Legalized marijuana or weed for recreational use is already existent in several states in the US, including Colorado and Washington, where voters passed ballot initiatives to realize it. As expected, considering that weed is considered as a dangerous drug, the move has raised plenty of questions and has become a hot topic in debates. So, is this a wise or wrong move? Here are the pros and cons of legalizing weed to help you come up with an informed answer.
List of Pros of Legalizing Weed
1. Boost in Revenue.
As governments struggle with decreased revenue and rising costs, they look for creative ways to boost income to fund projects, such as new parks and road repairs. Now, some people believe that the legalization of weed could be revenue generator in the form of new taxes applied to its sale and distribution. For instance, in Colorado, analysts recommend that taxing the drug could raise millions of dollars each year.
2. More Effective Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement.
Legalization advocates claim that the move will provide police officers more money and time to go after criminals committing other crimes, such as violence. They even argue that it would create wiggle room in the criminal justice system, which allows judges and prosecutors to focus more on violent crimes, while crowded prisons are freed of space.
3. Less Money to Support Organized Crime.
It is believed that legalizing recreational weed will cut off a revenue stream for illegal drug traders. Advocates contend that making the substance less profitable for criminals will result to a decrease in violence associated with the trade. This would save lives while taking the weight off from law enforcers.
4. Safety Controls.
When a person buys weed off the street, there is no way he would exactly know what dangerous substances are cut into it. On the other hand, current legalization efforts create a framework for a safety control system, which will work to get rid of the risk coming from smoking marijuana.
5. Wider Access for Medicinal Use.
People inside and outside the medical field argue that marijuana is effective in treating a range of health conditions, including Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In many states, including Massachusetts, California and New Jersey, it is legal to use medical marijuana under certain guidelines. This means more people will be free to use the drug for its believed health benefits.
6. Medical Benefits for Cancer Patients.
As previously mentioned, marijuana brings about a number of medical benefits. However, the most notable of them all is the treatment of patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. This is the reason why certain states, such as California, have implemented initiatives for the legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes.
7. Personal Freedom.
By limiting the use of marijuana, we are intruding on personal freedom. Even if the drug is shown to have harmful effects, it is still the right of every individual to decide what harms him or not. Smoking weed is generally considered as a “victimless crime”, where only the user is at risk of experiencing the effects. However, morality could not be legislated when people disagree about what is considered “moral”.
8. Reduced Street Justice Related to Drug Disputes.
Currently, you cannot call the police or any lawyer to litigate if someone in the drug trade screws you over. Instead, you must settle the dispute yourself, which often leads to a cycle of retaliatory violence. But with legalization, proper means to settle disputes would be created.
9. Loss of Business for Drug Dealers (Including Terrorists).
It is quite ironic, but perhaps the worst opponents of weed legalization are drug dealers themselves. Due to the absence of competition and high street prices, they are making enormous sums of money. But through legalization, there will be open competition and lower prices, so drug cartels, which might include terrorists, would lose some or even all of their business.
List of Cons of Legalizing Weed
1. Addictive Nature.
Marijuana legalization supporters argue that weed is not as addictive as other harder drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, but addiction treatment specialists have seen firsthand that long-term use does lead to addiction. Research found that as many as a tenth of users have developed dependence over time. Like in other substances of abuse cases, stopping marijuana use will lead to withdrawal symptoms, which range from anxiety to irritability.
2. Altered Perception.
Considering that marijuana is a drug, which by definition changes the way the human body works, its use would lead users to experience a high that alters their perception while under influence. For instance, low to moderate doses distort perception that is enough to cause traffic accidents. In fact, study shows that weed is one of the most prevalent illegal drugs found in fatally injured and impaired drivers.
3. Gateway Drug Status.
Addiction treatment specialists believe that weed is a gateway drug that potentially introduces users to more serious illegal substances of abuse. Research even suggests that its use might be linked to a higher risk of prescription drug use. A group of teenage boys who abused weed, along with alcohol and cigarettes, were found to be 2-3 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs when they become young adults. Marijuana legalization, then, could increase societal and financial costs for the treatment of those introduced to heavier drugs by smoking it.
4. Increase in Stoned Driving and Related Cases.
Contrary to what is stated above, marijuana use cannot be considered a truly “victimless crime”, knowing all the crimes that might be committed when users are under the influence. While drunk driving is a major problem in society, despite all the stiff penalties and education, equally dangerous is “driving high”, but this is more difficult to detect, unless the user has been smoking in the car. Other harder crimes, such as robbery and rape, can also be caused by the lapse in judgment due to smoking weed.
5. Increased Chances of the Drug Falling into the Hands of Children.
Even unhealthy items that are legal, such as alcohol and cigarettes, are prohibited from being sold to children. The primary reason for this is because children, in general, do not exhibit the same responsibility, reasoning and judgment of adults, and their bodies are not as equipped to handle the intake of such substances. The problem would be even worse for marijuana use, which can deal serious blows to developing minds and bodies. So, any time marijuana use is made legal, the drugs accessibility to children will increase. While all too often children and teenagers are getting their hands on cigarettes and alcohol, it is stressed that authorities should think twice about legalizing this drug.
6. Danger of Second-Hand Smoke to Bystanders.
The dangers of second-hand smoke from cigarettes are well publicized, so common sense would just tell us that more widespread use of marijuana will increase the likelihood that other people would suffer the same damage of inhaling smoke, and this time from a heavy drug. Public places, such as bars, would expose innocent patrons. Even smoking weed at home will allow the drug to make its way to others, especially if it is a multi-level apartment complex.
7. Damage to the Brain.
The humorous stories about pot users having a horrible memory are not an urban legend that is simply put forward by everyone, from Hollywood films to treatment centers for addiction. In fact, one study has shown that blood vessels in the brain of a marijuana smoker experience restricted flow, which can continue even after a month of abstinence.
8. Poor Lung Health.
While tobacco and cigarettes have a nasty reputation for pumping carcinogens into the lungs, marijuana is estimated to have levels of carcinogens that are almost double of that from tobacco smoke. This is because many pot smokers tend to inhale more deeply than cigarette smokers, which increases the amount of time the lungs are being exposed to chemicals that cause cancer.
9. Risk of Getting Heart Disease.
Marijuana use raises the heart rate from 20 to 100 percent for up to three hours after it has been smoked, increasing the risk of getting other health problems, such as arrhythmia, heart palpitations and heart attack. The effects on the cardiovascular system can make smoking weed a high-risk activity for seniors or for people with cardiac conditions.
10. Poor Mental Health.
Research has discovered a link between marijuana use and mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression. Though researchers are not sure yet if the drug really triggered such conditions or if smokers turned to the drug to mediate the symptoms on their own, but it is clear that smoking weed plays a role in the picture of mental health.
The movement to legalize weed is already a reality in some areas. Though it has it pros and cons, the important thing here is for local governments, judicial systems, law enforcement officials and addiction treatment specialists to work together to create communities that will be free from marijuana addiction and its other unfavorable effects.