The issue of recreational marijuana sparks a lot of debate on whether it should be allowed or not. Half of the US adults have used marijuana although the federal law terms it an illegal drug. Those supporting its legalization claim that it can inject money into the economy, introduce many jobs, and stop racial disparities witnessed in its enforcement. They also say it will reduce street crimes, increase user safety through child-proof packaging, labeling, and testing, and reduce the activities of drug cartels. On the other hand, the opponents associate legalization with increased teen use, more medical emergencies, and deaths from accidents. In their argument, revenue from marijuana does not surpass the costs associated with lost productivity, accidents in the workplace, crime, treatment towards addiction, and more hospital visits. They also associate marijuana with mental and physical harm to the user and support its illegalization. Recreational marijuana does more harm in society and should not be legalized.
The usage of marijuana dates back to the 20th century when drugs were not regulated and there were traces on cocaine products such as Coca-Cola. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act was introduced and it prompted organizations to label ingredients in food and drugs (U.S Food and Drug Administration 4). During the 1900 Mexican revolution, there was an influx of Mexican immigrants in the US who introduced marijuana smoking for recreational purposes. Also, West Indian immigrants and sailors came with marijuana to North America. However, the Marihuana Tax Act outlawed the use of cannabis in 1937 in the US and introduced taxes and strict regulations, making its legal sale or purchase expensive. President Nixon made marijuana illegal in 1970 by signing the controlled substances Act. However, President Trump legalized industrial hemp in 2018 and South Dakota, New Jersey, Montana, and Arizona legalized recreational use. Fast forward, the US house removed marijuana from the Controlled substances Act in 2020 but the bill failed to pass the Senate.
One of the issues towards marijuana legalization is that it can boost the economy. It is projected that the US marijuana industry can surpass the $24 billion revenue in 2025 (Wallace 1). Legal marijuana can increase the revenue of industries such as tourism, transportation, and real estate. In 2016, the legal hemp industry generated around $ 7.2 billion and contributed to millions as federal taxes. Moreover, a study concerning the adult use of marijuana forecasted an economic activity of $ 1.7 billion in Nevada for the first seven years. Another study showed that a market in California for legal marijuana can make $ 5 billion per year.
There is a notion that marijuana legalization will lead to reduced use among teens. There was a decrease in marijuana usage among eighth-graders to 7.3 % from 9.8 % in Washington State after marijuana was legalized in 2012 (RAND Office of Media Relations 1). In Washington University School of Medicine, researchers established that marijuana use among teens is declining even after its legalization. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control established that there was a seventeen percent decrease in Marijuana use in 2014 among teens aged twelve to seventeen. As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there has been a reduction of marijuana use among teens aged between twelve and seventeen years in Colorado, statistics that show its legalization does not lead to increased use among the teens.
In addition, there is no connection between DUIs arrests, traffic deaths, and marijuana legalization. Cohen (1) notes that there was an eleven percent decrease in traffic deaths in states where medical marijuana was legalized. Moreover, studies indicate that people driving under marijuana influence show more caution compared to drunk drivers. On their website, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration noted that a portion of drivers can improve through self-perceived impairment after taking Marijuana. Such sentiments show that increased marijuana access does not minimize public safety, supporting the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana.
On the other hand, most people are against its legalization due to the harm it brings to society as legalizing marijuana is associated with burdening the taxpayers and society with costs that surpass its revenues. Harm from marijuana affects society through more emergency room visits, increased medical care, adverse impacts emanating from passive smoking, and accidents. Ingraham (4) notes that taxes from legal marijuana are less than one percent of the revenue from state tax. As such, legalizing recreational marijuana is not ethical as and it does not make sense to legalize a substance whose cost is more than the revenue collected.
In addition, there is an increase in teenage use associated with legalizing marijuana. The percentage of teens who use marijuana in states that have legalized marijuana is higher when compared to the national average. The 12.29 % average of teens in the US who used marijuana between 2015 and 2016 is lower than In Colorado and Alaska where 16.21 % and 18.86 % of teens use marijuana respectively (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 3). Furthermore, there was a twenty percent increase in marijuana use among teens two years after its legalization. Marijuana can do more harm to young people since their brains have not undergone full development and continued usage can result in decreased concentration, problem-solving, and faulty short-term memory.
Marijuana legalization is associated with an increase in traffic accidents. There was an increase in traffic deaths linked to marijuana after it was legalized in Colorado. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Washington witnessed an increase in fatal crashes after legalizing marijuana (Johnson 2). Moreover, the Highway Loss Data Institute established that there is an increased risk of crashing in states where marijuana is legal. Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado had a 6 % crash risk increase when comparisons are made with states without legal marijuana. These statistics show that legalizing recreational marijuana will raise the possibility of motor vehicle accidents by a larger margin.
The costs of recreational marijuana outweigh its benefits, a factor that does not support its legalization. Moreover, the states where recreational marijuana acts as an example of the social ills and negative attributes that a country can witness if recreational marijuana is legalized. Currently, there are projections that recreational marijuana will result in more accidents, crime, and high medical care. Currently, society is battling with a high crime rate and accidents, among other results emanating from marijuana use. In this case, legalizing recreational marijuana results in more ills as many people will have easy access to the drug. Moreover, marijuana dependence will be witnessed after legalization due to its addictive nature. Legalization will support daily use and increase the chances of addiction, making it difficult for users to quit. With such negative attributes, recreational marijuana should not be legalized, and outlawing marijuana is imperative in keeping a sane society.
Although Marijuana use has proved to be a menace in society, it is worth considering the positive impacts it can introduce in contemporary society. Recreational marijuana can help set regulated sales and minimize criminal activities as legalization will be a way of eradicating black markets. Phasing such markets will dismantle drug cartels and reduce street gangs and organized crime since legal production will eliminate the need to smuggle drugs. Its legalization will translate to fewer arrests and the federal government will not incur costs from corrections, legal or judicial expenses that are associated with enforcement of the set laws. Thus, society can look at both sides concerning recreational marijuana instead of dwelling on its disadvantages.
In summary, the campaign towards the legalization of recreational marijuana in the US is supported by various reasons, one of them being the possibility of boosting the economy through federal taxes. Moreover, recreational marijuana is not associated with increased teens usage, traffic deaths, or DUI arrests. The factors against its legalization include the burden of higher costs compared to the revenues. Increased use can result in increased emergency room visits, accidents, and crimes. Moreover, legalization will lure the youths, and consumption at an earlier age will be more detrimental since their brains have not fully developed. In the future, it will be imperative to come up with a solution that will utilize the positive attributes associated with recreational marijuana while minimizing its negative impacts. Society should internalize that the drug problem is here to stay but policies can be utilized to dismantle the black market and regulate its sale.
Cohen, Ronnie. After States Legalized Medical Marijuana, Traffic Deaths Fell. Reuters, 28 Dec. 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-marijuana-traffic-death- idUSKBN14H1LQ. Accessed 18 Jan 2022.
Ingraham, Christopher. Here’s How Legal Pot Changed Colorado and Washington. Washington Post. 13 Oct. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/13/heres- how-legal-pot-changed-colorado-and-washington/. Accessed 18 Jan 2022.
Johnson, Tamra. Fatal Road Crashes Involving Marijuana Double after State Legalizes Drug. Newsroom, 10 May 2016. https://newsroom.aaa.com/2016/05/fatal-road-crashes- involving-marijuana-double-state-legalizes-drug/. Accessed 18 Jan 2022.
RAND Office of Media Relations. Adolescent Marijuana Use Fell after Legalization in Washington; Study Highlights Need to Use Better Data to Follow Youth Use Trends.Rand Corporation, 19 Dec. 2018. https://www.rand.org/news/press/2018/12/21.html. Accessed 18 Jan 2022.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Comparison of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 Population Percentages. SAMHSA, 2014, samhsa.gov. Accessed 18 Jan 2022.
U.S Food and Drug Administration. Part 1: The 1906 Food and Drugs Act and its Enforcement. FDA, 24 April 2019, https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/changes-science-law-and- regulatory-authorities/part-i-1906-food-and-drugs-act-and-its-enforcement. Accessed 18 Jan 2022.
Wallace, Alicia. Report: America’s Marijuana Industry Headed for $24 Billion by 2025. The Cannabist, 22 Feb. 2017. https://newfrontierdata.com/news/report-americas-marijuana- industry-headed-24-billion-2025/ Accessed 18 Jan 2022.