Marijuana is a drug originating from the cannabis sativa plant that has stimulating effect to the human brain. It can be smoked or taken in by mixing it with food or a drink. Various names have been used to refer to the drug with hashish referring to the concentrated marijuana which is oily and black in color. Other names given to the drugs include the holy weed, or holy grass, others refer to is as pot, Mary Jane, dope, hydro, bhang, and indo. To some extent, the drug has medicinal value since it contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabino (THC) chemical which stimulates the brain.
Most people take marijuana for fun as well as due to frustrations in life. Like any other drug, marijuana affects the way the human body functions and excessive use of it leads to addiction, a condition that may prove fatal if not checked in good time. In most countries, the use of drug is illegal and the mare possession of it is a criminal offence, although some nations have legalized it. Legalization of the drug in the United States of America has been a subject of debate for some time. Some proponents of legalization claim that it has a great economical value while others claim that legalization will be a step towards eradicating the black market and reducing the cases sale of the drug to the minors. Moreover, fighting the drug abuse when the authorities have the facts will be more effective than when the consumption is done in hiding. This paper will discuss the importance of legalizing marijuana in the US and more so, on the economic and social value it will have to the nation.
The Federal government introduced laws and policies to curb the use of Marijuana in the states, which include Uniform State Narcotic Act (in 1930’s) and the Controlled Substances Act in 1970’s, both of which made marijuana illegal in the US. The Controlled Substances Act described marijuana or cannabis as unsafe for human consumption and that it did not contain any medical value as viewed by some advocates of its legalization. Other laws like the Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs of 1936 and Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 criminalized all actions of cultivation, production, manufacture, and distribution, thus making the state bound to stop the activities related to marijuana totally (Office of Applied Studies para.7).
According to US Policy on Drugs (para. 2) the US antinarcotics authorities have been aggressive in fighting the use of the drug with more arrests being made on possession or sale of marijuana than arrests for other criminal activities. This high rate of arrests points to the fact that the use of marijuana is not a fight that can be won easily unless the government has the facts to make necessary law reforms on marijuana use.
The passing and enactment of the Acts that criminalized marijuana was surrounded with a lot of misinterpretation of facts and misguided information. To some extent, fear and racism played a part in the decision as the drug was seen to be consumed mostly by the African Americans and Hispanic. Other factors that influenced the passing of the Acts were protection of society from drug abuse, yellow journalism (which include false statements in media) and ignorance of the facts underlying the consumption of the drug. With real facts and true information that is given by good research, then the government should intervene and legalize marijuana. Countries where marijuana is legal include Jamaica, Belgium, and Colombia and the use of the drug is restricted to persons over 18 years. Grown ups are said to have the mental capacity to make moral decisions as to what is right or wrong and therefore restricting them will be wastage of taxpayers’ money which can be used in other meaningful social and economic projects. Given this fact the government should review the laws that criminalize marijuana and leave people to make their own decisions.
In the US, the statistics provided by the US Policy on Drugs (para. 5) indicate that there were no marijuana related deaths yet other drugs including alcohol, tobacco, and other legal drugs were seen to cause the majority of drug related deaths. Other surveys of Monitoring the Future as cited in US drug Enforcement administration show “16.5% of eighth graders, 34.1% of tenth graders, and 44.8% of twelfth graders, reported a lifetime use of marijuana” in 2005 (Office of Applied Studies para.7). Other surveys indicated that around 40% of high school students have smoked or used marijuana at least once in their life. No matter what the authority does, those who smoke marijuana will still continue to use it regardless of the law put in place to check on drug use. With the given facts and figures the government should evaluate the situation in order to formulate better policies that are not going to fail.
Reasons for legalizing
The above statistics clearly show that marijuana is proving to be expensive if the arrests made on marijuana dealers and users are to be taken into consideration. With the arrests of marijuana users and dealers surpassing even the arrests of the hardcore criminals (including murderers, rapists, robbers and thieves), the amount of money spent by the justice system is enormous given that the drug does not even have long lasting health problems according to the US Policy on Drugs (para. 3 and para. 6). The Drug Reporter (para.1) indicates that a lot of resources are being wasted in the name of fighting marijuana yet the fight is not about to be won by the government. Time spent in the courts and jails by the victims should have been utilized elsewhere effectively, and the resource used to monitor the drug should be used to monitor other harmful drugs that cannot be of any economic value.
The plant Cannabis sativa is used for the production of marijuana but most importantly produce hemp; hemp is the fiber in the plant stem. In the old and also modern times, hemp has been used in the production of rope, sails, and clothes. Hemp is also used in producing marine cordage, and parachutes. It is also used as a bio fuel, in paper making, and as a nutrient additive since its seeds contain essential amino acids. The use of industrial hemp is unlimited with it inclusion in livestock feeds, body care products, molded plastics, and as livestock beddings. The government continues to import some of these products while all it can do is to allow the cultivation, use and consumption of cannabis which will enhance the availability of such useful products in the country at cheaper and affordable prices to the citizens. Moreover, just like the plantations of other major cash crops, marijuana commercialization will be an effective source of raw material of industries that manufacture bio fuel, and animal feeds (it will also aid in enhancing the development of livestock farming). The government’s responsibility of ensuring a good life for it citizens can said to be not attained in such policies.
Medically, cannabis has been known to treat cases of nausea, vomiting, weight loss and appetite loss. The drug is said to contain compounds like cannabinoids and THC which are the basis of cannabis medical usage. The medical use of marijuana has been practiced in some countries like Canada, India and China for some time and despite the perception that it is an illicit drug, it has been found to be helpful to patients suffering from Aids, epilepsy, anorexia, asthma and sclerosis, as well as being a pain killer (mall and Marcus para. 67). Moreover, the neighboring country, Canada, has authorized cultivation (through on private firms) of cannabis for medical research. The US government ignores the fact that the legalization of marijuana will enhance more research of its other medical uses which will be economically viable. Medications from this drug have been proved to work like any other drug in the countries that have tested it and therefore US should follow suit.
According to the data from National Institute of Drug Abuse as cited in the US Policy on Drugs (para. 6) cigarettes and other legal and illegal drugs are shown to be more fatal than marijuana and most of the drug related diseases like cancer, liver problems and birth defects are not linked to marijuana in any way. For example, marijuana is medically said to have four times less the level of tar than that in cigarettes. If cigarettes are legal why then discriminate on marijuana. Pot has never caused death due to overdose, nor has any death resulted due to consumption of marijuana (Drug Reporter para.4). In deed, US Policy on Drugs (para. 6) notes that, although marijuana may cause short term memory loss, there are no long term health effects associated with marijuana and to a great extent, the use of marijuana through mixing it with food (non-smoking methods) can totally eliminate respiratory health hazards. This is a very clear indication that those who criminalized the weed were up for personal gains, and not the shortcomings of the weed.
Taxation of marijuana can generate huge funding for the government; this huge income from marijuana could be more than that it gets from the courts through penalties and fines to those found in illegal procession of marijuana. The approximated tax revenues would give the government a second thought to legalize marijuana. A report by Miron (cited in CNN Money para 1) that gives the prospective annual income by state through marijuana taxation and based on the consumption of marijuana indicates that “California would yield $105.4 million, New York $65.5million, Florida $48.2 million, and Texas $46.6 million, Ohio $34.8 million, Michigan $32.4million, Illinois $31.6million, Pennsylvania $30.5 million, Washington $22.0 million, and Virginia $20.9 million, for the top ten, totaling to $437.9 million” (CNN Money para.1). These taxes can be used to develop other major and important social infrastructures as well as improving the per capita income of the nation.
With this kind of income or revenue, a government can spark huge economic growth. In addition to tax, trading in marijuana will enhance household income levels as it will serve as a source of income to many people either directly or indirectly. The government should do a cost/benefit analysis in order to realize the potential income lost from making marijuana illegal. The government should also embark on a plan to legalize the herb, since it is economically viable.
Given the criminalization, most of the marijuana in the US comes from Mexico or Canada due to trans-border trading flexibility. The money involved is earned by drug barons who control the borders and ports. Money from the American economy flows to the barons illegally, giving the US negative effects due to the money laundering. Legalizing the weed will reduce flow of the US currency to international gangs. The barons are getting rich at the expense of the American people and the effect is repatriation of money from the American economy yet the same money cold have benefited the residents of US through legalization of the drug.
Legalizing marijuana will lead to other harmful drugs in the illegal markets being reduced. This is because when it is legal the resources that could be used to counter its use will be directed to other drugs. The channels that were used to distribute bhang in its illegal status will also be identified and help the authorities to track other illegal drugs (Schlosser, 2004, p. 69).
It is medically proven that the use of pot, does not lead to use of other drugs. This is to mean that, those who use bhang are not likely to upgrade to other harmful drugs. In deed, the only harmful effect that can be evidenced is cause of lethargic behavior. Legalizing it therefore can reduce exposures to others drugs in the illegal market. The government should use such kind of measures to curb other non-medically used illegal drugs such as cocaine, which people upgrade to from cigarettes and alcohol. People will use marijuana to be ‘high’, and since it will be legal then the other drugs will be forsaken by many hence reducing their markets and consequently their distribution (Schlosser, 2004, p. 69).
There are indications that the use of marijuana is a common habit and making it illegal has not stopped people from consuming it. Some people will and must consume it whether it is legal or not. They are driven by the passion for the drug or its stimulating effect. The majority of these people are the ones who cause the illegal trafficking of the drugs that lead to some of the said repercussion, like outflow of US money to foreign barons of drugs and perpetration of other drugs black market. The interest of this group of citizens should be considered since they can become an integral part of the economy, otherwise confining them to prison will be detrimental to the entrepreneurial sector of the economy.
Statistics have very clearly indicated that the general use of cannabis at about 25 million people annually (National Survey on Drug Use & Health para.9). People are harassed by the law enforcers just because of their selfish interest. The government should have the fate of such citizens in mind since no matter what it does; they will still consume marijuana (Babbie, 2007, p. 57). The use of pot by the youth and secondary school children is a shocking revelation; mainly these youths use drugs to experiment their bodies. With many young people having consumed marijuana at least once during their life, it shows how much trafficking is going on illegally.
Just like alcohol, legalizing marijuana to the age of majority would leave the government in a position to effectively control the use among the school children and young generation at large. This would involve ensuring that the businesses dealing with the drug are put under strict regulation so as to monitor the young. The government is giving a blind eye to the facts and it is time it realizes what it means when such drugs reach school going children. The main reason for the sale of marijuana is the profits involved in it; the mare illegality makes it even more expensive.
Arrests due to marijuana have continued to be a racism issue, where it targets the black Americans and Hispanics. Why then can’t they legalize it? People have the right and freedom to use what they want, especially the grown ups. This is why they should be given the right to choose the drug to consume anywhere, anytime, and in any way. The legal system has proved to violate this right of individuals for long but to the staunch followers of the drug, not even the government laws and policies can stand in their way of using the weed. Continuous arrests have been made, and fines asked for, but the use still goes on.
With the facts and figures the government has on marijuana, it should go back to the drawing board to check on its war against the drug and come up with policies that will reasonably benefit the society. Whether the fight against the drugs has been effective or not lies on the statistics the government collects annually, and the reactions from those who consume the products and the weed itself. The government now is better informed and wise on the uses and benefits of marijuana. The bad motives and misleading ideas that led to the criminating of the herb have now been reputed by scientific facts. The ball lies on the government’s court to give the citizens what they have been waiting for. The benefits given range from medical, to food and nutrition, to body care products, to paper, to fabric, textiles and rope, to fuel, plastic alternatives and building materials (Small, & Marcus para.8). The US government is staring at the chance to increase income, to protect the young from drug abuse, among other benefits that will be involved in legalizing marijuana. The US needs to join other major producers of hemp from cannabis plants like the Soviet Union, China, Hungary, Romania, Poland, France and Italy.
If the US is not fast enough, Canada and Mexico will continue to reap benefits from the illegal trade from marijuana. Past decades have seen America loose the war against the weed use and production, yet the government has continued to be ignorant with much cultivation and use in some states especially the northern part bordering Canada. The acceptance of the weed in some states of the medical marijuana is a close step to allowing and legalizing its use. If the US government is reluctant on the quick legalization then it should ask for empirical evidence of medical value of marijuana from the countries that have legalized it.
Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research. KY: Cengage learning. 2007. Web.
CNN Money. “CNN project marijuana tax revenue for every US state”. CNN Money. N.d. 2009. Web.
Drug Reporter. “The Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal”. Drug Reporter. 2007. Web.
Office of Applied Studies. “2007 National Survey on Drug Use & Health: National Results.” National Survey on Drug Use & Health: National Results. Web.
Schlosser, Eric. Reefer madness: sex, drugs, and cheap labor in the American black market. 2004. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Web.
Small, Ernest & Marcus, David. Hemp: A new crop with new uses for North America. 2002. Web.
“Us policy on drugs.” legalizationofmarijuana.com. N.d. 2009. Web.