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ne of the biggest political issues we face in our day and age is regarding the legalization of marijuana. The reason I am writing you is to introduce the idea of that ratification for several explanations. While cannabis is said to make people vacuous and lethargic, this being true to an extent, a person can use the exact same argument about items that are legal in our country. California has seen the benefits of medical marijuana since the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Marijuana use has many reasons as to why it should be legal. Among those reasons, and the ones I find most important, are the following: it is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco, it would bring more tax revenue for the government and save billions of dollars spent on marijuana-related charges, and lastly, cannabis would help in our nations medical field for the fact it is safer than some pharmaceutical drugs.

First, every year there are millions of deaths related to either alcohol or tobacco. There are nearly 88,000 deaths a year from alcohol linked accidents and in 2014, impaired driving fatalities from alcohol accounted for 9,967 deaths. With tobacco, it’s even worse. There are over 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. That’s about 1,300 deaths a day or 1 in 5 deaths annually. Every 6 seconds someone around the world dies from tobacco and every 13 seconds from alcohol. The statistics for marijuana related deaths, however, are 0% compared to these “legal” substances. The argument for this though is that marijuana is a “gateway drug” which will lead to worse abuse from other substances. However, there is no statistical proof of this. Nevertheless, we must ask, how many times has an individual gotten drunk and tried a drug he shouldn’t have later resulting in a bad addiction? This happens all the time, yet there are statistics proving that most people who smoke marijuana do not move on to harder drugs. Americans attitude towards marijuana has changed radically since people have realized the death-toll of tobacco and alcohol use. In the U.S. today, 53% now support the legalization of cannabis versus 44% who believe it should remain illegal.

Additionally, the legalization of cannabis would bring in more tax revenue for our government, along with reducing our spending for prisons filled with people on marijuana based charges. In 2012, over 300 economists signed a petition agreeing with research found by Harvard economist, Jeffrey Miron, which said that legalization would save the U.S. $7.7 billion annually by not having to enforce the current laws surrounding the drug. Along with this report, Miron states the government would earn roughly $6 billion if they taxed marijuana like the tax rates on tobacco and alcohol. Although this may seem like a small amount, over time, it would help the U.S. outstandingly lower our federal deficit.

Lastly, legalization of marijuana would benefit in our medical field. Cannabis is scientifically proven to help prevent cancer, glaucoma, anxiety, epileptic seizures, and so on. However, everyday a person is getting prescribed some type of pill. These pharmaceutical drugs easily can lead people to dependency and overdose from that drug. For example, in 2014, the reported deaths from opioid pain relievers were nearly 30,000 in our nation. Although, some people lack the knowledge that legal cannabis could prevent, in some cases, overdose. In areas such as California or Washington, where marijuana is legal, citizens who face issues that require pain relievers can use marijuana and the chances of a deathly overdose are slim to none. There was a study done by Dr. Pier Vincenzo Piazza where he states in his results that, “When the brain is stimulated by high doses of THC, it produces pregnenolone – a 3,000 percent increase – that inhibits the effects of THC” (Health, January 8, 2014). In 1988, the DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young said, “Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record” (MPP, 2016).

Indeed, while there may be some negative externalities related to marijuana, the positive ones are far greater. As research shows that it is no less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, we would increase our governments’ funds and slowly combat our federal deficit, and we would be able to have a safer alternative to some pharmaceutical medications. We would combat the war on drugs and save lives throughout our nation. The legalization of medical marijuana would truly “make America great again.”

On November 8, 2016, 7,770,538 people voted in favor of Proposition 64. Proposition 64 legalizes recreational marijuana and allows people aged 21 and older to use it. The proposition also enforces both state and cultivation taxes. In addition, the number of plants regulated to 3 mature plants per household, while limiting the purchases to an ounce. People have been using medical marijuana legally since 2012, obtained only with a medical card. Around that time some started using the drug for nonmedical purposes. For 4 years using the drug for personal reasons has been illegal until now. Though the proposition it will make recreational marijuana a state law in 2017 it will not apply to federal law. Such as, if a federal agent caught an individual carrying cannabis the sentence is up to 5 years in prison. Recreational marijuana should become legal throughout America because of financial gain, prohibition failure, and decriminalization.

Recreational marijuana should be legalized because the amount it would be taxed would raise the United State’s economy. According to “Lessons From Washington and Colorado”, Goltz, and Bogdanov state, “In 2015, marijuana sales in Colorado almost reached the billion dollar mark while in Washington State the sales reached 257 million dollars.” Compared to marijuana none of the legal and harmful drugs tobacco, for example, had revenues this high. Replacing the ban with taxation is economical and makes the drug useful to society. If all states legalized marijuana the influx of revenue would be injected back into the market. It would be used to fund public schools and rehabilitation centers, most importantly there would be money to fund research on the short and long- term effects of the drug. Currently, the only research available on the effects of the drug is provided by colleges and such, government researches have not been conducted because of the illegality of the drug. Also, more money would go into government-funded programs like social security. As of today, retirees are not able to live a life of leisure because their retirement money is not enough to support their needs. Therefore, they are forced to keep on working in order to support themselves and possibly their families as well. Financial problems such as these can be resolved if marijuana taxations are put in place. In addition, because it is such a popular drug there is a lot of demand. According to The Marijuana Policy Project “Today, over 106 million Americans admit to having tried it, and over 17.4 million say they have used it in the past month.” It is a guarantee that if taxed the desired profit will be obtained. Not only would the purchase of marijuana be taxed but so would its cultivation. If an individual wanted to smoke more marijuana they would pay the price. Those who decide to plant their own marijuana plants would be taxed because of its possibility to harm the lands soil in the ground. Not only would they be taxed for planting but also if the grower wanted to sell their product. They would still be limited to 3 plants but in order to sell their product the person would have to get a license.

Not only would there be financial gains, but prohibition is ineffective. Reason being, because it does not matter if something is banned or not. If a person really wants to get a hold of cannabis, they will use any means necessary to obtain it. “Marijuana Prohibition Is Ineffective and Unpopular” by The Marijuana Policy Project states, “[T]hrough criminal markets is not subject to the same quality control standards as are legal consumer goods. Illicit marijuana may be altered with much more damaging substances”. Prohibition also forces the consumer to seek other ways to get their drug, for example, the black market. The black market has created something called Synthetic Marijuana that is made up of chemicals and marketed as safe. On September 16, 2015, NPR’s All Things Considered reported, “This altered drug has sent thousands to the emergency room and has even caused some deaths”. The result of prohibition has amounted to the creation of a new drug. Prohibition prevents the economy from growing, being a popular drug many will become dependent on the drug, and demand more of it. If legal and regulated not only would the consumer be freed from the dangers of synthetic marijuana by cultivating their own plants, but it would prevent the buyer from overstocking. The marijuana industry brings in many jobs and by it being illegal people are missing the opportunity to have a job. Statistics presented by Brunswick News state, “The amount of people unemployed as of September 2016 has risen 5.5 percent rather than the original 5.3 percent.” The number can decrease if recreational marijuana is legalized in order to create those jobs the people need. In addition, the legalization of cannabis will decrease the crime rate throughout the United States.

Subsequently, the elimination of prohibition will lower the number of people sent to prison. According to “Crime in Denver County, Colorado, After Marijuana Legalization, January 1, 2014” statistics report a decrease in crime. After marijuana is legal in Denver, Colorado January 1, 2014, statistics show a decrease in violent crimes. Homicide decreased a total of 24.4 percent, rape decreased 2.5 percent, and robbery decreased 3.3 percent. As a result, it is unlikely for the crime rate to suddenly rise. Although the effects differ from person to person it causes dizziness, lack of focus, and silliness. A person experiencing these symptoms do not have the capability to hurt another human being. Another reason why the crime rate dropped is because once it became regulated in Colorado the only place to legally use the drug is at home. Once a person purchases an ounce they are responsible to go home and use it there. After the person uses it they would be to dysfunctional to think or act out any crime. Moreover, the number of people convicted for possession of marijuana would decrease. Based on the Marijuana Policy Project findings they state, “One person is arrested for marijuana every 51 seconds. More than 87% of all marijuana arrests are for possession—not manufacture or distribution”. This means that the current laws are strained and unjust. The numbers of arrests for marijuana are higher as compared to those of violent crimes. In addition, the punishment does not fit the crime. For example, if a person gets arrested for possession of cannabis they will either be sent to jail or federal prison. Forced to share the same cell with someone who possibly killed their entire family. The ’Zero Tolerance’ attitude towards recreational marijuana is harming the lives of individuals who just have the drug in their pocket.

While this the case, some may argue that the legalization of cannabis will produce more crimes. Based on the findings of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s “Research Supports Continued Prohibition of Marijuana” claims, “[I]n 2011, approximately 872,000 Americans 12 or older reported receiving treatment for marijuana use, more than any other illicit drug”. The main concern with legalizing an illegal drug revolves around minors. Many regulations need to be in effect in order to prevent such disasters. Marijuana is used typically in private, therefore it would be difficult to monitor whether the legal consumer will keep the product away from children. Equally important, because of the availability of the drug it is possible for minors to get the drug from somewhere other than a dispensary. Allowing the drug would make it even more easily available then it was before. In addition, because of the way marijuana can be consumed instead of smoked is an even greater risk to younger children. A child will not know the difference between a brownie filled with chocolate chips compared to one containing cannabis. Also taking into consideration the addictive properties of this drug it is irresponsible to legalize something that children as young as 12 years old are using and abusing. At an age that young they would become non-functioning adults as they grow older.

The Marijuana Policy Project found that “[T]he rate of marijuana use by both teenagers and adults is lower than in the U.S…a regulated system, licensed merchants have an incentive to check IDs and avoid selling to minors.” Not only does the MPP disprove my opponents claim, it strengthens my argument of the legalization of marijuana. The reason why the rate of use by both parties is low is because it is based on individual freedoms. Just because something became legal does not mean that every person is going to jump on the bandwagon and start using the drug. Even a minor has the decision to partake in the consumption of the drug or not, it is solely up to their judgment. They have the choice to either wait until they are 21 to legally start using the drug or refer to the black market. As I stated before, a person who wants marijuana will stop at nothing to obtain it. No matter if something is legal or not a minor will get their hands on it. In addition, the handling of the drug is based on the consumer. If the consumer handles it wrong and accidentally serves a child a brownie with cannabis in it that is their fault. The drug cannot be to blame because it is common knowledge that a product of this magnitude regardless of how it is consumed, either smoked or eaten should be kept away from children. Finally, It is also in the minor’s best interest to legalize the drug because once legalized it is possible to take such drug dealers who sell to minors off the street. Also, it would be easier to detect such drug dealers lurking in schools.

In conclusion, legalizing marijuana across the United States is an important step. It would help raise the economy and fund necessary programs. Also, because prohibition has failed previously with alcohol it is absurd to think that with marijuana the outcome would be any different. Lastly, decriminalizing the drug would significantly reduce the number of inmates in federal prison because of marijuana. Recreational marijuana is the safest drug on the market because it is impossible to overdose, therefore no deaths have come from it.

Ekaterina Bogdanov

Author Ekaterina Bogdanov

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