The legal status of marijuana is a hot button issue among many Americans and even the world. Citizens on either side of the debate are quite passionate about the subject and indeed it is not a simple question of whether the legalization of marijuana is merely a good or bad thing. Instead, both camps have fairly valid points supporting their respective positions and are adamant about them.
First let’s examine the perceived negatives of legalizing marijuana. The biggest argument of the proponents of that stance is that it would serve as a gateway drug, meaning it would lead people to use stronger drugs that pose a real threat to their health. This argument, while at face value may hold some water, essentially creates a rather dangerous precedent. It can be argued that anything, even something as innocuous as a glass of wine over dinner, could lead an individual to try something stronger. In short, it’s a slippery slope. At what point does the chain of causation get cut?
Another fairly common argument that gets brandied about regarding the harmful effects of marijuana is the adverse health consequences of the substance. While it may be true that smoking marijuana may have a general negative impact on an individual’s health, it’s really no worse than having a cigarette and that is perfectly legal, albeit heavily regulated in some states. Furthermore, some studies have linked habitual marijuana use to other illnesses such as cancer. While no one obviously wants to get cancer, there is a laundry list of common everyday products that have been linked to cancer and they remain legal. Again, arguing that marijuana is bad for someone’s health is flawed since so much of what we consume as a society has been proven to be bad for one’s health.
The pros of legalizing marijuana are much more pronounced. Here are just a few. First, legalization would mean that marijuana could be taxed by the government. In these tough economic times it’s just plain silly that the government doesn’t take advantage of the financial gold mine that would be the legalization of marijuana. In a lot of states (California being the most notable) a natural market for the product already exists and jobs (albiet tax free) have been created. In order to make these jobs non tax free, the state would have to legalize marijuana and take hold of the situation first hand.
Next, legalizing marijuana would decrease the crime rate in many states. If it were legal, then the criminal elements that are sometimes behind its sale and distribution would no longer have a monopoly on the market. As a result, the affiliated crimes would also decrease. Generally speaking, legalizing marijuana would have a distinctly positive effect on society.
Related to the aforementioned point, the legalization of marijuana would make a large swath of people who use it law abiding citizens once again. These are individuals who otherwise obey the law, why should they be stigmatized for making a personal decision regarding the use of a substance which has a long and storied cultural history.
In short, while valid arguments exist for both sides of the debate, legalizing marijuana has more pluses than minuses including, but not limited to, jobs, a taxable product, lowered crime rate, and a plethora of law abiding citizens.