Laws are made to regulate a behavior, which can cause harm to a person or others in the society. When they serve as incriminating elements and make people commit heavier crimes instead of reducing them, then those laws should be reformed. The war on drugs has been at the heart of every government wishing the best to its people. However, it should be fought using policies that are set based on groundless claims, exaggerated scarce stories and imagined statistics, but the war is far from over. There are several factors that an objective policy-maker needs to consider when deciding whether marijuana ought to be prohibited or legalized. What damage does it have on the population as compared to other drugs that are already legalized? What will be the benefits of its legalization? The following essay examines these factors objectively and looks at documented statistics to justify reasons for legalizing marijuana.
Historical Usage of Marijuana
Marijuana or Cannabis is a drug that has existed since the third millennium BC. During the Middle Stone Age, the Cannabis plant is known to have been harvested for use in various industrial functions.These included rigging of ships, nooses for condemning criminals, and many others. As a psychoactive drug, marijuana is believed to have originated in Central and South Asia, and China.
In Asia, most scholars traced marijuana’s origin to the Scythian people, who lived around the seventh century BC in areas around Siberia and North Central Asia. According to a Greek historian, these people used marijuana in their cult of the dead (Sula, 1975). During their religious rituals, the Scythians used marijuana to honor the memory and the spirits of the dead members of their community, especially those, who were leaders. Later, in 1929, a Russian archaeologist known as professor Rudenko discovered that the Scythians used marijuana as a psychotropic stimulant inhaling it. In China, archeologists discovered that there were records of marijuana use, especially in ancient villages. The use of Cannabis as a psychoactive substance was not very prominent in China, since the earliest Chinese physicians had cited it as a hallucinogenic drug, which would lead to mental exhalation and even nervous excitation (Hui-lin Li, 1975). However, it was not medically proven.
In America, marijuana usage is dated back to around the eighteenth century. It is seen in some American medical journals, which recommended marijuana seeds and roots for the treatment of the inflamed skin and venereal diseases. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, from 2 % to 5 % of the U.S. population had become addicted to the drug (Wayne Morgan, 1981). It made the government to act fast in order to prevent further addiction among the population. It was done by means of the introduction of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which was created in 1906. Under it, marijuana was left under control of doctors.
Economics of Marijuana Regulation and the Policy Surrounding its Legality
With an increasing number of individuals using marijuana as a recreation tool, one question remains in the minds of people in many states and countries: should marijuana be legalized? From economical, medical and even moral grounds, there are no convincing reasons why it should be prohibited. Some economists argue that the legalization of marijuana will be a great boost to the economy of most states. It is because it will lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs and raise savings and revenue for budgets. Firstly, is it convincing enough to lose billions of dollars prohibiting Cannabis on the grounds of war against drugs? However, there are more dangerous drugs, which have not been prohibited. According to a group of economists of the Universities of Chicago, MIT and George Mason, the country can save up to billions of dollars every year, which are used as prohibition and enforcement expenditures. In addition, if marijuana were taxed like alcohol or tobacco, it would lead to the generation of billions of dollars as tax revenue every year. For instance, Colorado alone will save up to $ 12 million every year from its enforcement and further generate up to $ 100 million through job creation, the construction of small businesses, among other economic stimulation strategies. With all these benefits, one need to focus more on the effects of the chronic use of marijuana on a population in order to weigh the options of legalizing or not legalizing it. The first question, which most individuals find mind bothering, is whether Cannabis is less or more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes. According to the report published in The British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, it has been discovered that health-related costs for those individuals, who consume alcohol, are eight times greater than for those, who consume marijuana. For those, who smoke tobacco, the amount is 40 times greater. This study has concluded that alcohol and tobacco are considered more toxic and harmful to the body as compared to marijuana. However, studies have shown that the components of this drug include more cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco. It means that an individual smoking five joints a week in an average has the same chances of getting cancer as an individual smoking the whole package of cigarettes every day (Stafford, 1992). It can be overlooked, since studies have shown that most individuals, who use marijuana, do not do it regularly. It was indicated in the study by the Federal Institute in 1990, which showed that only 45 % of those, who were examined by means of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, were reported to be marijuana-dependent. Therefore, it means that instead of wasting a lot of money on prohibiting the drug, it should be legalized, as this will have more benefits.
However, there is another question: how addictive is marijuana as compared to other common drugs? According to several studies by various researchers, it is less addictive as compared to alcohol. For instance, the study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences showed that the rate of dependence on marijuana is very low as compared to other drugs, such as alcohol. In addition, there are no proven withdrawal symptoms, which are associated with marijuana, while there are a lot of the ones connected with alcohol, which include potentially fatal (Baselt, 2008). Prohibition on the basis of its addictive quality lacks reasons, thus, it should be legalized.
The following question should be analyzed in the paper: how many deaths does marijuana cause annually as compared to alcohol and tobacco? The answer is because many policy-makers claim that prohibiting the drug, many deaths caused by it will be reduced. There has not been any specific case, which has been attributed to the use of it. The evidence of this is from the fact that centers for disease control and prevention, which trace deaths and their causes in America, have no category for marijuana use (Whitebread, 1995). However, the same body attributes around 40,000 deaths each year to alcohol use. Therefore, marijuana legalization will not increase deaths caused by drugs.
Focusing on marijuana and cognitive impairment, it is known to affect short-term memory, temporary thoughts, perception and other changes. However, its effect on long-term cognitive memory is not known. The study conducted in a laboratory showed that individuals under the influence of this drug had problems connected with remembering new information, but they could easily remember things, which they had learnt previously (Earleywine, 2005). Since marijuana has no cases of causing impairment, prohibition should concern more damaging drugs.
The supporters of the Gateway drug theory, which proposes that individuals, who use marijuana, have high chances of using hard drugs in the long run, have no justification to this hypothesis. It is because taking a more objective look, the prohibition of the drug increases chances instead. It forces consumers to get it through underground markets, exposing them to other illegal products, which include these hard drugs. It is particularly true considering that marijuana use is almost similar in all countries, where it is legalized, and where it is not (Booth, 2005). For instance, the rate of its usage in Netherlands, where it is sold in coffee shops and in the United States is similar. It means that if marijuana were legalized, it would be available in legal markets, reducing addiction of individuals to hard drugs.
Beside economic benefits, marijuana legalization can have other important advantages to an individual state. First, it can contribute to a reduction in the crime rate. It is because, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, more than 800,000 individuals are prosecuted every year for marijuana violations (Bonnie & Whitebread, 1972). If it were legalized, police and courts would use these funds to focus on more serious and dangerous crimes.
The earliest users of marijuana prove that it is good for treating symptoms of several medical conditions. These include the reduction of nausea, especially in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and increasing appetite of patients suffering from AIDS, among others (Michael Aldrich, 1997). Therefore, it is the decision of every citizen to focus more on crimes that threaten the society instead of wasting all scarce resources criminalizing fellow citizens and community members in the first place.
In summary, any objective policy-maker should endeavor to make policies that are for the good of people instead of setting laws that cause more suffering and pain due to ignorance. Marijuana should be legalized, and the drug war should be focused on more dangerous drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.
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- Whitebread, C. (1995). The history of the non-medical use of drugs in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/whiteb1.htm