Drugs are a growing problem in society and the effects on the economy and crime rate are everywhere. That fact is not up for debate as we are all aware of the negative side of drugs. With that said, drugs are considered to be chemical compounds used to alter a persons mind or body in a specific manner. Marijuana is not created in a lab or otherwise developed. Marijuana, is “produced from the leaves of cannabis sativa” (Odabasi 45). Although people do use marijuana for the effects that it does have on the mind, it is a natural vegetation much like tobacco which is legal to grow, purchase, and use. Marijuana is also being researched for its medical benefits such as cancer treatment and to “provide a relief for those who have to face going through strenuous amounts of chemotherapy to fight cancer from spreading even greater”(Burden). Although medical use of a product constitutes the definition of marijuana as a drug, this still places it in the same categories of many other legal treatments.
So that I am clear, yes under medical terminology, marijuana is a drug just as antibiotics or Tylenol are considered drugs. Under the concept of recreational use, marijuana is a drug just as tobacco or alcohol are considered to be drugs. But let us not forget that the coffee or energy drink that each of you probably consumed this morning either with or for your breakfast, also contains a drug: caffeine. I am assuming that no one here wants to debate whether or not that consumption was legal.
So what is this war on marijuana costing us as a society? An overcrowded prison system, an overworked police force, and an array of new criminal activity that comes from hiding the use of marijuana much like what was seen during the Prohibition when alcohol was deemed to be illegal. The laws that are in place to deter the use of marijuana are in fact creating criminals out of the average Joe. Families are being separated due to incarceration for consumption of a plant that grows naturally in our environment. People are losing their jobs and means to support themselves for the same reason. The police force who should be preventing violent crimes and removing dangerous individuals from the streets are staking out cancer patients who cannot find relief from their symptoms without the use of marijuana. What these laws are costing goes beyond the fines that people pay when they are charged. This is causing a financial deficit that this country cannot afford.
However, in terms of deficits, taxation on tobacco and alcohol products creates a viable income for local, state, and federal governments. The money raised is used to fund a magnitude of services including educational programs and aid to those in need. So let’s look at the possible revenue that could be brought in from the legalization of marijuana. Colorado, in a single day sold over one million dollars in marijuana. The state has a tax rate of 29%. That means that in one day the government made of $290,000. Let me say that again. In one day, the amount of tax revenue that the state of Colorado collected was in excess of $290,00! As they say “Where there is legalization, there is a great chance to make green, and not just the marijuana kind” (Burden).
Not only can the government stand to make a lot of revenue from the legalization of marijuana, but it also would save a lot of wasted spending. The assets that are now currently being used to fight the war on marijuana could be used in other beneficial areas. For example, as I previously mentioned, the police force could be spending its time and money on catching violent criminals. The prison system would be less crowded and the judicial system would save the funds that are being spent to house these inmates. Patients in need of medical marijuana could have access to its benefits without fear of incarceration. Legalizing marijuana would cancel all of the costs that the war on marijuana have created.
Marijuana does not carry the stigma that it once did. In fact, “Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana: Support surged 10 percentage points in the past year, to 58%” (Hunter). Society is showing its support of legalization due to the negative impact that the stated costs have caused. The constant news coverage of the issue of the national has added to the public’s positive opinion of the legalization of marijuana. Keeping in mind that marijuana is natural, the benefits of legalization outweigh the costs of criminalizing the substance, and the public is in favor of legalizing marijuana, there is only one question that is left to ask. If this is a country with a government that is “by the people and for the people” then shouldn’t the government listen to the people and do what is right for the people and legalize marijuana? I say yes!
- Burden, Wes. “Opinion: Legalization of marijuana has financial, health benefits” The Lantern. Jan. 2014. Web. 25 July, 2014.
- Hunter, Jack. “How to win a culture war: young Americans are more pro-drug, pro-gay–and pro-life.” The American Conservative 13.1 (2014): 6+. Academic OneFile. Web. 25 July 2014.
- Odabasi, Mehmet. “Decriminalizing marijuana: understanding marijuana debate through history and policy.” European Scientific Journal 10 (2014): 45+. Academic OneFile. Web. 25 July 2014.