July 21, 2014
The Effects of Legalizing Marijuana
One of the most controversial issues in America, to date, is the debate on legalizing marijuana. Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is the most commonly used illegal drugs in the country. It is used around the world for medical treatment and recreational use. The increase of medical marijuana as an acceptable way to lessen the effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients, treat arthritis, prevent seizures and combat pain, have added to the growing support of legalization. Those in favor of legalizing marijuana say taxing and regulating the drug could financially benefit a state’s economy. Those against it, like law enforcement officials and substance abuse professionals, cite health hazards including respiratory memory and mental problems. The arguments vary. Although cannabis is illegal under federal law, 21 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized it for recreational use. Given the various arguments, marijuana should not be legalized for medical or recreational use because the passing of such laws are proven to be more harmful than helpful.
It is illegal in the United States to sell, possess or use marijuana. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (21 CFR 1308.11 - SCHEDULE I.). Schedule I says that it is illegal to possess or use marijuana under federal law. Drugs under Schedule I have “a high potential for abuse and have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States….” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2012, pp. 1, 34). After the government declared marijuana a Schedule I drug, states started to pass their own laws that addressed medicinal marijuana usage. Though states have passed these laws, the federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug. However, the federal government has said that it will not challenge the passage of legal recreational marijuana laws in Colorado, Washington, or any other state that may decide to make it legal.
The effects of marijuana cause many to oppose the use and legalization of the drug. It is harmful in many ways. In the article, North Americans’ Attitudes Toward Illegal Drugs, Millhorn, et al. (2009) the author states,
Despite the reported medical benefits, there is ongoing opposition to the legalization of marijuana, mainly because of health concerns. Some medical professionals believe that marijuana poses more of a cancer risk than tobacco and that marijuana causes damage to the brain, lungs and heart. (p. 127)
Marijuana is prescribed to adults and children, and it is feared that the long-term use of it will cause the continued use of it beyond treatment. Becoming addicted to the drug for children could have damaging effects. Children could become teenagers that abuse drugs, and eventually adults who abuse drugs. Arguably, marijuana is considered the gateway to stronger substances such as cocaine, crack and heroin. Although it is considered to be one of the least dangerous of all illegal drugs, some believe that any drug use, medicinal or otherwise, is abuse especially when it prohibits the user’s ability to function normally. “Long-term use of marijuana can be linked to various health problems including cardiovascular dysfunction, poor motor functions and breathing problems.” (p. 131) Depression, schizophrenia and other mental issues are also linked to marijuana use.
For years, marijuana has been recognized as an alternative medicine. Those who advocate for its legalization, make claims of the drug combating issues and diseases such as glaucoma, epileptic seizures, Acquired Immunodeficiancy Syndrome (AIDS), aiding with symptoms from chemotherapy, and other conditions. The use of cannabis is not new. According to Bostwick, MD (2012), in the 18th and