For centuries cannabis has been used as a medicine, a material to make rope with, and a recreational drug. In 2005, the U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of criminalizing the growth, sale, possession, selling, and distribution of it. In The Great Gatsby, prohibition played a crucial role in U.S. socio-political culture. Today, the legalization of marijuana is a point of contention that has divided the country for the past century. Legalization on the federal level would bring many benefits to a country with soaring crime rates and crippling debt.
The American Dream grants the individual the ability to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Perhaps, this notion can be applied broadly, but in the case of marijuana, criminalization permits unwarranted government intrusion of the expression of said liberty and happiness. It is ironic that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco which are both legal and heavily regulated within the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration), but is still criminalized. Prescription drugs even kill 300k people a year and are not criminalized. Thus, there is no reason why marijuana should not be legal. Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., or better known as Snoop Dogg has advocated for marijuana since the 1980s, exposing the severity of aging defects as a result of alcohol abuse as opposed to marijuana. Why would you want to look 10 years younger than you are?
Criminalization places a burden on the criminal justice system. “In 2018, it accounted for 3.3% of sale/manufacturing drug crime arrests and 36.8% of possession and use.” Many of these arrests are youths and these busts require harsh punishment that can affect them socially and in the workplace. These arrests can significantly damage the likelihood of job opportunities. These criminals generally lay in the lower class, which already creates an increased susceptibility to crime and violence and further diminishes opportunity due to little or poor education. If marijuana were to be legalized, lifelong consequences like a permanent record would not be a struggle youths would have to overcome. According to Joe Rogan, “prisons are for rapists, thieves, and murderers. If you lock someone up for smoking a plant that makes them happy, then you’re the criminal.” Legalization would not only free up prison space that much rather should be filled by such people, but it would allow for regulation that would bankrupt black market drug dealers and effectually destroy the rebellious attraction that ensnared the juveniles originally.
Criminalization causes more harm than good economically and legalization is more profitable as marijuana is “one of America’s best-selling agricultural products”. The Colorado Department of Revenue claims, “combined four-year sales of marijuana for that state since 2014 has topped $7.6 billion.” Legalization would allow the industry to produce $106.7 billion annually for all facets of government including local, state, and federal governments. Experts like Glenn Blake and Jack Gafferty have estimated $29 billion is spent annually on drug prohibition, which can be saved and put to better use. President H.W. Bush left the White House with a budget of over $12 billion to fight “the war on drugs” which did nothing to combat drugs from arriving on American soil. By creating, “more prisons, more jails, more courts, [and] more prosecutors”, he drove the biggest single increase in the history of U.S. drug enforcement with $1.5 billion for the federal police to spend and increased the budget 100,000 percent, just to establish a military presence in Columbia (Plan Columbia). Foreign intervention as a result of the war on drugs created casualties and resulted in undesirable consequences that could have been avoided altogether if the U.S.government had seized a capitalistic opportunity that would save them millions. The millions of dollars saved on law enforcement, prison costs, legal costs, and hospital costs are all long-term effects that attest to financial benefit, not to mention the extra income from sales tax and licensing fees (i.e. production facilities, retailers.)
In addition to economic benefits, medicinal utility offers aid to patients suffering from glaucoma, AIDS, and cancer offering relief from pain, muscle spasms (e.g. multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders), and nausea (often a result of chemotherapy or anorexia). These patients find that marijuana stimulates their immune system, mental health (e.g. mood regulation, anxiety, sleep disorders, etc.), neurological plasticity, cardiovascular health, and metabolic processes. Specifically, medical marijuana is used to treat anxiety, depression, and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease due to its anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, neuroprotective, and anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and anti-emetic properties. Most tests that have been conducted to gauge marijuana’s medicinal benefit have been on CBD, which is an active compound in medical marijuana and has been shown to serve as a neuroprotective in neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases. CBD also has shown its effectiveness in immune system and emotional and cognitive regulation, which involves appetite, learning, and digestion. Gregory T. Carter, MD, a clinical professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Washington claims, marijuana is “remarkably safe with no potential for overdose.” Certainly, given all its medical applications, medical marijuana should be adopted by all states to improve the physical and mental health of the suffering American.
Criminalizing marijuana creates harm and does nothing to alleviate addiction and drugs from circulating the American population. It puts the impoverished youth at a higher risk and unnecessarily destroys their future if prosecuted. It only intrudes on the American’s God-given and constitutionally granted right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” On the other hand, legalization not only offers financial benefit, but also aids in medical treatment for ailing patients all over the world. All but six states have legalized medicinal marijuana and the rest of the country should follow suit as a pre-requisite to a healthier future. Those who fear the abuse of marijuana misunderstand that there are no documented deaths attributed to it and there are plenty of things that can be abused in the world that are not criminalized, like fast food which quite frankly, leaves harsher effects than marijuana. Richard Neville characterizes marijuana addiction in the sense that “most pleasant things in life are worth endlessly repeating.”