Over the years, public opposition to the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana has dwindled. Polling data released by Pew Research Center on Oct. 12 showed that 66 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans favor legalizing the drug.
When it comes to legalization or decriminalization, there are a few things we ought to consider.
Firstly, what is the difference between decriminalization and legalization? As explained by The Economist, legalization is pretty self-explanatory: marijuana would be regulated and taxed by the government the same way alcohol is. Under the decriminalization model, usage would still violate the law but the penalty would be far less (for instance, you would likely not be given a criminal record).
I favor legalization, for a number of reasons.
Let me preface my defense of legalization by saying that I know there are long-term negative effects of weed, and anyone who tries to frame it as being a miracle drug is misinformed.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the drug can affect brain development in chronic users who start at a young age. Add to that the possibility of breathing and heart rate problems, problems during pregnancy, worsening of some mental issues and (contrary to popular belief) dependence.
However, my issue is that none of this makes marijuana look worse than alcohol. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has the facts. You can die or go into a coma simply by drinking too much in one sitting; you can catch cancer, suffer liver failure or get a stroke from prolonged usage. I could go on but that’s a discussion for another time.
I am only bringing this up because I have the audacity to think that our laws should be consistent. The prohibition of weed is, at best, hypocritical.
One benefit of a regulated market is that marijuana would be safer because there would be standards for its production. It is not uncommon to see cannabis products being recalled for having possibly dangerous pesticides, as happened in Denver, Colorado in February this year. A black market has no such concern for the health of the users.
Another thing to consider is that the economy would see billions of taxable dollars flowing into the legitimate market over the years. CNN Money has reported that, in the year following the 2014 legalization of marijuana in Colorado, the state made 53 million dollars in tax revenue.
That’s only one state, and an only moderately-populated one at that. Consider also the humanitarian good that defunding the cartels could do. Much of our marijuana does come from south of the border, after all.
According to the LA Times, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump support medical marijuana. More locally, any Tennesseans looking to get a good, legal high are going to be waiting a long time. The Tennessean reports that Governor Bill Haslam opposes decriminalization, citing concerns about substance abuse.
As of now, all we can do is let politicians know how we feel. There are surely more important issues out there. I just find it sad that people are locked away and made criminals by such a silly set of laws; it is an attack on the dignity of the American people.
The true justification for legalization is not getting high, but acknowledging the right of ordinary, peaceful people to make informed decisions about their bodies.