Should the U.S. Government Legalize Marijuana?

There have been many recent pushes by the public for the government to legalize marijuana in the United States. While only a small number of states including Colorado have legalized weed in their respective states, the growing popularity of weed’s classification as a legal substance is making this a national issue. This paper will argue that the marijuana should be legalized in the United States by pointing out the costs of prohibiting a drug that many consider to be harmless and considering the benefits that the country may experience through legalization.

Recently, a clear majority of Americans favored legalization according to a Gallup poll. The majority of those who support the legalization argue that the “drug is generally harmless and is no more dangerous than alcohol” (Carroll). Even President Obama has mentioned the harm levels of marijuana, and claimed that it is no more dangerous than alcohol. The supporters believe that if substances such as alcohol or cigarettes are legal for purchase in the United States, than marijuana should also be legal.

However, research shows that marijuana can affect the health of its users. It can affect “one’s short-term memory, cognitive functions, coordination and balance, and in large doses, users can experience acute psychosis, which can include hallucinations and delusions” (Carroll). There has been a rise of car deaths by marijuana users in recent years, due to the effects of marijuana on the brain, and greater use of the drug may present more dangers such as this. Whether the drug is legal or illegal, it is responsible for affecting the brain in these ways, namely in reducing cognitive abilities and memory.

Though this may be a significant argument against the legalization of marijuana, the costs of making it illegal may be worse than the effects that can arise from taking heavy doses and repetitive use. Marijuana is banned by federal law, but “in practice, governed by an incoherent patchwork of state regulations, and further muddled by staggering disparities in enforcement and punishment” (Hakim and Combs). The possibility of disrupting neurological development in children and having an onset of psychiatric disorders may not be as high of a cost as prohibiting the drug.

Alcohol also has negative effects on the brain and the body, which are responsible for deaths from overdose, but these negative effects do not make this substance illegal in the country. Keeping marijuana illegal carries the high prices tag of “arresting and jailing thousands upon thousands of young Americans each year” (Hakim and Combs). Cannabis arrests represent about half of all drug arrests, but legalization would reduce the number of prisoners who possessed marijuana and would save taxpayers money by reducing the U.S. prison population. On the other hand, legal taxation of “marijuana can provide needed and generous funding of many important criminal justice and social programs” (“10 Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal”).

Prohibition has not only failed to control the distribution of alcohol, but it has also failed to control the use and domestic production of marijuana. The government has continued to use criminal penalties to prevent marijuana use for many years, but is “now used by over 25 million people annually” (“10 Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal”). Finally, if marijuana becomes legal, it can get rid of the black market of marijuana trade, make it an agricultural crop for legal purchase and selling, and include it as a development for new energy resource to reduce carbon emissions. By doing so, the country’s economy may become more efficient since it has a new product to capitalize on.

Marijuana does pose some dangers as stated by researchers, but the costs of keeping it prohibited may have greater social consequences than making it legal. Legalizing marijuana can lead to using the crop to boost the economy, funding many social programs, and bettering relations with other countries that have legal markets for marijuana. In conclusion, keeping marijuana illegal may continue to keep the foreseeable path to success up in smoke.