Cannabis, also referred to as marijuana, is the third most popular recreational drug, behind only tobacco and alcohol, in the United States (Whitehouse.gov, 2013). Efforts to legalize marijuana as medicine and recreational use in the United States have grown exponentially in recent years. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) marijuana may help decrease nausea, stimulate appetite, and decrease pain (2006). Alternately, the American Medical Association (AMA) does not support smoked marijuana as medicine (1995-2013). With such conflicting opinions around this highly controversial drug, there are many questions to be answered in order to decide the steps the federal government can/should be made for a final resolution. Argument For
Nearly one in ten Americans used marijuana in 2010; however, our nation spends over seven billion per year to enforce the illegalization of this natural substance. A recent poll taken in 2011 shows marijuana has increasingly become the preferred drug for Americans. Overall, 6.9 percent, or 17.4 million, of the United States population used marijuana in 2010 according to the survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Increase Use of Marijuana, 2011, para. 2). Dr. Jeffrey Miron, an economics professor at Harvard University, completed a study which determined the approximate cost of enforcing the illegalization of marijuana. The report estimates legalizing marijuana would save, "$7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government" (Cost of Illegalization of Marijuana, n.d.). The United States has been engaged in a losing battle against marijuana since the implementation of the Uniform Narcotic Act in the 1930's (Bonnie & Whitbread, n.d). We are not only wasting $7.7 billion per year, but losing potential revenue. Americans could stand to profit a substantial amount of income if marijuana were to be legalized and regulated by the Department of Agriculture. "Revenue from taxation of marijuana sales would range from $2.4 billion per year if marijuana were taxed like ordinary consumer goods to $6.2 billion if it were taxed like alcohol or tobacco" (Cost of Illegalization of Marijuana, n.d.). Marijuana is not addictive and has a stark contrast of addictive properties when pitted against the addictive characteristics of legalized tobacco and alcohol. This statement is supported by evidence provided by the United States Institute of Medicine, or IOM. The IOM states “fewer than one in 10 marijuana smokers become regular users of the drug, and most voluntary cease their use after 34 years of age. By comparison, 15 percent of alcohol consumers and 32 percent of tobacco smokers exhibit symptoms of drug dependence" (Supporting evidence, n.d., para. 2). The IOM also observed cannabis withdrawal symptoms are rare and do not require substitution medicine to stop usage. When marijuana smokers cease consumption, the overwhelming majority do not experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms demanding re-initiating use of marijuana according to the IOM. President Richard Nixon commissioned the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972. The primary objective the commission was to expose dangers of drug use and provide a detailed report on marijuana. Nixon's commission issued a report titled, “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding," which reviewed existing marijuana studies and determined marijuana does not cause physical addiction (National Commission on Marijuana, 1974).
Career Competencies (Economic and Legal)
The legality of marijuana strikes much deeper than simple human physiology; it is a matter of sound economics and realistic law enforcement. There are negative aspects of marijuana use, but as is there with coffee, soda, candy,...