The legal status of marijuana is a hot topic – nearly everyone seems to have an opinion.
The drug does have some medical uses and in many places around the world, patients use it to manage their chronic pain. Different cultures believe it has spiritual properties and use it during traditional ceremonies.
But what about legalization for recreational use?
State by state, the legislation around marijuana has been changing over the past few years, and countries like The Netherlands and Canada have legalized the drug country-wide.
Let’s take a look at what people on both sides of the argument are saying about it.
The Pros of Legalizing Marijuana
It could boost the economy: In Canada, the government heavily regulates the sale of marijuana. Legal marijuana is only available through government-run shops and the country’s GDP was boosted by $8.26 billion in its first year of selling legal marijuana.
Regulation makes use safer: When the only place to purchase marijuana is on the streets, there’s always the risk that the drug could be covered with harmful substances like mold or pesticides. By allowing the government to regulate the production and sale of the drug, there’s less chance that a user may inadvertently ingest something poisonous.
Crime goes down: According to an analysis by the ALCU, 88% of the 8.2 million marijuana-related arrests were simply for possession. The legalization of marijuana will give police officers more bandwidth to spend their time searching for and arresting violent and dangerous criminals.
The Cons of Legalizing Marijuana
Marijuana isn’t completely safe: Despite its reputation for being benign, there are negative effects to using marijuana. Contrary to what many believe, marijuana dependency is a real thing. It can also damage the brain, especially in teenagers and young adults whose brains are still developing.
Increased use by teens: Across the US, marijuana use rates among 12- to 17-year-olds are higher in states where the drug is legalized compared to the national average. In 2018, 16% of teens in Colorado and nearly 19% of teens in Alaska have reported using marijuana in the past year. In comparison, the nationwide average of marijuana use in teenagers is just over 12%.
Traffic accidents will rise: Driving under the influence of marijuana is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. While users high on marijuana may feel like they are perfectly capable of driving, the drug still messes with their judgement ability and reaction time. In fact, after marijuana was legalized in Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths rose by 62%.