Marijuana legalization is inevitable despite controversy, because it has health benefits and limited consequences, it begins to tackle the drug war and it creates revenue for states. In the U.S., 23 states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized cannabis. Although the laws are inconsistent with regard to the possession limits ranging from one to 24 ounces, the fact that they have legalized it is a step in the right direction. A Gallup poll result from June 2015 shows that for the first time, 50 percent of Americans favor the legalization of weed. Far from consensus, the poll shows a divided America that has moved from a twelve percent approval rating in 1969, to a half-supportive population.
Because it has significant health benefits for pain relief, cannabis is accepted in 23 states for prescription carrying members. However, there are many potential health benefits of the drug that have not yet been tested by the FDA. The reason these benefits have not been tested is because it is difficult to acquire pot that is always of the same quality and grade that will repeatedly yield conclusive test results. Some preliminary research points to marijuana as a way to treat glaucoma, control epileptic seizures, reverse lung damage, stop the spread of cancer, reduce anxiety and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. The dangers of using the drug have not yet been confirmed because of the same testing challenges. Possible health concerns about marijuana include disorientation, a rapid heart rate, sterility, and depression. The major concern for parents and society alike is that marijuana is a gateway drug that may allow for young users to try other substances. Despite controversy, marijuana legalization is inevitable because the possible benefits, as studied, outweigh the possible consequences that can be proven at this time.
Marijuana is used by 12 percent of the American population. The possession of cannabis without a legal license triggers a low-level drug offense and is responsible for $40 billion of illegal drug trade. If the plant becomes legalized in all states, the demand for illicit sales will end and drug wars related to the plant will cease. Additionally, legalizing marijuana will decriminalize offenses which will likely prevent certain misdemeanor and felony charges. Drug charges affect the course of individuals by impacting their student loans, job prospects, and relationships. In 24 states, marijuana possession can be a third strike felony sending individuals to long prison sentences.
The last and most important benefit of the legalization of cannabis to state legislators should be the ability to regulate and tax the plant. The legalization of marijuana is inevitable despite the controversy because the economy has ebbs and flows and at times states get squeezed to creatively generate more funds. A recession similar to the one of 2008 is bound to yield looser regulations on the substance so that it can be taxed and help build state coffers. According to ArcView, an investment and research firm focused on cannabis, legalization in certain states created a market that grew by 74 percent in 2014 to an industry of 2.4 billion dollars, which is expected to grow to four billion dollars by 2016.
The most outspoken advocates for the legalization of the drug include compassionate democrats such as New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York as well as famed Kentucky Republican, Senator Rand Paul. The most recognized opponents of legalization include key members of the Supreme Court. Marijuana legalization is inevitable despite controversy. Whether it will be a state by state fight or a midnight congressional negotiation, legalization will be long and arduous battle to win.
Opinion By Olivia Uribe-Mutal
Pro-Con – 23 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC
Business Insider – 21 medical benefits of marijuana
The American Prospect – Majority of Americans Now Support Marijuana Legalization
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