Posted: November 29th, 2013
Potential Legalization of Marijuana in California
Many people, who have had a taste of marijuana, used the drug when they were teens. They found a way to use weed, as it is popularly known, although it is illegal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly used abuse drug in America. Most of the drug users are teenagers and young adults. Research indicates moderate to high use of marijuana by middle school and high school students. In 2009, 11.8% of eighth graders used marijuana that year, while 26.7% of tenth graders used the drug. Results were much higher in the 12th grade, where 32.8% of them reported using marijuana. Marijuana use accounted for more than 374, 000 emergency department visits in 2008 (NIDA). These statistics indicate that marijuana use is more prevalent in the society, than most people care to admit. These statistics are a cause of concern, especially considering that it is illegal to sell and use marijuana in America. Although this is the case, the government has legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, proposed legalizing cannabis in California. According to the Act, people the age of 21 or over, could possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow the drug for personal use. The act prohibited the use of the drug while driving, in schools, and in public places. It prohibited people from using the drug whenever there were minors present. Marijuana has serious side effects, and using it affects people’s health. The paper will analyze the issues surrounding the potential legalization of marijuana, by examining the pros and cons of the drug.
In the US, it is illegal to sell marijuana, and many of the people get the drug through dealers, intermediaries, and drug cartels. Drug cartels are especially powerful in places like Mexico, where the illegal drugs business is rampant. Supporters of legalization claim that it will become more difficult for the dealers and the drug cartels to operate once the drug is legalized. They perceive that legalizing the drug will place the authorities in a better position to control and regulate it. This is because the government will instill several measures concerning the sale of the drugs. They argue that it is easier for teenagers to get cannabis, than it is for them to get alcohol. There are strict measures concerning the sale of alcohol, and sellers know that it is illegal to sell alcohol to minors. They know that doing so will result to heavy fines or sentencing. Instilling this fear on the people who sell cannabis will reduce the chances of minors using the drugs. Legalizing the drug will lead to a domino effect for all the factors of production and distribution in the system (Beddow and Thibodeaux 7). There are many crimes linked to illegal drug trade, especially relating to the drug cartels (Beddow and Thibodeaux 35). Drug cartels fight as they try to take over territories, and this increases the crime rate. Legalizing marijuana will decrease violence and crime. Legalizing marijuana will reduce the amount of money that government spends on correctional facilities. Dealers of marijuana are arrested, and they are arraigned in court once they are detained. If they are convicted, they serve jail time, and they have a criminal record. In the year 2000, the number of adult arrests in New York accounted for 15% of all adult arrests (Golub, Johnson and Dunlap 131-160)
Legalizing marijuana could benefit the state economically. This is especially beneficial for states such as California, which are cash strapped and in need of funds. The local government is trying to come up with ways of raising money, without imposing more taxes on people. Other than getting sales from the sale of the drug, the government can also impose taxes. Many governments have benefited from the taxes imposed on drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol. Collecting taxes from marijuana would be a way for the government to increase its revenues. Moreover, the government can penalize and fine the people caught buying drugs in illegal places, using the drug in public places, or exposing the drug to minors. The penalty and fines would go towards increasing the government’s income, and towards disciplining the people who are caught using the drug (Kussman 219). Legalizing marijuana would also grow and develop the economy by providing jobs. A significant number of jobs would be created in the growing of cannabis, production and distribution. Legalizing marijuana will ensure that the government controls all the processes of production. Government regulated marijuana will be free from fungi and microorganisms, contaminants, and dangerous pesticides and fertilizers. More research will be done on the government because of the available resources. The researchers will be able to eliminate some of the harmful effects of the drug. This will make the drug safer for people to use.
Many states in the US have decriminalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Physicians use marijuana as a treatment, and as a way for patients to withstand the effects of the treatment. Physicians recommend marijuana to their patients for the treating pain, nausea, and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. They also recommend it to patients suffering from weight loss as an effect of AIDS (Clark 40). Marijuana also helps to relive the muscle spasms that occur because of multiple sclerosis (Clark 41). Marijuana helps in decreasing the intraocular pressure for people with glaucoma (Clark 45). Some people do not support the use of marijuana because of the toxic effects of the smoke. Legalizing marijuana will make it safer because, drug manufacturers will be able to produce the drug in form of capsules, patches and inhalers, thus lessening the harmful effects on the lungs (Clark 46).
Many critics oppose the legalization of marijuana, not only in California but in other places as well. Those who oppose using the drug cite the effects that the drug has on a person’s health, especially the brain. Using marijuana at an early age interrupts the process of maturity and growth in children. Adolescents who use marijuana have subtle abnormalities in their brain structure. During adolescence, the brain develops and it increases its efficiency and specialization. It does this by eliminating unnecessary neural connections, and this reduces the cortical gray matter. The higher order association in the brain develops, and they provide faster communication between the frontal brain region and the cognitive control. When a person uses marijuana, he or she affects the brain, and consequently affects the identified vital processes (Jacobus et al.559-565).
Marijuana use among adolescents affects learning. Adolescents who use marijuana have disadvantaged attention and processing speed. They have a greater risk of lowering their performance and grade while in school and future unemployment. (Jacobus et al. 559-565). Marijuana use among adolescents affects their sleep patterns. Most adolescents who use marijuana have sleep deprivation. Sleep is a vital component in a person’s development, especially neural development. Neural development affects the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development. Adolescents who are deprived of sleep have problems with their behavior and emotions. Adolescents who smoke marijuana have a greater risk of having psychosocial and behavioral problems. For instance, they have higher rates of school dropouts, delinquency, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies (Walker et al. 629).
Marijuana affects a person’s psychological state. Physicians have linked it to depressive and anxiety disorders. The drug has several side effects, which affects the users’ health. For instance, when started at a young age, the drug can lead to addiction. Many people who start using the drug at an earlier age increase their chance of developing drug dependence as an adult. Children, who start using marijuana in their early adolescence, are likely to use other illegal drugs. Teenagers, who start smoking marijuana before they are seventeen years, are more likely to report abuse or dependence of alcohol or other illegal drugs as adults (Bernstein et al. 1174). Many habitual users find it hard to stop using the drug, when they want to do so. Other than addiction, marijuana causes distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, and difficulties in solving problems (Kussman 218-219). Using marijuana increases the heart rate and impairs the memory. Using marijuana affects a person’s critical skills. This means that it affects their ability to use machinery and vehicles. People under the influence of marijuana should not operate machinery because they are not able to judge and react well. Some of the people who use marijuana have contracted pulmonary fungal infections because marijuana can be contaminated by microorganisms and fungi (Clark 44). Many people claim that marijuana is more effective when smoked, whether it is for medicinal or recreational purposes. However, marijuana smoke is toxic, and dangerous to human health.
Legalizing cannabis means that people will increase their production of resources. Already, people are finding creative, albeit illegal ways of growing the drug. They are using public land such as parks. They are finding ways of irrigating the plant, using the scarce resources that are available. Water is a scarce resource, and the government is struggling to ensure that all the citizens have water. Those growing cannabis are making matters worse, since they are reducing the available resources. Growing cannabis is not good for the environment. The farmers use a lot of fertilizers and pesticides to grow the crop. This affects the environment because it leads to pollution of water and land.
Legalizing marijuana would escalate the social problems that the society is experiencing. Evidence of this is the effects of alcohol and cigarettes on the society. There are very strict rules concerning driving under the influence of alcohol, yet more people continue to die and suffer injuries because of drunk driving. People continue to struggle with alcohol and cigarette related health problems such as cancers and addiction. They visit rehab with the expectation that they will get over their alcohol problems. There is no need adding to the social problems that plague the society. Legalizing marijuana will pass the wrong message to people, especially to the children who might not understand it well. People might think that the government legalizes drugs. if this happens, it will be hard to convince others who might advocate for the legalization of other hard drugs. Drugs such as cocaine have medicinal advantages, and doctors use them for various purposes. People might call for the legalization of such drugs citing, their medicinal benefits. There has to be a limit to what the society allows, for the sake of future generations.
Using marijuana seems to have several health and economic benefits. It can lead to the development of the economy because of the taxes, penalties and fines that are imposed on those who use or handle the drugs in any way. It can also reduce the unemployment rate by creating jobs in the production, manufacturing and distributing processes. Despite these benefits, marijuana use affects people’s health negatively. Many people who have used marijuana started at an early age. Most of them started in their adolescence. Adolescence is a period of growth, and it is a critical stage of brain development. The use of marijuana affects the brain in many ways, and this affects learning. It also leads to dependence of other drugs, and it is addictive. People with any form of drug addiction are not productive. They do not contribute to building the economy, and perhaps the only economic sector that would grow if marijuana were legalized is the sector dealing with marijuana.
Beddow, D. Mendez and Thibodeaux, J. Sam. Gangrillas: The Unspoken Pros and Cons of Legalizing Drugs. United Kingdom: Trafford Publishing, 2010. Print
Bernstein, Edward et al. “Screening and Brief Intervention to reduce Marijuana Use among Youth and Young Adults in a Pediatric Emergency Department.” Academic Emergency Medicine 16 (2009): 1174-1185
Clark, Peter. “The Ethics of Medical Marijuana: Government Restrictions vs. Medical Necessity.” Journal of Public Health Policy 21 (2000): 40-60
Golub, Andrew, Bruce D. Johnson and Eloise Dunlap. “The Race/Ethnicity Disparity in Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests in New York City.” Criminol Public Policy. 6 (2007): 131–164.
Jacobus, J. et al. “Functional Consequences of Marijuana Use in Adolescents.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 92 (2009): 559-565
Kussman, Eric. De-Comprehensive Politics: Getting America Back to the Basics. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2011. Print
NIDA. Research Reports: Marijuana Abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sep. 2010. Web. 17 May 2012
Rowe, C. Thomas. Federal Narcotics Laws and the War on Drugs: Money down a Rat Hole. New York, NY: Routledge, 2006
Walker, D. Denise et al. “Motivational Enhancement Therapy for Adolescent Marijuana Users: A Preliminary Randomized Trial.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 74 (2006): 628-632
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