Legalization of Marijuana in USA

Since marijuana use has historically been controversial, there have been spirited discussions about whether it should be made legal. With their own well-informed opinions on the question, medical specialists, sociologists, politicians, and religious leaders have all weighed in on the debate. The discussion over whether or not marijuana should be legalized, however, centers on how legalization will affect users' health. In addition, some have argued that the legalization of marijuana will lead to the development of a society that is influenced by drugs; hence the reference to a society ridden with potheads.

While a significant number of arguments have been presented on the moral, medical, sociological and societal implications of allowing the use of marijuana; the medical evidence presented on the impact of using marijuana have deemed it a moderately safe substance for recreation use and valuable substance for medical use (Belle-Isle & Hathaway, 2007). This paper will present an argument for the legalization marijuana on the basis of its medical and economic implications to the society.

The benefits that will arise from the legalization of marijuana are various; however, among these are the potential economic contributions that marijuana could present to the economy. In the recent past, Marijuana was a central focus of varied debates that sought to assert different viewpoints especially regarding the implications of its legalization. Consequently, Canada has enacted laws that legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Marijuana was considered an illegal drug whose use or possession was punishable by the law (Morgan, 2011). However, through persistent lobbying and presentation of medical facts, it has been deemed that marijuana no longer poses a threat to the social and moral well-being of its users. These assertions have been supported by various researchers that conclude marijuana does not have similar effects as smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol (Gaidos, 2016). In fact, the reports that supported the legalization of marijuana observed that no deaths had been reported as a consequence of using marijuana.

In an economic perspective, the legalization of marijuana should be allowed because of the potential financial benefits that will result in the form of taxes, creation of employment and increasing wealth for the local communities. It has been estimated that the funds that will be potentially derived from the legalization of marijuana will amount to billions annually (Mizingo 2012). This translates to increased revenue for the governments for use in various projects and creation of employment; hence reducing the incidence of poverty. The persistence of criminal enterprises that trade in illegal marijuana has thrived and continued to rise again and again because of the high value attached to marijuana and its potential to create wealth. It is evident that whether the government agrees or disagrees, a significant number of people, more so, the younger generations are users of recreational marijuana. Therefore, though the drug agencies may disband one or two criminal enterprises that sell illegal marijuana, others will emerge to fill the gap (Earleywine 2002). This is because the market forces of demand and supply will always triumph in the face of legal restrictions.

Problem Statement

Marijuana is often perceived as among the addictive drugs that may have negative impacts on public health. Drug addiction presents a myriad of social and economic problems for communities. While there is numerous literature in the public domain regarding the potential health impacts of using drugs, there is little knowledge regarding the processes and environment within which drugs are made. However, marijuana has been subject to numerous studies that have concluded it is safe to use for recreational and medical purposes. The problem presents in government and non-government institutions that continue to assert that marijuana is an illegal and harmful substance that should not be decriminalized.

Aims of the research

The aim of the study is to demonstrate that marijuana does not have negative effects on the psychosocial and physical health of uses. An examination of various studies and literature on the impacts of using marijuana is expected to demonstrate that it is safe to use for both recreational and medical purposes.

Research Questions

The primary research questions for this studies are;

What are the impacts of using marijuana on public health?

What are the contributions of marijuana in enhancing public health?

What are the economic impacts of legalizing marijuana?

Limitations of Study

As a result of time and resource limitations, the research could not use primary sources such as interviews, observations or tests that could provide comprehensive quantitative data. Therefore, the study relied on existing literature to make the needed inferences regarding the implications of drug abuse on society.

Literature Review

According to Health Canada (2013) the most recent estimate from 2013 claimed there were approximately 40,000 Canadian licensed medical marijuana users that year. In addition, 3 million medical marijuana plants were cultivated, and it is estimated that the medical marijuana market in Canada alone will increase to about $1.3 billion by 2024 (Health Canada, 2013). A significant number of Canadians who have medical marijuana licenses live in British Columbia, and represents approximately 50% of all licensed medical users in Canada, followed by Ontario at about 30% (Health Canada, 2013). As of 2012, Health Canada reported that 28,115 Canadians had authorization to possess dried marijuana. Of those with authorization, 18,063 Canadians had a personal-use production licence, 3,405 Canadians had a designated person production licence, and 5,283 Canadians accessed marijuana from authorized companies by Health Canada (Health Canada, 2013).

Evidence shows that the majority of medical marijuana users administer marijuana daily and multiple times within each day, with average consumption ranging from 17 to 28 grams per week (Earlywine & Van Dam, 2010). In addition, most medical users identified four or fewer puffs as a single dose, and some others reported using one joint as a single dose. Patterns of medical marijuana use are similar across medical conditions and symptoms (Duff, Asbridge & Brochu, 2012). For example, those using marijuana to relieve pain and others using marijuana to control nausea use marijuana in similar frequencies and amounts.

In the general population, marijuana users tend to be younger, male, and with higher reported levels of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. Many marijuana users, both medical and non-medical, report mixing marijuana with tobacco (Belle-Isle & Hathaway, 2007). The majority of medical marijuana users have used marijuana for non-medical purposes prior to therapeutic use. Additionally, one study of medical marijuana users found that they “had a higher income and were more likely to have completed high school compared to the general Canadian population” (Health Canada, 2013).

Marijuana is classified as an illegal drug under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Swift, Gates & Dillon, 2005). Growing marijuana is punishable by the law of up to seven years imprisonment, possessing marijuana up to five years imprisonment, and distributing and selling marijuana up to life imprisonment (Cerdá et al., 2012). Although marijuana is illegal for the general Canadian population, the Canadian courts ruled that there must be access to a legal source of medical marijuana to treat patients suffering from medical illnesses (Cerdá et al., 2012). The Canadian government had concerns regarding the consequences of allowing access to a legal source of medical marijuana as there was an absence of strong evidence of marijuana’s safety and efficacy (Belle-Isle & Hathaway, 2007). In addition, the introduction of medical marijuana laws has been previously associated with a higher prevalence of marijuana use among the general public, although this has been debated (Webb, 2014). On the other hand, having a medical marijuana law is also associated with reduced alcohol, illicit substance, and prescription drug use (Cerdá et al., 2012).

Canadians were allowed to access Marijuana for medical uses by Health Canada under the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) (Health Canada, 2013). Those who were licensed through Health Canada were given options for access Marijuana; a) Purchase dried Marijuana supplied by Health Canada, b) make an application for a licence to produce marijuana for personal use or c) find a designated person with a licence to produce marijuana on their behalf (Health Canada, 2013). However, several years into the program, few Canadians had obtained MMAR approval, and many reported obtaining their supply of medical marijuana through illegal sources which suggested that there were substantial obstacles with MMAR (Health Canada, 2013). Some of the problems with the MMAR included lack of information, product quality concerns, and a confusing application process (Health Canada, 2013).

In response to concerns of efficacy and concerns from stakeholders that the MMAR system was open to abuse, the Government of Canada introduced the “Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations” (MMPR) as of April 1, 2014 (Health Canada, 2014; Webb, 2014). Currently, the only legal way to access marijuana for medical purposes is through commercial Health Canada licensed producers under the new MMPR (Health Canada, 2014). Individuals who are legally allowed to use medical marijuana must have a prescription from an authorized health care practitioner and be registered to order and receive dried medical marijuana from a Health Canada licensed producer (Fischedick et a., 2010).

The MMAR was criticized for having substantial barriers for patients becoming authorized through Health Canada. For example, a Canadian study revealed that those who identified anxiety or depression as the main condition for using medical marijuana were less likely to be legally authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes by Health Canada under the MMAR compared to those with multiple sclerosis and gastrointestinal conditions(Webb, 2014; Health Canada, 2014). On the other hand, the new MMPR regulation may result in easier access to medical marijuana as physicians have control over who can use medical marijuana and physicians may be more flexible with whom they give prescriptions to (Fisher et al., 2011; Health Canada, 2013; Health Canada, 2014). The concern has been raised that the MMPR may be overly flexible allowing Canadians to be able to claim they need marijuana for medical purposes when in reality they want to use marijuana for recreational purposes only. The MMPR is similar to California’s medical marijuana regulation where virtually anyone can get a prescription to use marijuana10. In addition, illegal community-based dispensaries continue to provide marijuana to authorized and unauthorized users.

Since July 8, 2015, Canadian federal courts made a ruling that marijuana users had unfettered rights to the use of products derived from marijuana including “marijuana oils, extractions, and edible marijuana products and that licensed producers may produce and sell these forms of marijuana” (Government of Canada, 2015). Extracts have been used in various types of vaporizers, food products, sprays and drinks (Earlywine & Van Dam, 2010). However, the higher concentrations of cannabinoids in extracts may also increase the risk of some side effects, including mental illness, although this is debatable.

According to Kalant and Porath-Waller (2011), there are currently three synthetic cannabinoid products available in Canadian pharmacies through a prescription for medical use. Marinol®, also known by its generic name dronabinol, contains a synthetic THC in pill form; Cesamet® contains another synthetic derivative of THC in pill form known as nabilone; and Sativex® is an oral spray containing equal proportions of THC and CBD known as nabiximol (Kalant & Porath-Waller, 2011).

Medical marijuana laws have been implemented in a number of other countries in addition to Canada. Marijuana laws in the US are individually governed by each state. There are 24 states, including the District of Columbia, with medical marijuana laws and 11 states with CBD- specific medical marijuana laws (Kalant & Porath-Waller, 2011). In particular, Minnesota’s medical marijuana legislation allows patients with one of the qualifying conditions to use marijuana, but marijuana is only available in non-smoke-able forms. In the Netherlands, since September 1, 2003, medical marijuana has been obtainable through pharmacies and is produced under the control of the Dutch government (Hartman & Huestis, 2013). Additionally, Germany, Italy, and Finland allow prescriptions for medical marijuana and import their medical marijuana from the Dutch government. The broader legal context of marijuana use, including decriminalization and legalization, also differs by country and may have implications for patterns of use and accessibility of medical marijuana (Hartman & Huestis, 2013). According to Mizingo, (2012), the profit potential of legalizing marijuana amounts to billions in revenue for the country and state governments. The implications of a legal recreational drug that can earn these governments such hefty sums of money are irresistible.

Smoking marijuana is the act of inhaling and exhaling smoke that was produced through combustion of marijuana plant material. According to Hazekamp et al. (2006), marijuana can be smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), blunts (cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with a mixture of marijuana and tobacco), in pipes, or in water pipes (bongs). Smoking marijuana results in the fastest onset of action in approximately seven minutes, with higher blood concentrations of cannabinoids compared to other modes of delivery, which may contribute to its popularity. In a survey conducted by Hazekamp et al. (2006) medical marijuana smokers reported requiring around three grams of marijuana per day and requiring a higher number of intakes for effect compared to those who used oral administration.


This chapter examines the selected research methodology that was used towards answering the research questions. The choice of research methods and design will be described that will be used to collect data. IN view of time and resource constraints, the study adopted a qualitative approach.

Creswell, (2008) observes that there are basically “three primary research methodologies that include; quantitative research, qualitative research and mixed methods research methods” (pp. 134). Quantitative research methods are often preferred since they are effective in the collection of quantifiable, accurate and reliable research data that is easily generalized or applied to larger population samples. However, a major drawback of this method is that it is often unreliable in answering the “why” aspects of a problem or issue.

The study adopted a qualitative comprehensive examination of the literature on the implication of marijuana legalization in Canada. Literature material was obtained from various databases including PsycINFO, CINAHL, JSTOR, PUBMED, MEDLINE, NRC and government websites such as Health Canada among others. The search processes involved an elimination process where the relevance of each source and credibility were used to determine its usefulness for the purpose of this research.


The Canadian government cannot win the war against drugs if it does not take affirmative action in as far as the legalization of marijuana is concerned. Though there are those who trade in marijuana as their sole product, a significant number of these criminals have various drugs in their possession. Therefore, the legalization of marijuana will not only save the drug enforcement agencies a significant percent of their resources that are allocated to combating the drug trade, but it will also unmask those criminals using marijuana as a front to sell hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin (Fischedick et a., 2010).

According to research, it has been found that the use of marijuana has mild effects in contrast to the use of alcohol and cigarettes combined (Earleywine 2002). This indicates that among the legalized substances; there are those that are more harmful to human consumption than marijuana. However, the marijuana is demonized not on the basis of scientific evidence but on moral grounds and perceived effects that have not been scientifically proven.

Therefore, the opponents of legalizing marijuana based their arguments on hypocritical notions that are unfounded and unproven. Furthermore, they should consider the impacts of alcohol and tobacco on human health and the number of deaths that have occurred (Earleywine 2010); as a result of using these legal substances. Meanwhile, there are no recorded statistics that associate the cause of death to the use of marijuana. In this respect, it is prudent to state that marijuana as far safer for recreational consumption in contrast to other legalized substances that have continued to cause significant losses in human lives, property and degradation of social behaviour (Fischedick et al., 2010).

However, it is evident that the legalization of marijuana is merely a proliferation of the ideology that a product that has such profit potential as marijuana ought to be legalized for the benefit of the people. Thought he medical benefits for these drugs are indisputable when applied in a controlled medical environment, it is evident that the social and moral implications of marijuana have not changed (Belle-Isle & Hathaway, 2007). It still remains a drug that has the potential to influence people to cause emotional, psychological or physical damage to others or themselves.

However, this fact was not considered when the various state and county governments made a decision to legalize the drug. The fact that it has become the new age drug that has been legalized has legitimized a concept that the society has attempted to prevent for decades, that drug abuse is not justifiable and it is wrong. Essentially, legalization of marijuana sends a message to young people across the world that it is ok to abuse drugs especially if there are medical applications for the drug. Cocaine is a hard drug that is outlawed in most countries including the United States, yet it still has medical applications in a controlled care environment, but it still remains an illegal drug (Morgan, 2011).

The economic arguments presented to justify the legalization of marijuana include the assertion that it will reduce the incidence of poverty. Particularly, marijuana will result in the creation of employment opportunities where young people will have jobs in the growth and sale of the drug. However, these facts fail to consider the fact that though marijuana has not been found to have similar effects such as those of alcohol abuse, it has an impact in people’s ability to think rationally (Earleywine, 2002). The outcomes of increased exposure to these drugs have not been accurately determined; however, a reduced mental capacity has been observed as among the outcomes of continued abuse of marijuana. Therefore, the long-term outcome of a population subjected to the use of marijuana is the development of a population that unproductive, incompetent and erodes creativity (Morgan, 2011). The economic outcomes of marijuana legalization are not disputed; however, the overall social and moral outcomes have not declined. Instead, they have increased since a larger percentage of young people are exposed to the drugs. While it was illegal to acquire marijuana before, it is had been easy to for old and new users to access the drug (Cerdá et al., 2012).


The various government’s including Canada through their policymakers perceive marijuana as a revenue source that translates into taxable incomes and elimination of probation related costs such as the employment of additional drug enforcement officers. The legalization of marijuana is justified since law and regulatory agencies have been running in circles with drug cartels. Essentially, when one criminal enterprise was raided and eliminated, another one or more criminal enterprises emerged in its place. The drug cycle is perpetuated since the drug abusers demand these drugs while the cartels supply them; hence it becomes difficult to intervene.

The eventual legalization of marijuana was inevitable especially if the arguments against the drug were based on its health implications. The mortality rate associated with cigarette smokers and alcohol abuse is significantly high, yet the deaths that are directly linked to the use of marijuana are negligible if any at all. The statistics indicated the link between the cause of death and marijuana do not exist. Therefore, the general consensus is that marijuana is harmless.


Belle-Isle, L., & Hathaway, A. (2007). Barriers to access to medical cannabis for Canadians living with HIV/AIDS. AIDS Care-Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV 19(4), 500-506.

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