It is almost impossible for a week to go by without driving or walking by someone or something that reeks of the scent of marijuana. Marijuana is easily available to the public and it is quite popular among young adults (CPHA). The fact that the criminalization of marijuana exists is also obvious. Government and society should change their policies and thoughts towards this popular recreational drug. Decriminalizing marijuana results in saving billions of dollars in government spending and it further increases the use of the drug for medical benefits. The funds used to combat against marijuana can be better used to support the sale and consumption of the drug as a controlled substance. The social and economic consequences of criminalizing the use of marijuana far outweigh the benefits and therefore, the use and possession of marijuana should be decriminalized.
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. There are incredible social and economic costs associated with the criminalization of marijuana. In terms of the social costs, many people are arrested for possession of and/or selling marijuana and are incarcerated as a result, often for many years. Some of these people are normally law-abiding citizens with no other criminal activity. Once incarcerated, families are left without, usually, father figures. The social impact of an absent father figure is far-reaching. As well, the increased use of marijuana by young people is increasing and so a cycle of cause and effect begins (CCSA). The economic costs revolve around the cost of policing and administering justice to the accused. Funds used for marijuana related issues can be better spent on the eradication of trafficking of hard-core drugs. There are medical benefits associated with the use of marijuana and the Government of Canada recognizes and legislates its use (Government of Canada). Marijuana can be used to treat glaucoma as it decreases the pressure on the eye that glaucoma patients suffer from, and slows down the progress of the disease (Welsh and Loria). In the same way that legal substances are controlled, marijuana can also be controlled in order to maintain public order. For example, cigarettes cannot be sold to minors and the same principle and policies can be applied to marijuana use. Currently, the uncontrolled use of marijuana, especially among under aged individuals, is unregulated. One of the dangers in this practice for users, of all ages, is that the actual composition of the marijuana joint cannot be ascertained. The joint can be mixed with other unknown substances and this can lead to serious health consequences if the unknown substances are hazardous.
Marijuana is addictive and legalizing the drug will be an acceptance of a substance that can cause great personal and societal problems. Even if there is regulation put in place to address sale of the substance, there will always be individuals and informal organizations seeking to sell the drug at a lower price and, thereby, developing a black market for the drug. The current issues of gang violence, criminal activity and social issues associated with the drug, will not disappear but simply take a different form.
While many people experience a relaxing effect from smoking marijuana, there are others who experience forgetfulness, concentration problems, delayed reactions, severe anxiety, panic attacks, and can become paranoid (CPHA; Fried, Watkinson, James, & Robert Gray, 2002; 887-889). Some users become addicted to the drug and this affects their lives in a negative manner (Health Canada, 2005, 49-51; Degenhardt & Hall, 2008, 1685-1686).
Marijuana use is not similar to controlled substances like alcohol. When using marijuana there is the risk of impairing the immune system, of short-term memory loss, and the possible risk of brain damage. In areas where marijuana use was legalized, communities have found that there are not enough regulations monitoring use, growing regulations, sanitary storage, sales and tax regulations, for example. Legalizing the drug will mean developing an institutional infrastructure for the whole continuum of growth to consumption of the marijuana.
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After reviewing the above arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana, this paper stands by the argument that marijuana should be legalized. The reasons for this decision are that by legalizing marijuana, marijuana consumption will not change. The same people who currently use marijuana will continue to do so and in a safer manner. Institution of social, health and legal safeguards around growth, sale, tax collection, and consumption of the drug, will more effectively control the substance than existing practices. The vast sums of money now spent by local, provincial and federal governments trying to combat the illegal use and sale of the drug, not to mention the judicial and incarceration costs for those arrested for marijuana related activities, can be better diverted towards control of the marijuana market. As well, the confirmed medical uses of marijuana more than justify the legalization of the drug, particularly in terms of relieving pain and treating cancers and seizures. There are individuals who use marijuana for religious rites and rituals, and these individuals should not be condemned for this use, but should be able to integrate marijuana use without fear of conviction.
To conclude, this paper argues for the decriminalization of marijuana primarily because the substance is better controlled and monitored through legal means than through the prohibitive means of the justice system. In the same way in which controlled substances like alcohol and cigarettes can be controlled, there can be controlled systems instituted in order to discourage inappropriate use of the drug. As there are age restrictions regarding alcohol and cigarettes, there can also be age restrictions regarding marijuana use. The identified medical uses suggest that there might be even more health benefits that can be identified from the substance, and decriminalizing marijuana might spur more research and development to find medical uses for marijuana.
- CCSA. (2016). Marijuana and Youth. Retrieved July 5, 2016, from Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse: http://www.ccsa.ca/Eng/topics/Marijuana/Marijuana-and-Youth/Pages/default.aspx
- CPHA. (n.d.). How does marijuana affect health? Retrieved July 5, 2016, from Canada's Public Health Leader: http://www.cpha.ca/en/programs/portals/substance/health/faq02.aspx
- Degenhardt, L., & Hall, W. (2008). Research: The adverse effects of cannabinoids: implications for use of medical marijuana. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178, 1685-1686.
- Fried, P., Watkinson, B., James, D., & Robert Gray, R. (2002). Current and former marijuana use: preliminary findings of a longitudinal study of effects on IQ in young adults. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 166, 887-891.
- Government of Canada. (2015, Aug 6). Drugs and Health Products. Retrieved July 5, 2016, from Government of Canada: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/marihuana/info/licencedproducer-producteurautorise/regulatory-reglementation-eng.php
- Health Canada. (2005). Canadian Addiction Survey (CAS): A national survey of Canadians’ use of alcohol and other drugs. Health Canada.
- Welsh, J., & Loria, K. (2014, April 20). 23 Health Benefits Of Marijuana. Retrieved July 5, 2016, from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-2014-4
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