The Legalization of Marijuana in the US
The legalization of marijuana in the US has sparked a lot of debates as several states have legalized the use of both recreational and medicinal cannabis. The recreational possession and sale of marijuana are unlawful based on federal regulations and most states. (American Academy of Pediatrics 585). However, the situation may change due to the widespread legalization of the drug. Various stakeholders have different attitudes regarding the effects of marijuana on the overall health of Americans. The proponents indicate that medical marijuana is efficient in patients with chronic pain and increases appetite for HIV/AIDS patients. However, the adverse effects of the drug such as reduced motor functioning and memory threaten the well-being of the youth population, which is mostly comprised of students. The paper investigates the issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana throughout the country. Thesis statement: Marijuana should be legalized throughout the country.
The Federal Drug Policy outlines a list of illegal drugs in the US including marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc. I am partly conservative and liberal regarding the issue since it is not as black and white as it seems. As a conservative, the drugs enlisted by the national government as illegal have adverse health effects and are the primary sources of funds for street gangs, which leads to the death of innocent Americans. On the liberal side, medical marijuana is an affordable alternative to patients who cannot afford expensive medical care. The American government claims to deliver justice to all in spite of their social status. However, the system seems to target the poor. Cocaine is known as a rich person's drug due to its rareness and exorbitant prices. In high society parties, cocaine is present, yet affluent people are rarely charged with possession. On the other hand, marijuana is among the cheapest illegal drugs, which makes it accessible to the middle class and the poor. Historical racial injustices have led to limited economic empowerment among people of color, more so Latinas and African Americans; this makes the two groups the primary targets of the war against drugs in the US. Therefore, the Federal Drug Policy reduced the adverse impacts of illicit drugs in the US but is also rigged against the poor.
Another topic that sparks debates in the US is Gun Control. According to the constitution, people have a right to own guns; thus, the government will be infringing on their rights if it illegalizes gun ownership; conservatives support this notion — Liberalists state that the government should make changes to gun ownership, e.g., raising the age requirement for shotguns and rifles from 18 to 21. Both parties are right to an extent and should come to a middle ground regarding the issue. The liberalists have a reason to be concerned about the issue due to the rampant incidents of mass shootings in the country. As of November 28th, there have been 323 mass shootings in the US since the beginning of the year. In 2017, the country experienced 346 shootings (Jeffrey). All these incidents call for a national review of the Gun Law. However, certain changes will negatively impact the lives of gun owners. Individuals who participate in shooting and hunting competitions will have to wait three years to be eligible for the same and those below twenty-one will have to give up their careers. Another disadvantage of the decision is that it would leave some individuals vulnerable to criminals as they would not have means of defending themselves. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes changes to the age limit. Instead, it suggests thorough mental health scrutiny of individuals before being allowed to own guns (Killough).
Moreover, the Immigration Policy has resulted in heated political debates, especially regarding the well-being of immigrant children. Conservatives support President Trump's decisions about the Immigration Policy, while liberals indicate that the law does not protect children's rights. As of June 2018, more than 1600 children were separated from their parents. On November 28th, 2018, chaos erupted at the San Ysidro border crossing, where border control officers fired teargas at illegal immigrants trying to forcefully cross the border from Tijuana (Cowan). Liberals condemn President Trump for his border control strategies without analyzing the adverse impacts of an undocumented population in the US. Illegal immigrants can thrive as criminals as the government does not have any of their records. They also make it difficult for people who want to enter the country legally since a high presence of undocumented individuals results in a stereotype of immigrants as criminals. However, President Trump's insistence on building a wall on the Mexico-USA border does not seem objective. To worsen the situation, President Trump indicated that Americans would pay for the wall through taxes. The USA has a more serious use for taxpayer's money than building a wall. The money could be used to improve the healthcare and education sectors, while the government increases the number of border patrol troops and installs better surveillance systems. Furthermore, the use of walls to protect borders is an ancient technique, which seems racist and barbaric.
The legalization of marijuana may reduce crime rates in the country. In Washington and Oregon states, the number of theft and rape cases reduced by thirty and twenty percent respectively only two years after legalization. In Washington and Oregon, the rates of theft and rape declined by 30% and 20% respectively after two years of legalization (Dragone, Prarolo, Vanin, " Zanella, p.10). Other states may have similar benefits if they legalize the drug. The drug trade is the primary source of financing for street gangs. Hence, their operations will be difficult without money to pay their employees and lawyers, as well as bribe law enforcement officers. Innocent civilians are often caught up in drug wars as they may find themselves at locations where rival street gangs engage in street shootouts.
Apart from this, the legalization of marijuana would reduce the prison population in the US, which is the highest in the world (Romano). In 2012, marijuana-related offenders accounted for 12.4% (11,533) of the total number of prisoners for drug-related crimes (93,000) (Taxy, Samuels, " Adams, p. 2). The US governments spend $80 every year on its prison systems (McLaughlin, Pettus-Davis, Brown, Veeh, " Renn, p.3). The legalization of cannabis throughout the country will reduce mass incarceration, thus, reduce government expenditure. Furthermore, it is unfair that on one country some people are imprisoned for the possession of marijuana, while others are free to grow the plant in their houses; this goes against the idea of democracy as it shows favoritism. The legalization of cannabis should not lead to the review of marijuana-related cases with assault charges and weapon possession.
Additionally, the health advantages of medical cannabis should be accessible to all American citizens. Marijuana has been cleared by the FDA for the treatment of nausea/vomiting from chemotherapy, seizures, HIV/AIDS cachexia, and agitation in Alzheimer's disease (Wilkinson, Yarnell, Radhakrishnan, Ball, " D-Souza, p.10.3). The use of medical cannabis helps patients to improve their health. The illegal status of medical marijuana is an injustice to people who could benefit from the drug. The healthcare sector in the country will also benefit from the decision as it would reduce the amount of money used on medicine for the mentioned diseases and redirect the funds elsewhere (e.g., pediatrics).
Also, the federal and state governments will benefit from increased revenue due to taxation. On October 17th, Canada became the second country to legalize recreational marijuana after Uruguay. The Toronto-Dominion Bank predicts that the decision will increase the country's revenue collection by $8 billion by the end of 2019 (Fournier). Some parties may complain of the negative health impacts of marijuana on the American population. However, this notion does not change the fact that marijuana is the most commonly trafficked and used the illicit drug in the country. The government could as well profit from the drug and use the money to provide better services to the people.
Synthesis and Reflection
After the research, I have increased my support for the legalization of marijuana in the US. Marijuana is a drug with more benefits than harm. The illegal status of the drug only allows criminal gangs to fund their activities and prevents patients from accessing the health benefits of marijuana. Marijuana will also help the US to deal with the issue of mass incarceration and reduce expenditure in the prison sector. The research has also helped me to understand that the American government makes decisions depending on the political party (Republican or Democrat) of the responsible parties. People should not place so much importance on the political party but analyze the impacts of their policies on their lives.
American Academy of Pediatrics. "The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update." Pediatrics 135.3 (2015): 584-587. .
Cowan, Jill. "California Today: What Border Chaos Means for San Ysidro." The New York Times (2018). .
Davide Dragone, Giovanni Prarolo, Paolo Vanin, " Giulio Zanella. "Crime and the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana." 2017. .
Fournier, Chris. "Marijuana Will Add $8 Billion to Canada’s economy — At Least on Paper, TD Says." Financial Post (2018). .
Jeffrey, Courtland. Mass Shootings in the U.S.: When, Where They Have Occurred in 2018. 2018. .
Killough, Ashley. Four Huge Obstacles for Congress to do Something on Gun Control. 2018. .
Michael McLaughlin, Carrie Pettus-Davis, Derek Brown, Chris Veeh, and Tanya Renn. "The Economic Burden of Incarceration in the U.S." 2016. .
Romano, Joseph L. "A Study on the Effect of Marijuana Laws on Recidivism." 2015.
Sam Taxy, Julie Samuels, and William Adams. "Drug Offenders in Federal Prison: Estimates of Characteristics Based on Linked Data." 2015. .
Samuel T. Wilkinson, Stephanie Yarnell, Rajiv Radhakrishnan, Samuel A. Ball, and Deepak Cyril D’Souza. "Marijuana Legalization: Impact on on Physicians and Public Health." Annual Review of Medicine (2015): 10.1-10.12.