide legalization.