Legalizing marijuana has been a topic of debate for centuries. In fact, the sale of marijuana has been regulated since the 16th century. Although the U.S. changed their policy on marijuana since that time, legalization is still a topic amongst lawmakers within America. Many want to legalize medicinal marijuana because it is an effective treatment for illnesses, while others oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana because it is a drug that causes the user to become stoned which can lead to impaired judgement and other consequences. Because the consequences of smoking marijuana outweigh the benefits, the state of Texas should only legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Marijuana is a schedule I substance, meaning that it has the potential for abuse and no accepted medical treatment options in the United States. Already, twenty-four states have legalized some form of cannabis. The majority of those states have just legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes; however recreational marijuana is fully legal in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. In Texas, it is illegal to possess, sell, transport, and grow marijuana. According to the Texas Controlled Substance Act, possession of 2oz or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a jail sentence of up to 180 days. However, Texas officials are now working to create a framework for the state’s medical marijuana program registry of licensed doctors and dispensaries.
The marijuana debate involves two different types of marijuana, recreational and medicinal. On April 2nd, 2014, WebMD’s website for health professionals surveyed 1,544 doctors from 48 states, and the majority of doctors said medical marijuana should be legalized nationally because it can deliver significant benefits for patients who are suffering from AIDS, Cancer, Glaucoma, and even arthritis. However, because marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug, evidence on marijuana’s health benefits is lacking.
“The medical community is clearly saying they support using marijuana as a potential treatment option for any number of medical problems,” said WebMD Chief Medical Editor Michael W. Smith, MD. “In fact, many doctors already prescribe it. But health professionals are still unclear as to what the long-term effects may be. The findings would indicate a strong desire to have the DEA ease the restrictions on research so that additional studies can be done to conclusively show where medical marijuana can help and where it might not.” Dave Fratello, the communications director for Americans’ Medical Rights, also believes marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes.
“There is no question that if marijuana were any other drug, decisions about its medical use would be up to doctors and patients,” Fratello said “Instead, today, the politics of the drug war intervene. Patients and doctors who get involved with medical marijuana face potentially grave risks. And government seems committed to maximizing the fear and uncertainty faced by those who might benefit using it.”
Alison Holcomb, the Drug Policy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union believes marijuana should be legalized as well. She doesn’t believe smoking marijuana should be a crime because it does not hurt the user or the community. She believes it fails our society’s understanding of what is a crime. More than 40% of Americans have tried marijuana in their lives and millions are current users. So clearly the threat of arrest does little to dissuade people from using it. Majority of Americans, approximately 53% say the drug should be legal, compared to 44% who want it to be illegal. When a Gallop poll first asked the question in 1969, only 12% of Americans were in favor of legalizing marijuana. About 69% of Americans believe alcohol is more harmful to a person’s health than marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana has brought Colorado, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and the District of Columbia millions of dollars in tax revenue. In the first seven months of 2015, Colorado earned $73.5 million ,putting the state on track to collect over $ 125 million by the end of the year. Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer at Harvard University who in 2010 studied the likely impacts of drug legalization, found that marijuana prohibition costs the state and federal government as much as $20 billion a year.
Many Americans are imprisoned every day because of possession of marijuana. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting data said there were a total of 1.5 million drug arrests in the United States in 2011, and out of those arrests 750,000 were for marijuana. Members of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials who are trying to end marijuana prohibition, believe that this trend is another sign that the nation’s war on drugs, specifically marijuana, is failing.
“Even excluding the costs involved for later trying and then imprisoning these people, taxpayers are spending between one and a half to three billion dollars a year just on the police and court time involved in making these arrests,” said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who now heads LEAP, said in a statement. “That’s a lot of money to spend for a practice that four decades of unsuccessful policies have proved does nothing to reduce the consumption of drugs. Three states have measures on the ballot that would take the first step in ending this failed war by legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. I hope they take this opportunity to guide the nation to a more sensible approach to drug use,” Franklin followed.
On the other hand, many people oppose the legalization of marijuana. The Community of Anti-Drug Coalitions of America is against legalization because they believe the language that crafted the California and Arizona laws allows a broad interpretation of what constitutes medical use. Also, legalizing marijuana will send the message to our youth that marijuana is not a harmful drug because it is legal. David Evans, the special advisor to the Drug Free America Foundation, is against legalization of marijuana because he believes it will damage millions of our young citizens. He also believes marijuana can permanently weaken brain growth. Problem solving, concentration, motivation, and memory are all negatively affected.
Kevin Sabet, Former Senior Policy Advisor to President Obama’s Drug Czar, is against the legalization of cannabis. He believes marijuana will expose people to unknown risks and that smarter ways to deal with weed are needed. He believes legalizing marijuana would significantly lower its price and significantly increase its use, especially among children. This is a problem because the brain develops until the age of twenty-five and recent research has shown pot can decrease IQ levels, double the risk of automobile accidents, and increase the chance of contracting a mental illness.
Smoking marijuana causes many short and long term effects. Short term effects include poor coordination, lowered reaction time, and sensory distortion. Because of these effects, marijuana is playing a large role in fatal car accidents in the United States. Columbia University researchers performed a toxicology examination of nearly 24,000 driving fatalities and concluded that marijuana contributed to 12% of traffic deaths in 2010. This number tripled from a decade ago. Long-term effects of Marijuana include reduced resistance to common illnesses like the cold and bronchitis, suppression of the immune system, personality and mood changes, and lack of motivation.
Marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke contain many of the same toxins, including one which has been a key factor in the development of lung cancer. This toxin is found in the tar phase of both marijuana and cigarettes. However, a joint has four times more tar than a cigarette. It has been found that cigarettes promote lung cancer and cause more than 125,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. This implies that marijuana may lead to some of the same results as cigarettes.
In an Australian study, researchers interviewed 1,600 14 and 15 year olds twice, across a seven year span. Participants filled out a questionnaire, reporting on their use of marijuana and symptoms of depression or anxiety. A surprising 60% of the participants had used marijuana by the time they were 20. The researchers found that the young women who had used marijuana weekly as teenagers were twice as likely to have depression as a young adult than women who did not use the drug. Daily use as a teenager was associated with four times the risk of depression for young women.
After comparing the consequences and benefits of legalizing marijuana in Texas, the negatives outweigh the positives. Because marijuana is a schedule I substance, there is not enough evidence, and the result could be very dangerous. For example, marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke contain many of the same toxins, and cigarettes have caused 125,000 deaths per year from lung cancer. This implies marijuana smoke could be just as deadly. During an interview with Rachel Goen, a nurse who works in the Emergency Room, said she doesn’t think marijuana should be legalized.
“In my experience I’ve never seen negative effects from marijuana by itself, but most people never just have marijuana in their system. It’s always marijuana and Cocaine or alcohol or even meth as well. Those combinations together are very dangerous and I see a lot of people go psychotic and become violent when they have those combinations in their bodies.”
She also talked about how it is very common for her to see people in the hospital that have smoked synthetic marijuana.
“I’ve seen many young adults go into respiratory failure and be on a ventilator in ICU from smoking synthetic weed. I do know that for some people that have cancer or chronic pain management problems marijuana can help with pain sometimes better than pain pills. So I guess you could consider that a medical benefit.”
Also, when a person smokes marijuana they become very impaired. Drug use and driving could be a dangerous combination. During a second interview with Butch Fulton, who is a retired Texas State Highway Patrol Officer, he said “ I am not for legalization of marijuana because anything that impairs your abilities can be very dangerous especially behind the wheel. However, I have no problem with legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.” He later went on to say that when he was a state trooper he did encounter automobile accidents that were caused because of marijuana, but usually they would mix marijuana with other substances like alcohol.
Based on the information above, the state of Texas should only legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. There are way too many risks involved with legalizing marijuana recreationally, and it would cause the state more harm than good. If we legalize marijuana recreationally, we would see an increase in automobile accidents and most likely an increase in lung cancer. Also, marijuana increases the chances of developing a mental illness and many other negative results that we are not aware of today. The state of Texas should legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes only.