It is an unprecedented time we live in when it comes to drugs. The usage is more prevalent in this country than ever before. In particular, one important aspect is the movement towards legalization of marijuana nationwide. We already have a few states that approve of recreational use and more that approve of medicinal use. It is difficult to weigh the positives and negatives in search of a conclusive legislative decision. I’m here to show both sides and offer my own perspective on whether or not this should be legal
The number one benefit of cannabis is its medicinal usage. The drug has given relief to patients suffering from pain, arthritis, terminal illnesses, and mental disorders. It is also reportedly useful for people suffering withdrawals from other substances such as alcohol and opiates. From a legal perspective, the benefit of legalizing recreational usage would drastically reduce the amount of people in prison. According to a report from the Washington Post, there are more people in prison for possessing marijuana than there are for all violent crime combined. That would save the federal government quite a bit of money. The other economic aspect would be the revenue produced. If recreational use was legal nationwide, the country would rake in about 50 billion dollars a year from a taxed and regulated weed industry.
These are very significant points made in favor of legalization, but there are still major problems to address. There are health benefits associated with cannabis but there are also serious side effects. Think of how medicinal weed is analogous chemotherapy. You only use it when necessary because it has so many terrible side effects. The same toxins and carcinogens produced from cigarettes are also present in marijuana. Tar build up in the lungs is much worse because weed smoke is inhaled for longer and in higher concentrations. Cognitive and memory function in adolescent brains is negatively impacted. A study cited on a government website on drug abuse said quote:
A large longitudinal study in New Zealand found that persistent marijuana use disorder with frequent use starting in adolescence was associated with a loss of an average of 6 or up to 8 IQ points measured in mid-adulthood.42 Significantly, in that study, those who used marijuana heavily as teenagers and quit using as adults did not recover the lost IQ points.
Since the majority of recreational users are young adults under 25, you have to question whether or not it is ethical to pass legislation that you know impairs young adults permanently. Then there is the “gate way drug” theory. From a biological aspect, weed does not lead to harder substances like cocaine, heroin, etc. However the environmental factors can and do lead to a much deadlier addiction. Here is another example:
It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances like marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with other substance users increases their chances of trying other drugs. Further research is needed to explore this question.
Think about it in terms of the foot-in-the-door theory. If you are okay with alcohol, cigarettes, and weed, it wouldn’t take a significant amount of peer pressure to get you to say yes to harder drugs. A small yes leads to a larger yes.
For my personal opinion, I think medicinal use should be legalized nationwide. This comes with the need for serious oversight of medical professionals. Prescription pain killers are already abused enough in terms of people obtaining them when they do not need them. If we legalize it, we must take the necessary steps to prevent abuse of pain killers AND medicinal weed. As for recreational use, I am conflicted. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have God forsaken cigarettes or weed. I’m a vigorous opponent of anything that is bad for your health. If I was ever to approve of recreational use, people would need to be at least 25 to purchase it. Couple that legalization with a serious increase on the crackdown of more deadly illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine to prevent weed from becoming a gateway drug. That must include securing the border to stop the flow of nasty drugs. In short, smoking marijuana is very similar to cigarettes; therefore from a legislative perspective it can be legal but it requires a much more significant degree of oversight and enforcement compared to cigarettes.