Since the early 1970s, when marijuana was included in the list of banned substances, only about a fifth of the US population supported the legalization or decriminalization of drugs. This proportion remained stable until the early 2000s, but has increased dramatically in the last decade. According to surveys, in the autumn of 2013 the number of supporters of legalization exceeded the psychological barrier of over one half of Americans that voted in favor of free distribution of marijuana This paper will consider pros and cons regarding legalization of marijuana in the US.
According to surveys, in the autumn of 2013 the number of supporters of legalization exceeded the psychological barrier of 58% of Americans that voted in favor of free distribution of marijuana (Galston and Dionne). In fact, marijuana has become part of popular culture: nearly half of Americans born after 1960, tried marijuana in adolescence at least once and do not consider it a dangerous drug. From 12 to 15 million Americans regularly smoke marijuana, and 11% of the population (about 35 million people), at least once, used marijuana in the past year. In such circumstances, the legalization of grass can no longer stay out of the political agenda (Garvey and Yeh).
People, who support legalizing of marijuana support their position based on the arguments as follows:
- Marijuana is considered safe as compared to conventional drugs and alcohol.
- Marijuana is not as toxic as alcohol and other drugs, and its use does not lead to a socially dangerous behavior, does not cause harm to the body. Furthermore, smoking of marijuana cannot lead to an overdose.
- Legalization increases tax revenue and creates jobs.
Legalization of marijuana could bring up to 17.4 billion U.S. dollars in tax collection. In 2014, traders of marijuana brought over $100 million in Colorado alone, of which 40 million had been contributed towards construction of schools and promotion of healthy lifestyles (Evans).
- Legalization reduces crime.
In 2010, the United States held 780 000 arrests related to the dissemination and use of marijuana, and nearly 40 thousand people went behind bars. The legalization of marijuana will reduce the number of people arrested and will save on their imprisonment costs. In addition, according to supporters of the referendum, the legalization can reduce interracial tension in the states: for example, in cases involving the spread and use of marijuana, black teenagers were detained at a rate nearly 4 times higher as compared to their white peers (Garvey and Yeh).
Legalization indirectly will affect the level of other crimes: according to the Department of Public Safety, Colorado, between February 2013th and April 2014, the crime rate in the region has declined. At the same time, in Denver, the state capital, the number of murders decreased around three times (Evans).
In addition, marijuana brings up to 30% of the proceeds to international drug cartels. Thus, legalization undermines the economic base of offenders and contributes to the improvement of the situation in the global war on drugs.
Opponents of legalization of marijuana bring the following arguments to support their position:
- Marijuana consumption reduces the level of mental development.
Opponents of legalization believe that marijuana use impairs intelligence and attention, as well as hinders the learning capabilities of teenagers. Many studies indicate a correlation between low IQ and marijuana intake, whereas the mechanism remains uncertain.
- Legalization increases the number of marijuana users.
Opponents believe that legalization will significantly expand the number of drug users through advertising grass. In addition, the emerging industry of sales of marijuana can swipe at active consumers and strengthen their relationship. Colorado experience shows that about 90% of all marijuana accounts for less than a third of buyers; thus, people with addiction are most beneficial to the industry dealers. However, the same data indicate that after the legalization of the number of adolescent drug users remained at the same level.
- Legalization of marijuana opens the way to consumption of heavy-duty drugs.
Opponents of legalization of marijuana are also convinced that the use of marijuana leads paves the way to addiction. Opponents of this position believe that, in most cases, marijuana is the first (and only) the drug because of its relative cheapness and prevalence as compared to other banned substances. Since 2013, the use and handling of marijuana is absolutely legal in Uruguay (according to unconfirmed reports, marijuana also virtually legalized in North Korea). Partial circulation is possible in the Netherlands, Canada, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Spain and Israel.
People, who support legalizing marijuana in the US suggest to hold up to ten referendums in different states over the next few years. In 2016, for example, such actions could take place in Arizona, California and Nevada (Svrakic et al.). The US President Barack Obama did not support the legalization of marijuana at the federal level, but he does not intend to interfere with referendums in the states. He believes that “marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol.”
After the use of cannabis in Colorado ceased to be a violation of the law, State Department of Health had to radically revise its policy on its circulation (Svrakic et al.). Sellers also expressed concern that they have to deal with large amounts of cash: federal law prohibits banks to work with sellers of marijuana since the drug is considered illegal at the federal level. In 2014, there was expected the $ 2.34 billion income from the marijuana sales in the United States (Sacco and Finklea). At the federal level, marijuana remains illegal substance in the USA. In 20 states, it is allowed to smoke cannabis for medical applications (based on doctor’s prescriptions). Barack Obama said earlier that he would allow each state to have its own policy on this issue.
Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado (Colorado) stirred a lot of trouble not only legal authorities, but medical officials, as well. In the past, a large stake of their education efforts was dedicated to explanation of the harm that cannabis can cause to health of people. However, now officials have to place accents in such propaganda somewhat differently. Recently, the Colorado Department of Public Health announced the launch of a new, for which purpose the local official allocated 5.7 million US dollars. Now, instead of computer-generated images of people, who suffer from cannabis addiction, with clear signs of long-term drugs use, officials will provide residents with booklets that will offer the “non-intrusive” recommendations on the correct use, being now cannabis consumption has become quite a legal matter.
For example, one of the pictures in the booklet, which will be duplicated with the image of a giant-sized billboard on the street, displayed a bench in the park. Accompanying the image text urges fans not to smoke cannabis in public. It is noteworthy that social advertising posters and type of stretch marks with the slogans like “Hemp says ‘NO’!” disappeared from the streets across the state. It is noteworthy that, after the completion of this pilot project in Colorado, a number of similar campaigns will be conducted for the specific target groups: adolescents, pregnant women, nursing mothers, etc.
The first day after the legalization of marijuana in the city was calm: the police did not report any incidents, and supporters of the legalization of cannabis restrict their habits manifestation to smoking at home, in accordance with the new law prescriptions (Caulkins et al.). In some places, the law allows using marijuana, as well as store up to two ounces (56 grams) at home, as well as growing up to six cannabis plants at home. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal; its storage can lead to a fine of one thousand dollars and a year in prison. In states where marijuana is legalized (Colorado, Washington and Alaska) prosecutors that face the contradiction between the federal and local laws eased somewhat control over the spread of cannabis and no longer start criminal proceedings in small cases. However, the legislative conflict may still cause problems with the law for many residents of states where legalization of cannabis was held. For example, as far as immigrants applying for a residence permit (Green Card) are concerned, the federal authorities have warned that smoking of marijuana is incompatible with the status of a permanent resident of the United States, even if the state where the immigrant lives, allows marijuana consumption.
Legalization of marijuana in the United States is a crucial issue for the rest of the world. If this initiative becomes a successful experience and the rest of the states will endorse it, such practice will serve as an example for other countries and help in the global fight against drug trafficking, which only provokes social tension in the Third World countries. Although, marijuana is still classified as a prohibited substance under the federal law, most experts believe that the first state that permitted the sale of marijuana might set the trend for the future expansion of such policies.