The Legalization of Marijuana: Good or Bad?
Recently in society, the legalization of marijuana has been a hotly debated topic. This issue first caught my attention when I moved from Virginia to California. Marijuana is much more popular here in California and its really interesting how different of a stigma the drug has here in comparison to a place like Virginia. When I moved to the west coast I learned smoking marijuana is much more of a norm here, or at least around where I live in northern California. Laws and the law enforcement show very different attitudes about the matter depending on your geographical location. In 2014, when I heard Colorado had legalized marijuana recreationally, it really got me thinking about what this change could and will do for our economy and society as a whole.
This topic has received a lot of attention in recent years. Since Colorado and other states have legalized it, a lot of research and studies have been made to notice impacts on life in these places. The federal decision on if or how to legalize the drug will have a large impact on our futures.
There are essentially two sides to the argument: to legalize or not to legalize it. Some think legalizing the drug for medical purposes, meaning a doctor can write a prescription for patients to legally use and purchase the drug, is a happy medium, but others disagree. It does seem, though, overall a majority of people are in support for the legalization of this drug, but the impacts it will have are still questionable.
In the New York times article, Legalizing Marijuana, Neill Franklin states “Medical marijuana is consistently supported by more than 70 percent of voters” and goes on to argue “many voters recognize that our prohibition laws don’t do anything to reduce drug use but do create a black market where cartels and gangs use violence to protect their profits.” Although there are laws made to restrict the sale and possession of this drug, there is obviously still a very large market of people that don’t seem to have too much trouble finding and purchasing weed.
Is it more dangerous to allow these black markets and schemes to continue, or is the drug itself more damaging to our society? The same article goes on to say that “while some fear that legalization would lead to increased use, those who want to use marijuana are probably already doing so under our ineffective prohibition laws.” People against legalization would definitely argue that if it is federally legalized we would surely see a raise in the day to day use and exposure to the drug.
One of the largest factors influencing legalization is the argument that with the drug being illegal we are wasting resources incarcerating people for what some consider a very trivial offense. Franklin states “when we stop wasting so many resources on locking people up, perhaps we can fund real public education and health efforts of the sort that have led to dramatic reductions in tobacco use over the last few decades — all without having to put handcuffs on anyone.” Supporters believe there changes in the system to limit the amount of citizens going to jail for a charge considered by many to be very minor. While there are certainly arguments to be made about the amount of time, money and resources spent on locking up marijuana users and distributors, the question still remains whether the drug is more helpful or harmful to ourselves.
Many conservatives and others around the country are very against legalization of the so called “Devil’s Lettuce.” In the article Legalizing Marijuana: Other Views, author John Fleming makes many valid points arguing against the legalization: “while [he] thinks that marijuana should not be classified in the same manner as “hard” narcotics such as cocaine or heroin, [he] does believe that marijuana has the same potential to destroy a life.” This seems a little extreme to me, but he could be right because the personal impacts the drug has on someone varies case to case. Most supporters argue that legalizing the drug would seriously reduce crime rates, because if it is legal then users would no longer be breaking the law. Fleming disagrees and states “many times a crime is committed because the person is under the influence of a drug” and statistics would likely prove this to be true. Whether that drug is marijuana or a harder drug you cannot deny a correlation between drug use and criminal acts. He made another point, that really stood out to me, that if the product is legalized “just as Big Tobacco did before, you will see efforts to attract kids to the product.”
Marijuana products in the form of edibles and candy could definitely be attractive to kids, but I wonder if there would be any restrictions put on the media and advertisement companies on if or how they can publicly present the product. There is a lot to consider from incarceration to our future youth when it comes to legalization, and its important to look at it from every angle possible.
Where do you stand?
In this image from weedjournal.org, it shows the few different reasons why people are for or against the drug. In 2015, 53% of people agreed the drug should be legalized for reasons like medical and tax revenue benefits, as well as the enforcorment issues. While, the 47% of opponents claim it to be hurful to society, needs to be policed and is bad for the youth. Though, 7% of that group did agree it was okay for medical purposes.
To see how marijuana really impacts a society, I took a good look at data involving the state of Colorado and what changes they’ve seen since legalizing the drug, here’s what I found:
- Overall, traffic fatalities in Colorado decreased 14.8 percent, from 2007 to 2012. During the same five years in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana increased 100 percent.
- In 2007, Colorado traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana represented 7.04 percent of the total traffic fatalities. By 2012, that number more than doubled to 16.53 percent.
- There was a 26 percent increase in youth (ages 12 to 17 years) monthly marijuana use in the three years after medical marijuana was commercialized (2009) compared to the three years prior to commercialization.
- There was a 32 percent increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions in Colorado for academic school years 2008/2009 to 2012/2013
- In 2014, nearly $700 million worth of medical and recreational marijuana was sold in Colorado
- The number of licensed recreational marijuana stores grew by a third from Dec. 1, 2014, to Nov. 30, and Colorado’s pot industry moved massive amounts of product.
- In 2014, the number of charges shrank from about 11,00 to about 3,500
- As for serious crime overall, it’s up slightly so far this year in Denver, including crimes that police say are related to the marijuana industry.
Ask Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper how marijuana legalization is going, now almost two years into a historic…www.denverpost.com
It seems as though there have been both benefits and deficits in Colorado. The statistics show an increase in more negative things like crime, troubled youth, and driving accidents, and the only argument I could have for that is it is still a new thing to society. The positive impacts to the industry and enforcement problems are very large, but a quote from the Denver Post says: “When people ask me how legalization is going,” he said, “I say, ‘Come back in 10 years.’ “ so maybe only time will tell.