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Marijuana: to Legalize or Not to Legalize?

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The battle over legalizing marijuana has been debated for years in the United States. The controversy has grown in modern times, and action has been taken by both sides of the fight. This issue has been prominent in the news headlines recently with legalization spreading across many states. However, the problems stem from the vast difference of opinion between those who support the new laws and those who oppose them. In an article from the Missouri Medical Journal, doctor Samuel T. Wilkinson argues that there is not enough research and regulation to establish there is not harmful effects. On the other hand, in an article from Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, doctor Tamar Todd claims through legalization studies will be able to ensure its medical benefits as well as economic profit, create new jobs and decrease the disproportionate of injustice criminalization in the United States.

In an article from the Missouri Medicine Journal, titled More Reasons States Should Not Legalize Marijuana: Medical and Recreational Marijuana: Commentary and Review of the Literature, author Samuel T. Wilkinson argues that it would not be beneficial to the United States to legalize marijuana. Wilkinson believes that the risks outweigh the potential benefits legalization would bring to society. In his first argument he explains how there is not enough substantial research done to be able to show evidence in favor of its therapeutic benefit. In the United States, commercially available drugs are subject to rigorous clinical trials to evaluate safety and efficacy. The exception to this is marijuana, having only limited amounts of research, potentially putting people at risk. Its argued that the therapeutic components of marijuana should be investigated, but they should only be made available to the public after research trials are able to ensure safety.

Another issue Wilkinson points out is that marijuana growing is not subject to regulatory oversight and ranges from strict standards to almost none at all depending on the state. This can lead to contamination of the plant, including fungus and mold growth as well as “cross breeding” to increase levels of THC which creates new strains producing more unknown effects. Long term effects on lungs is another huge concern because it is the only medication smoked and compared to cigarettes, marijuana smoke can result in three times the amount of inhaled tar and four times the amount of inhaled carbon-monoxide. In addition to this, marijuana use shows evidence of causing numerous health problems. It has been consistently shown to be a risk factor for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Wilkinson explains a recent study that followed subjects from birth to age 38; whos data showed marijuana use, “when begun during adolescence, was associated with cognitive impairment in multiple areas, including executive functioning, processing speed, memory, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension.” There is more substantial evidence that shows other negative health effects due to cannabis use. This includes being harmful to the respiratory system, symptoms of obstructive and inflammatory lung disease, an increased risk of lung cancer, and is associated with harmful effects to other organ systems, including the reproductive, gastrointestinal, and immunologic systems. Overall, Wilkinson agrees that there is potential benefit to the use of marijuana from a medical standpoint but only if major reforms are made that ensure safety. He questions how it is possible that marijuana does not undergo the same rigorous approval process that other medications prescribed by physicians are obligated to go through. Wilkinson argues that the potential benefits of legalization do not compare to the vast amount of negative health effects and issues it would bring to society.

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Despite the claims made by Wilkison, there are strong arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana as well. In an article titled, The Benefits of Marijuana Legalization and Regulation, from the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, author and director of legal affairs Tamar Todd argues this opposing standpoint. Her main claim is the economic benefits that have been produced and are showing continuous gains through states that have already legalized marijuana. Another includes the emphasis on the importance of decriminalizing marijuana for reasons such as the immense waste of public resources. For example, enforcing marijuana laws costs about 3.6 billion per year. Over the past twenty years, the police departments in the United States have made over ten million arrests for marijuana possession.This is not only wasting money but wasting the time of officers and those in the legal system who could have been enforcing real crime and ensuring a safe society.

However, with the system in place of criminalization all revenue and profit stays in the illicit market. It is estimated by The Congressional Research Service Projects that eradicating criminalization and instilling taxation and regulation through legalization then the U.S. would yield a potential 6.8 billion in excise taxes. The states who have already legalized have produced substantial tax revenue, such as Colorado which collected between 2014 and 2017 over six hundred million dollars. This money goes back in to these states, improving schools, assisting in substance use disorder treatment and prevention, and public safety. In the states that have legalized arrests for marijuana, possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana have dropped significantly. In turn, these states are now creating jobs flourishing the economy even more. The industry of legal marijuana now employs approximately two hundred thousand workers. Through these statistics Todd is able to show how there is a source available to produce billions and save resources but instead the profits are being circulated in the illicit market. Todd argues that by legalizing marijuana the economy will be able to flourish and the government can successfully profit off the new industry.

In addition to the better economic situation legalization would produce, it is also aid in the injust criminalization that is currently facing the U.S.. The Potential harm caused by marijuana does not compare to the results that come from being criminalized. It is evident that racial discrimination is a factor in the enforcement of marijuana law. Statistics show minorities and caucasians use and sell marijuana at very similar rates. Despite this, minorities are disproportionately arrested, punished, and fined (Bender). There are higher rates of police arrests for marijuana possession of African Americans than whites in every state and nearly every city and county in the U.S.(Bender). In the states that have legalized there has been a notable decrease in marijuana arrests. However it remains unequal, with minorities still being overrepresented among the people arrested for conduct regarding marijuana that is still illegal. Nonetheless, any reduction of people victimized by these arrests is a positive step forward. If less people are being convicted, less will endure the of the detrimental effects it can have on lives. Not only incarceration but criminalization damage can extend through individuals lifetimes. About one in every seven American adults have used marijuana in the 2018 year according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As well as over half of all American adults have used it in their life, making all these people to have committed a federal drug crime. Therefore, by legalizing the U.S. is able to reduce the numbers of people harmed by a rationally disproportionate criminalization and this is a step in the right direction even though reform is still needed.

A main benefit of legalization also includes the medical benefits produced. There are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers studied to have medicinal applications. Those are cannabidiol (CBD) , which impacts the brain without a high, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has pain relieving properties(Hood) . Many medical professionals question if there is enough research conducted and it is due to the other chemical compounds marijuana contains that has been covered by limited studies. However, with legalization these studies can become achievable while regulating the chemicals to ensure for health safety. It is proven cannabis has anti cancer activates that has been shown through preclinical and clinical data that has concluded that cancer cells reproduce less quickly. It has also been proven that medical marijuana does not just alleviate symptoms, but actually help modify diseases. Cannabis helps moderate autoimmune disorders such as Alzeimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease(Hood). There is also evidence that shows marijuana does no harm to the lungs, unless you also smoke tobacco. Legalization would be able to make conditions safer for users if regulated. A main concern is also that youth rates will increase but according to studies done from states that have legalized this is not the case. Marijuana use by youth in states where marijuana is legal has remained stable or declined(Hood). Overall, by making marijuana legally available to the public it will aid in making sure it used for the right reasons while increasing the safety through regulation.

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Marijuana: to Legalize or Not to Legalize? (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 27, 2022, from
“Marijuana: to Legalize or Not to Legalize?” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
Marijuana: to Legalize or Not to Legalize? [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Sept. 2022].
Marijuana: to Legalize or Not to Legalize? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2022 Sept 27]. Available from:
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