This persuasive essay explores the issue of benefits and the detrimental impact of legalizing marijuana in the United States. The goal of this persuasive essay is to identify the major peculiarities of cannabis influence on an individual and discuss the advantages and drawbacks of marijuana legalization. This persuasive essay focuses on the historical background of adopting cannabis protecting laws and traces its basic consequences. Highlighting the major viewpoints of contemporary scientists, the persuasive essay examines a great range of sources, including scholarly sources, books and Internet articles to explain the extremely contradictory viewpoints.
Keywords: marijuana, cannabis, legalization.
During the last twenty years, brisk debates on the legalization of marijuana can be observed in the USA. Moreover, on March 4, 2014, Washington passed the bill decriminalizing cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana in the amount less than one ounce. This event has promoted many contradictory discussions. The marijuana policy debate concentrates not only on its medical use. Nowadays there are persistent attempts to legalize cannabis for recreational aims (Murray et al., 2011, p.8). Marijuana legalization supporters state that new legislation would be beneficial to the US economy if cannabis were of high quality. Their opponents contradict that marijuana has a drug effect; it makes a dramatically negative impact on individuals’ health. Thus, it will lead to fatal consequences.
Legalizing Marijuana in the Contemporary Society
Two keywords of the paper need to be explained first. According to a dictionary, marijuana is “the dried leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant, used in cigarette form as a narcotic or hallucinogen” (Marijuana, n.d.). Legalization can be defined as “authentication or certification by an appropriate public authority” (Legalization, n.d.).
International treaties, national and local legislation forbid cannabis all over the world. Nevertheless, such laws are dismissed in several countries.
The legalization of marijuana in contemporary society began in 1996 when voters officially recognized the Compassionate Use Act in California. The bill banned criminal penalties for consumption, possession, and the growing of marijuana for medical purposes. According to this act, doctors had a right to recommend marijuana to patients with such diseases as cancer, anorexia, AIDS, arthritis, and others to soothe the pain. This bill defended growers and distributors of marijuana. Moreover, the Compassionate Use Act made it possible to buy marijuana without being arrested or obliged to pay a fine. Since the end of the twentieth century, nineteen states of this country have passed acts concerning the issue of medical use of marijuana.
In 2010, two legislative acts were adopted in an attempt to legalize marijuana. In the first document, the ‘Ammiano Bill’ failed before receiving a floor vote. The second legislation, “Proposition 19”, was rejected in November 2010 (Caulkins & Bond, 2012, p.28).
Anderson and Rees note that voters in Colorado and Washington officially agreed to the proposal to legalize marijuana. This fact means that people who live in these areas and who are 21 years old and above will have an opportunity to buy marijuana at stores. The researchers remind about the negative consequences of the above-mentioned decision, such as increased cases of drinking and wide use of marijuana by the minors (Anderson & Rees, 2014, p. 1). The researchers state that “in states such as California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes approaches de facto legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes” (Anderson & Rees, 2014, p. 1).
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Nowadays, seven states may cultivate and produce a profound quantity of domestically grown cannabis in the US. The so-called ‘M-7’ include the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Moreover, approximately 90% of the plants grew in this area. In fact, California alone cultivated about 66% of eight million plants of cannabis destroyed in the country (Murray et al., 2011, p.10).
Researchers draw attention to the fact that a great range of countries dramatically decreased criminal penalties for marijuana possession. For instance, in Argentina, the Constitutional court adopted the law banning any intervention of the government into people`s private life, including the possibility of drug possessions for personal use. In Portugal, in 2001, civil penalties for personal possession of drugs were removed. Portugal's government regarded such kinds of criminal penalties unproductive. Belgium, the Netherlands, and some jurisdictions in Australia reduced the penalties for possession of marijuana, considering them unuseful.
The researchers mention the fact that some countries, such as Spain, permit limited cultivation of marijuana. Many states decreased penalties for all drugs. Moreover, the Netherlands allows unlimited sales of psychoactive drugs. Nevertheless, production, sales and use of cannabis for non-medical purposes are not legal completely (Caulkins et al., 2011, p.866).
“In the United States, there is no short-term prospect for changes in federal law, but sixteen states allow medical use and recent initiatives to legalize the production and nonmedical use” (Caulkins, 2012, p.5). Nevertheless, Washington D.C.’s City Council decriminalized marijuana in March 2014. This means that possession of less than one ounce of cannabis is legal. To compare, possession of any quantity of marijuana could lead to up to six months of imprisonment. Moreover, the guilty person had to pay a $1,000 fine. Now, the maximum penalty is equal to twenty-five dollars (Nicks, 2014).
Major Reasons for the Legalization of Marijuana
Several major issues lead to many discussions regarding the legalization of marijuana. Some researches shed light on the main reasons promoting the creation of a legal marijuana market. The scientists state that it would have a beneficial impact on tax revenues, raising them. This argument is one of the issues causing the brisk debates on the cannabis legislation. The second reason is related to the elimination of arrests. It means reduced government spendings on detainees, taking into account the set of issues, such as punishment, stigma, disruption to life, and non-criminal sanctions.
The next reason is weakening illegal cannabis markets as its strategic objective. The marijuana legalization would decrease corruption and violence. The fourth reason includes the possibility to redirect criminal justice resources towards more preferable priorities. The next aim is the necessity of the production of high-quality cannabis. This goal is connected with the sixth reason, arguing the growing range of choices for addicts. It means that the illegal production of marijuana is generally the production of low-quality substances that generally lead to fatal cases. The last reason is the decreased access of the youth to drugs. This means severe control of the youth's access to drugs in the legal market (Caulkins et al., 2011, p.866).
During brisk discussions about the issue of marijuana legalization, several questions arise.
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The first point is whether individuals will be permitted to use cannabis. In the case of a positive answer, the question about the specific purpose of cannabis use arises. Many policy-makers and scientists wonder whether marijuana should be used in medicine only, or it may be cultivated for recreational purposes. The next question concerns the age of potential marijuana users. The next point is whether cannabis may be used in public or only in private. The following issue is whether marijuana sales should be legal, or semi-legal, as it is in the Netherlands. Policymakers and economists wonder under which rules marijuana may be legalized; issues of prices and taxes are extremely important in this case (Caulkins, 2012, p.6). The participants of numerous discussions do not share a single view.
Marijuana legalization is determined by authorities’ acceptance, control, and the imposition of taxes on cannabis production (Murray et al., 2011, p.8). In fact, marijuana is sold to a vast range of individuals. For example, according to the statistics, in 2009 approximately 28.5 million individuals used marijuana in the United States (Murray et al., 2011, p.9).
There is no denying the fact that marijuana is the most widely used illicit stuff in the USA. Several types of research have been conducted and they provide information about factors influencing a person’s will to use marijuana. Beyers, Botvin, Elek, Hansen, Hansen, and Graham highlight that personal recognition of the community’s norms is one of the reasons. They add that societal norms often influence a person’s behavior separately from personal beliefs. This idea means that any person has more chances to use cannabis in an accepting than in a non-accepting community. The following reason is that policy and program interventions, highlighting societal norms, often have more influence than interventions focused on people.
Possible Consequences of Marijuana Legalization
Many researchers examined the impact of the legislation of medical marijuana trying to predict possible consequences of the similar act in Colorado and Washington
Positive effects of marijuana legalization. Supporters of marijuana legalization make an accent on personal freedoms and less detrimental effect in comparison with the illegal market. Adherents of medical cannabis state that patients with extremely painful and incurable diseases should be allowed to use cannabis to reduce their sufferings. Health experts stress that cannabis “provides pain relief, anxiety reduction, and increased appetite in chemotherapy patients” (Murray et al., 2011, p.8).
Moreover, the legalization of cannabis would permit the US government to control the cultivation, sales, possession, and use of marijuana.
Nowadays there is no state control of the production of cannabis. This fact means that the drug is more harmful as if the government used certain standards of marijuana production. “Government regulation of marijuana could, in theory, standardize potency levels and reduce the risk of harmful additives” (Murray et al., 2011, p.8).
Ignoring the federal prohibition of cannabis, criminal groups profit from the illegal cannabis trade. Fights between criminals for markets that are more favorable and for control of the drug traffic are the typical background of marijuana illegal sales. Adoption of marijuana legalizing bills would appropriate the source of profit from criminals. This event would diminish violence in the country (Murray et al., 2011, p.8).
There are economic benefits of cannabis legalization. Regarding the aspect of price, scientists focused on the possible changes in the supply of and demand for marijuana.
Caulkins and Bond investigate the possibility of illegal use of medical marijuana in different jurisdictions (Caulkins & Bond, 2012, p.29). They state three major reasons explaining the importance of the issue. The first reason is the cost of transportation of illegal drugs on the territory of the USA. The second reason is related to possible efforts to legalize marijuana in California in the future. The third reason states that “legalization in some but not all states or some but not all nations in a region could happen elsewhere” (Caulkins & Bond, 2012, p.29).
Caulkins and Bond remind about the fact that the general use of drugs increases proportionally to the reduction of prices (Caulkins & Bond, 2012, p.29). The researchers state that “marijuana accounts for roughly 20% of Mexican DTOs’ drug export revenue” (Caulkins & Bond, 2012, p.30). They note that nowadays the price for marijuana is between $325 and $475 per pound. Lower prices would allow smugglers to use greater loads of the drug.
Caulkins and Bond state that the export of marijuana would be favorable for the state that legalizes it. Northern California is a picturesque example of the opportunities of the local authorities to profit from medicinal cannabis production. To illustrate, a large quantity of cannabis grows there. This territory is known under the name ‘Emerald Triangle’, including counties of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity. In fact, a dramatic part of cannabis is cultivated there for therapeutic purposes. Nevertheless, the authorities have recognized that a great deal of this marijuana is cultivated for the illicit market (Murray et al., 2011, p.8).
In 2000, the cannabis decriminalization bill was passed. That event shifted criminal responsibility for the cultivation of fewer than 25 plants for personal purposes. The law doesn’t protect individuals from growing more than 25 plants. To calculate the positive changes and drawbacks of the above-mentioned program, the authorities of Mendocino County started a voluntary registration. This initiative revealed $30, 000 during the first year of the law implementation.
In 2011, the benefit was $600,000. This proves the economic success of cannabis legalization. In the scale of the whole country, marijuana legalization would keep safe about $13.7 billion dollars a year. This money would cost the provision of cannabis prohibition. Moreover, the legalization of marijuana would bring approximately $6.4 billion in tax revenue (Murray et al., 2011, p.9).
The negative aspect of marijuana legalization. Scientists claim that severe pressure on the state authorities is observed during recent years. Interested groups lobby the bills guaranteeing the legalization or decriminalization of cultivation, use, and possession of certain amounts of marijuana. The scientists protest the belief about the safety of cannabis. They argue that cannabis is a detrimental drug and it cannot be an effective treatment for numerous psychological or mental disorders (Svrakis et al., 2012, p.90).
The legalization of marijuana would lead to the situation when this dangerous drug will be available to an average adult individual. Moreover, cannabis may be used together with tobacco and alcohol that will lead to extremely negative effects. Anderson and Rees shed light on the issue of the use of alcohol and marijuana (Anderson & Rees, 2014, p. 1). Persistent use of cannabis leads to “DSM –IV diagnoses of marijuana use disorders”.
Many researchers, such as Budney, Moore, Hall, Lynskey, Haney, Hasin, Pedersen and others, note that the above-mentioned disorders are related to numerous somatic and psychiatric violations. In October 2010, 18, 500 marijuana addicts were examined. The level of mental diseases exceeded twice in comparison with non-users. The potential risk of mental disorders was doubled in male and female users (20% and 28%) as compared to male and female non-users (10% and 14%) (Svrakis et al., 2012, p.95).
Cannabis smoking destroys lungs and causes “chronic cough, airway inflammation and abnormal cell growth that may antecede the onset of cancer” (Svrakis et al., 2012, p.93). It is fatal for the immune system. For example, HIV-positive marijuana addicts suffer from an increased level of mortality.
Marijuana destroys endocrine and reproductive systems. The cardiovascular system is affected by cannabis use, as well. For instance, the use of the above-mentioned drug makes THC dangerous in cardiac patients.
Persistent use of marijuana causes fibrosis progression in the liver. This drug destroys endocrine and reproductive systems. This drug may disorder to female reproductive health. Individuals who use cannabis during pregnancy often give birth to low-birth-weight infants. Although the impact of cannabis on infant development has not been properly examined, health experts argue that the lipid solubility of THC permits negative components to enter breast milk. Therefore, the child uses drugs, as well. Scientists add that marijuana use grows risks of cancer.
It is also known that marijuana use leads to numerous mental problems, like “mental slowness, ‘relaxation’, tiredness, euphoria, and some users report anxiety and paranoia” (Svrakis et al., 2012, p.94). Moreover, cannabis destroys cognition and performance.
Many types of research draw attention to the detrimental impact of marijuana.
Empirical and clinical researches report a profound adverse impact of marijuana use on the physical and mental health of an individual. Researchers stress that the negative effects cross a tiny list of medical indications for which the above –mentioned drug is available. Scientists draw public attention to the fact that legalization or medical use of marijuana imposes dramatic public health risks. The negative consequences of the above-mentioned steps include schizophrenia, psychosis, and other mental disorders (Svrakis et al., 2012, p.90).
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Countries, where cannabis is legalized for medical use, showed higher odds of cannabis use and drug dependence in comparison with countries without similar laws.
Active components in marijuana, such as THC, influence physiological and behavioral systems, having the same impact as addictive drugs. First, marijuana increases the feeling of euphoria. Then marijuana dependence develops with long-term use. It provokes glaucoma.
Conclusions for Persuasive Essay Legalization of Marijuana
To sum up, marijuana legalization is an extremely problematic issue. During the last two decades, numerous policy-makers and researchers have been holding everlasting debates about this contradictory issue. The bill, decriminalizing the cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana, passed in Washington on March 4, 2014, raised this problematic question with new strength.
It is a well-known fact that the discussion of marijuana policy is not only focused on the medical issue. International treaties, national and local legislation forbid cannabis all over the world. Nevertheless, such laws are annulled in several countries.
The legalization of cannabis started in 1996 when voters supported the Compassionate Use Act in California. This legislation canceled criminal penalties for the cultivation, possession, and consumption of cannabis for medical aims. Therefore, health experts may recommend their patients to cure their illnesses with marijuana. Moreover, this legislation protected growers and distributors of marijuana against prosecution. Since that time, many countries of the world have adopted acts legalizing marijuana.
Nowadays, seven states may grow cannabis in the US. They are California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. On March 4th, 2014, Washington D.C. joined them. The great majority of cultivated marijuana is cultivated in this area. During the last years, a strong tendency can be observed: numerous countries dramatically decreased criminal penalties for cannabis possession. Argentina, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, some jurisdictions in Australia are among them. Moreover, the Netherlands allows unlimited sales of psychoactive drugs. Nevertheless, production, sales and use of cannabis for non-medical purposes are not completely legal.
Brisk discussions about the legalization of marijuana are caused by the following issues: a beneficial impact on tax revenues, elimination of arrests that would lead to reduced government spending on arrestees. Another issue is the weakening of illegal cannabis markets. Therefore, these measures would reduce corruption and violence. The next reasons are the necessity of the production of high-quality cannabis, and severe control of access of the youth to drugs in the legal market.
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Marijuana legalization adherents highlight such beneficial effects of marijuana legalization as personal freedoms and the less detrimental effects of the stuff in comparison with the illegal market. They argue that patients who suffer from incurable diseases release their pain using cannabis. The next positive reason for marijuana legalization is the provision of the US government with special tools and mechanisms to control the growing sales, possession, and use of marijuana.
The absence of current state control of the production of marijuana permits numerous criminal groups to produce low-quality marijuana, leading to fatal consequences. Adoption of marijuana legalizing bills would appropriate the source of profit from criminals. This event would diminish violence in the country. The next benefit of cannabis legislation is set in the economic area. Marijuana export would be favorable for the state that legalizes it.
Despite the benefits of marijuana legalization, there are serious arguments against the same. Numerous health experts draw public attention to the fact that cannabis is a detrimental drug and it cannot be an effective treatment of diseases. They state that only financially interested groups may lobby for this drug legalization. In fact, legalization of marijuana would lead to the situation when this dangerous drug will be available to an average adult individual. Cannabis used together with tobacco and alcohol would lead to extremely negative effects. Persistent use of cannabis leads to DSM –IV diagnoses of marijuana use disorders.
Cannabis smoking destroys lungs, causes chronic cough, airway inflammation and abnormal cell growth that may antecede the onset of cancer. It is fatal for the immune system. Marijuana destroys endocrine and reproductive systems. Persistent use of the drug leads to fibrosis progression in the liver. The above-mentioned drug is harmful to female reproductive health. Women who use marijuana during pregnancy often give birth to low-birth-weight infants. Moreover, scientists add that the use of marijuana grows risks of cancer. Empirical and clinical researches present a profound adverse impact of marijuana use on the physical and mental health of an individual.
One can see that the negative effects cross a tiny list of medical indications for which the above –mentioned drug is available. Perhaps, current attempts of marijuana legalization will help to achieve the nation’s welfare. Nevertheless, its negative influence is directed against the health and life of individuals in this country. Therefore, one cannot say that the legalization of marijuana is beneficial to the United States.
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