Legalization of Marijuana
Marijuana or cannabis is an illegal drug formed of the dried leaves and flowers of a plant called cannabis. Marijuana should be removed from the criminal justice system and be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco. The legalization would benefit many people however, for now the substance is illegal in most of the United States. In fact in Michigan the possession of marijuana comes with up to a year of incarceration and a thousand dollar fine, for an individuals first offense. The penalties severely increase in prison time and fines for an individuals subsequent offence along with harsher penalties for the sale and the cultivation of marijuana. There are many reasons why some people believe marijuana is currently illegal; such as that it is a gateway drug, it is addictive, and third reason being that that it impairs people’s judgment making them reckless and a dangerous. However, I question many of these reasons for keeping it illegal, and believe that when these reasons are argued for and against, one would find more reasons against them, than for them. I will analyze those three reasons against the legalization of marijuana followed by a counter argument of my own against them throughout the rest of the paper. Particular individuals argue that cannabis is a gateway drug meaning that its use causes people to also try, more dangerous drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. This argument is often used to justify continuing criminalization of cannabis. Some reasons that one would use to support this argument are that experience with cannabis is encouraging experimentation with other drugs, people who obtain cannabis become exposed to drug dealers, and that cannabis may actually change the brains chemistry to make young people more likely to try other drugs. In fact Otego University findings suggest that when cannabis is used frequently, it may be a gateway drug to other illicit drug use, although they state that is unclear whether it is result of contact with the illegal market or an effect of cannabis use (The Gateway theory). Many argue that the gateway theory is invalid and that the use of marijuana does not cause people to try more dangerous drugs. The theory may seem valid at first however the problem here is that correlation is not cause. For example motorcycle gang members are probably 100 times more likely to have ridden a bicycle as a kid than those who don’t become a motorcycle gang member, but that doesn’t mean that riding a two-wheeler is a “gateway” to joining a motorcycle gang (Szalavitz). Relating that back to cannabis, one who tries marijuana is more likely to try other drugs since they already decided to try one. Most scientist and others have abandoned the idea that marijuana causes users to try harder drugs because of proof that it is an actual effect of marijuana to make others want to try harder drugs. A report issued by congress wrote by the Institute of Medicine of the National academy of Sciences found that there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. The findings throughout the report did indeed find progression of drug use from adolescences to adulthood to be strikingly similar. However it is because it is the most widely used illegal drug and marijuana is probably the first illicit drug most people encounter. So not surprisingly, users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and tobacco before marijuana and usually before they are of legal age for that. In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes the use of other illicit drugs, it is indeed a “gateway” drug. But because underage drinking and smoking typically precede marijuana use, it is not the most common, and is rarely the first “gateway” to illicit drug use. The correlation of harder use of drugs and marijuana comes from people who are predisposition to try drugs. Certain Individuals who are interested in altering their consciousness are likely to want to try more than one way of doing it. Just as if someone is a true music fan they are probably going to listen more than just one band or genre, this doesn’t make rock music a gateway to rap music, it is simply people may enjoy many different types of something they like. The effects of marijuana in no way case an individual to try harder drugs; it is simply a decision and preference of the individual to try harder drugs. Another reason why many people do not support the legalization of marijuana is because it is addictive and can lead to an unmotivated and lazy society. It is believed that somewhere between 4% and 9% of regular marijuana users are likely to develop dependency problems (Ferner). Furthermore, evidence from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 957,000 people sought treatment for marijuana in 2012 alone; although, many of which are court ordered (Ferner). According to the dictionary an addiction is a compulsive use of a substance despite ongoing negative consequences, which may lead to tolerance or withdrawals symptoms when stopped. Many people believe that once someone smokes marijuana or once if it is made legal all people will want to do is smoke marijuana because of this dependency. However if marijuana is going to be made and kept illegal on the grounds of being addictive than the government needs to consider many making many other substances illegal. Marijuana may be addictive for a small amount of people but so can pretty much any other substance or activity for that matter. Studies have found cannabis to be less addictive than nicotine, alcohol and even caffeine, and all of which are legal. Percentages vary however nicotine is estimated to hook 20% to 30% of smokers, along with 15% alcohol dependency (Szalavitz). These numbers are relatively higher when compared to the 4% to 9% dependency rate of marijuana. The effects of alcohol are also much more dangerous than those of marijuana. Furthermore, for the few individuals who do experience symptoms of clinical dependency and feel discomfort or withdrawal when trying to quit, ridding a marijuana addiction does not lead to the same type of intense, dangerous physical and psychological pain that often accompanies an alcohol, nicotine or heroin dependency (Szalavitz). I can also add through my own personal experience and say that smoking marijuana did not cause me to have a compulsive need to use marijuana nor have I experience any which may withdrawals symptoms when stopped using. A third reason many people may bring up when discussing why marijuana should be kept illegal is because it is dangerous and impairs people’s judgment. Some of the affects that people find dangerous include Impaired memory for recent events, difficulty concentrating, dreamlike states, impaired motor coordination, impaired driving skills, slowed reaction time, impaired goal-directed mental activity, and altered peripheral vision (Marijuana in the Body). Some people even go as far to say that the use of marijuana makes people crazy. The illicit use, sale and cultivation of cannabis places individuals can place users in dangerous situations, however these occasions are somewhat rare and the legalization and regulation would diminish much of this risk. When first examining some of the ways marijuana may alter someone’s perception they may certainly seem dangerous. However, when one takes a closer look they would find many of these possible side effects to be disproportional and relatively small to what was once believed to be true. One reason why many of the hold the opinion against it is due to yellow journalism that came about when marijuana was first made outlawed. Many news articles and short films were produced greatly exaggerating and lying about the effects marijuana leading people to believe inaccurate facts. Marijuana is also far less mind altering than the effects of alcohol, which is currently legal. It is estimated that about 88,000 Americans die each year because of excessive alcohol use (Christensen and Wilson). Conversely, the effects and death toll as a result of using alcohol are far worse and higher than that of marijuana. Marijuana is also found to have exceptional medicinal capabilities such as pain relief, increased appetite, mood, decreased nausea and muscle relaxation. (Uddin). The legalization of marijuana and would lead to many positive factors that out weigh the negatives. I pointed out a few of the reasons why marijuana is illiegal and gave points of criticism for each of them. The first point given that marijuana is a gateway drug. The argument of something being a gateway drug can be applied to nearly anything, and many people even start by smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol before even trying marijuana. The second reason against the legalization is that marijuana is addictive and when compared to addictive qualities of some legal substances such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol one would find that addiction rates are far lower for marijuana use. The final reason is that marijuana alters your perception making individuals dangerous. The effects and way marijuana altars ones body are far less dangerous than those of alcohol. Overall, I believe that marijuana would have a better impact on the lives of a majority of individuals.
Benefits From Medical Marijuana." LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 5 Mar. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. . "Drug Foundation." The Gateway theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. . Ferner, Matt. "Just Say No To These 11 Outrageous Arguments Against Legalizing Marijuana." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. . Szalavitz, Maia, and Maia Szalavitz. "Marijuana as a Gateway Drug: The Myth That Will Not Die | TIME.com." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. . Szalavitz, Maia, and Maia Szalavitz. "Is Marijuana Addictive? It Depends How You Define Addiction | TIME.com." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.