There are many arguments over the legalization of marijuana that have scientific, social and cultural significance. While some like Miron argue that “the drug comes with a long list of negative side effects,” (5) others, including Caulkins et al claim the drug may be no more damaging than alcohol, and, like it or not, its legalization appears well on its way to reality. Given opposing views, the fact is that the approval of alcohol as a legal substance has laid the basic ground work for marijuana legalization.
In some quarters marijuana receives a complete damnation. The White House website rebuts its positive use, citing the 500 various chemicals present in raw marijuana and for the Food and Drug Administration is considered as not meeting safety standards. The Institute of Medicine had declared its smoking as an unsafe delivery method. It has, however, declared its use for medicinal purposes safe. This, at first glance, seems inconsistent and questionable at best. Other websites including NYLN.org suggest that not only is the substance safe, but that banning it is an infringement on personal freedom. Drug Facts, a site sponsored by none other than the Institute on Drug Abuse has suggested the positive use of marijuana as medicinal, pointing out the reality that its legalization can bring a substantial amount of tax revenue into state coffers.
One of the most convincing arguments for legalization often cited is that smoking marijuana is no more damaging from the health perspective than alcohol (Caulkins et al). To many in opposition this seems hypocritical in the face of it on general terms In addition to any obvious arguments, the role of the alcohol industry in Massachusetts is suspected of “bankrolling” the fight against its legalization (Vaccaro). According to Vaccaro, the state’s alcohol industry contributes heavily to anti-marijuana campaigns, with donations from Massachusetts Beer and Wine Distributors totalling $75,000 of the $600,000 donated to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts (Vaccaro). It is ironic that an industry whose product regularly incurs charges of abuse and related health risks would take such a stand against a substance which is similarly charged. It is reasonable to assume the motive is purely economic.
On the other hand, for Miron the argument against seems to discount health considerations in favor of law enforcement issues. Miron fears legalization may lead to over-enforcement against other drugs that will subsequently result in violent push back from dealers. He ignores complex related arguments against alcohol use and addictive substances such as caffeine as health risks. These substances are clearly “legal,” yet they are often charged as detrimental, often more so or at least equal to marijuana.
The Archdiocese of Boston has itself contributed $850,000 to the anti-legalization campaign. Cardinal Sean O’Malley takes the stand that legalization will result in issues related to loss of “memory…and reasoning. (Green) He also sees marijuana as “a gateway to heroin,” and its legalization as an encouragement for outsiders to come to the city to take advantage of its liberal policies. (Green) This argument appears at best slanted and moralistic in nature, since particularly the last charge in a sense denies the reality that marijuana use in Massachusetts is somehow low at this point and will increase if legalized?
The topic as related to Massachusetts currently revolves around the upcoming election, where residents will be given the opportunity to vote on the issue. The Massachusetts court of public opinion at the moment appears in favor of legalization. This could change, however, with the volatile presidential election expected to bring massive turnouts in the state—turnouts that would include increases in voters both on the liberal and conservative side and their various factions which might hold opinions vastly different from populations polled. Attitudes pro and con may be based on the various “sides” steeped in morality and health versus individual rights and marijuana as a fairly benign substance. The main argument, and the one that should win the day, is when compared to alcohol the prohibition of marijuana is difficult if not impossible to justify as being more harmful than the other. Moral justifications aside, the “proofs” that marijuana use leads to harder drug use has been widely debunked and therefore seems precarious at best. Marijuana’s controlled sale can also bring a sufficient amount of revenue to the state through additional fees and taxes.
- Caulkins Jonathan P., Kilmer, Beau and Kleiman, Mark A.R. Marijuana Legalization: What
Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press: New York, 2012.
- DrugFacts: National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- English Mountain Recovery. Teen’s Brain on Marijuana, 2014,
- NYLN.org, NYLN, 23 June 2015, http://nyln.org/19-primary-pros-and-cons-of-legalizing-weed.