Marijuana is a commonly used drug in the United States. To many people, marijuana has a bad reputation because it takes the blame for drug-related crimes and many health concerns.
However, others, regardless of user or non-user, believe that the usage of marijuana is a personal choice that should not be criminalized. The government should legalize recreational marijuana as it is relatively safer than alcohol and tobacco and its sales can boost economic revenue. So what exactly is marijuana? Marijuana is a green mixture of dried Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. People usually smoke marijuana by either rolling it with wrapping paper, using a pipe, or smoking through a bong. Alternatively, marijuana users can also choose to consume the drug by putting it in food or brewing it as tea. Users describe the feeling after smoking or consuming marijuana as ‘high’ and relaxing with an urge for imagination. However, the sensation may vary for each individual. While the substance is legal for recreational purpose in some states such as Colorado and Oregon, it is still a federally illicit drug.
It may seem surprising to many people that the use of marijuana in any form is relatively safer than consuming alcohol or smoking tobacco. It is true that “long-term marijuana use can cause more gum diseases” (Bates). Terrie Moffitt, a professor of neuroscience at Duke University and co-director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, explains that using marijuana for a long period of time “can put people at risk for losing some teeth” (Bates). However, if we look at the deaths caused by marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco, we can see that marijuana is safer to use in comparison. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) provides the statistic of “50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning, 400,000 deaths per year are attributed to tobacco smoking”.
According to the Food & Drugs Administration (FDA), from January 1, 1997 to June 30, 2005, the amount of deaths caused primarily by marijuana is zero. Yes, zero. This can be explained if we take a look at the chemical composition of marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco.According to Dr. Burnett, a former surgeon and an executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, the two known active cannabinoids that are responsible for the ‘high’ feeling in marijuana are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). These two substances are addictive. However, unlike alcohol or nicotine–the active substance found in tobacco products– THC and CBD are not toxic to our body (Burnett). Dr.
Burnett also suggests that “this is in direct contrast to alcohol, where the body’s digestive process creates metabolites such as acetaldehyde and other “reactive oxygen species” which are toxic to the brain and other cells in the body. This is why you have a hangover after drinking large quantities of alcohol.” From time to time, people can get intoxicated by consuming too much alcohol and endanger themselves with alcohol poisoning. Perhaps there is a reason why death knocks on the door of 50,000 alcohol consumers per year and none for cannabis user.It is safe to say that many anti-Cannabis adherents are also against the use of marijuana because they believe the substance is neurologically toxic.
This is a possibility. A long-term study done on 1000 people from Dunedin, New Zealand has shown that “marijuana use is associated with increased risk of psychotic illness and IQ decline” (Bates). However, Dr. Burnett points out that the amount of users that demonstrate this correlation in the study is significantly small; this number is approximately 3.8%. Additionally, these users smoke marijuana more regularly and for a prolonged period of time compared to an average user. That being said, even though it is possible that marijuana can harm you neurologically, it will likely occur only when you use them without moderation.
Additionally, the sale of marijuana will be beneficial to the economy. VS Strategies–a firm specializes in marijuana policy and marijuana advocacy–informs that the state of Colorado “has pulled in $506 million since retail sales began in January 2014. That includes taxes and fees from medical marijuana, which was legalized years earlier, but the vast majority of the revenue came from recreational” (Smith). The tax money from recreational marijuana sales can be used to improve the community and strengthen welfare. According to VS Strategies, Colorado state “has spent most of the money on schools. Smaller chunks have gone to drug prevention and treatment programs and to regulating the marijuana industry” (Smith).
Banning the use of recreational marijuana will not solve the underlying problem of people using them. By legalizing marijuana, we can use the tax profited from its sales to fund schools and provide more drugs education for children.It is true that there is a possible environmental cost when it comes to growing marijuana.
According to the Internal Park Service, after the wildfire incident from illegally growing marijuana happened in the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California, the cost for full cleanup and restoration of the land was estimated “to range from $14900 to $17700 per acre.” (Office of National Drug Control Policy). However, this incident happened due to illegal cannabis grow. Without any regulation or restriction, growing marijuana can be harmful and damaging to the environment. The environmental cost is a possibility, but we can reduce this cost with proper regulation and restriction.
For example, we can employ policy to restrict the amount of Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica an individual can plant in order to prevent people from growing Cannabis plants excessively. By legalizing marijuana, we can also legally require cannabis growers to obtain an appropriate license which requires them to have the knowledge of growing cannabis safely. This will prevent further incidents like the wildfire incident in the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California.When used responsibly, marijuana is not an evil drug as it is safer to use compared to alcohol and tobacco. It has the ability to strengthen our economy, improve welfare, and benefit us with its sale tax.
There are certainly health-related problems and environmental cost when people grow and use marijuana. However, this can be reduced with moderation, regulation, and proper restriction. If we decriminalize the use of recreational marijuana, we can focus on fighting more serious drug-related crimes, the consumers will be protected under proper regulation, and its sale tax will grow our economy in a positive way.