According to Randal and O 'leary (1998), marijuana, or cannabis sativa is a plant that contains more than four hundred chemicals. A psychoactive agent known as THC is found in the plant which usually activates the consumers each and every time they use it. For a very long time, the issue of legalization of marijuana has been one of the greatest subjects that have raised controversies not only in the United States of America, but around the entire globe. In the US, some states such as Arizona and California have legalized the use of marijuana. In these states, marijuana was legalized through the passage of law in 1996, citing its medical benefits. The law was opposed by many people for a long time; most of them believing that consumers of marijuana are subjected to dangerous impairment. However, those who supported the use of marijuana argued in favour of its positive outcomes in the field of medicine. As controversial as this subject may be, legalization of marijuana has both positive and negative effects to its consumers. As such, Randal and O 'leary (1998) advise that the issue of legalization of marijuana should be handled with great care.
The Impact of Legalizing Marijuana
Legalization of marijuana may bring about different social impacts in communities where it is legalized. For instance, it may inevitably create a new and very powerful industry in a draining economy. Socially, some people argue that legalization of marijuana may create good correlation among the members of a given society. They believe that smokers will digress from having conflicts with other members of the society due to the relaxing effect of marijuana. Consequently, the society will benefit at large since there will be peaceful co-existence of individuals. Apart from conflicts being reduced, the ongoing ones will be resolved amicably. In addition, communities will gain from the legalization as the upcoming experts would help in educating the society on the effects of its consumption. Proponents of legalization of marijuana argue that increased enrollment of marijuana smokers would boost the local economy as well. Nevertheless, it should be noted that although communities may incur positive outcomes from the legalization of marijuana, especially in terms of economic growth, the plant may also impact negatively on the members of the society.
It is worthy to note that prohibition of marijuana has not helped in the reduction of its consumption. In many cases, the consumption and production of marijuana has become rampant, and its control failed, even after it has been prohibited. As such, some people argue that legalization of marijuana will help in allowing it to be consumed in a responsible way. The US government has tried to use criminal penalties to reduce consumption of marijuana for over 75 years in vain. Today, the number of people consuming marijuana is estimated to be more than 25 million in the US. In fact, it is alleged that the largest cash crop in the US is cannabis sativa. It is therefore ridiculous to argue that prohibition of marijuana is a successful policy. According to Kassirer & Bakalar (1997), banning of the use of drugs in most cases increases the use of the drug. Marijuana is used as a contact drug. Research has proved that people who use drugs like cocaine and heroin start with marijuana and end up using hard drugs that are easily available to them. Marijuana is convenient to most people since it is readily available (Pope, 2000).
Onstand (1997) argues that legalization of marijuana will expose more children to the drug. This is a major threat to the healthy laws which prohibit children from accessing harmful drugs. At their tender age, children don’t have the competence of responsibility, and they can not make sound judgments like adults. They are therefore vulnerable to substances like alcohol and cigarettes (Eidelman & Voth, 2000). Marijuana hugely affects the growth and development of brain cells and impairs the bodies of children who use it. Its abuse leads to physical and mental damage. Generally, the use of marijuana may result to brain damage, misery, mental disorder, lung damage and in some cases death.
The use of marijuana may also result to the loss of memory. Consequently, this makes the victim to encounter difficulties in solving simple problems. The effects of smoke-damage to secondhand smokers have also increased with the wider use of marijuana. Smoking of marijuana poses many dangers to non-smokers just like cigarettes. If legalized, there will be increased chances that many people will suffer the damage of inhaling the smoke. This is because public places such as bars will expose innocent people like patrons and other drinkers to the smoke. Governments across the world have a responsibility of protecting the public from such substances.
How the media has described the drug issue
According to a recent survey carried out by partnership for Drug-Free America, the findings indicate that many teenagers in the US adopt the lifestyle of rock or rap music artists which is highly characterized by the use drugs. 42% of the 2000 teenagers who participated in the survey were found to use rock and rap music to justify marijuana consumption. Research shows that television, movies and music mostly aim at normalizing certain kinds of unhealthy characters in the society. The media also teaches about drugs and through that, children and other consumers get vital information regarding consumption and its impacts. Nevertheless, the media contradicts itself when it warns the masses on the usage of drugs while at the same time encouraging consumption. The media should play a significant role in the society through public education. It should educate the public and regulate advertisements. It is imperative to note that in as much as marijuana is highly valuable in the field of medicine, it is also potentially dangerous when its consumption is improperly administered or used alongside other medication. As far as they are concerned, drugs are always at the spotlight for any negative deeds experienced in the society. The media accents that tragedies which happen in the society are not all about drugs; however, they link the consumption of marijuana with evil deeds in the society and the larger communities in general. Distortion, exaggeration, inaccuracy and sensational labels are applied consistently to reporting issues that relate to drugs and print media. The involvement of media in the subject of legalization of marijuana encourages while at the same time discouraging its consumption thus portraying a paradoxical or contradicting perspective.
Costs and benefits of the legalization of marijuana
The amount of money spent by the US government in fighting drugs is very high. The cost of arresting and prosecuting the illegal drug peddlers or black market drugs can be put to some other useful economic activity. The other cost to drug wars is revenue loss by the government not collecting taxes on the illegal drugs.
Based on the argument presented above, it is very apparent that marijuana should be legalized: Marijuana should be legalized as it has many positive outcomes opposed to the perception of those who are against (Pope, 2000). For instance medical marijuana has successfully helped many patients to relieve pain. Secondly those who chose to use it do so on their own will hence they should not be interfered. Some of the side effects of marijuana are used for relaxing purpose which makes it manageable. On the other hand, Drugs are associated with physical and brain damage according to experts. However, Legalization should not be based on these claims because everyone has a right to make their own decision and have to be accorded that liberty
The whole debate on whether or not marijuana should be legalized must eventually come to an end with its legalization. We cannot claim that a substance is prohibited and yet it is readily available to school going children. There are many reasons as to why marijuana has to be made legal, most importantly; the medical value of marijuana cannot be overlooked, secondly it can be used as an alternative source of bio-fuel to reduce carbon emission among other important reasons. Therefore it should be legalized as prohibition has not helped solve any problem (Nieves & Archibald, 2001).
If marijuana is not legalized, many world economies will continue losing a lot of funds fighting a war that will never be won. They will also lose a lot of money in maintaining those arrested in prison for food, shelter, hiring attorneys, medical services and other requirements hence burdening the tax payer. The use of marijuana will continue to rise with or without its legalization as everyone has access to it today. The way forward is allowing those who want to use it liberty to do so.