The Case for Legalizing Marijuana

I usually don’t like publishing answers that can potentially cause political and ethical opinions to collide with one another. In spite of that, I think that this is an issue of utmost importance; one that we should deal with concerning community rather than moral inclinations.

In other words, when discussing such controversial issues like the one at hand, it is wise to put ideological beliefs – such as liberalism and conservatism – aside to value a more logical, yet counter-intuitive approach to the subject. There are people currently suffering due to the lack of marijuana-based medicine around the world. Not only that, crime has just been rising as a result of the lack of decriminalization and legalization of this substance.

Do I think marijuana should be legal? Yes, I do. I do think it should be legal. In fact, sometimes I believe that the absence of regulatory laws that can make this substance legalized is many times unjustified. What I mean by this is that there are numerous instances that local governments fail to see the benefits that marijuana can bring to the people in need. In my search for a more explicit interpretation, I might just have found the answers to my most pressing questions.

As mentioned, I firmly believe that marijuana should be legalized – not only for medical reasons but as a recreational substance as well. Although I have no interest in using it, it is somewhat counter-intuitive that a drug that is significantly less harmful than two of the most widely used ones – tobacco and alcohol, which multiple studies reveal to be an accurate claim – is illegal in many areas of the world [1]. As the National Institute of Health explains, “the toxicological MOE approach validates epidemiological and social science-based drug ranking approaches especially in regard to the positions of alcohol and tobacco (high risk) and cannabis (low risk),” meaning that the extensive amount of research regarding marijuana has concluded that alcohol and tobacco are indeed more physically and psychologically harmful.

Captura de Tela 2018-02-22 às 11.26.15.pngFurthermore, it can be argued that there has been an exponential amount of more studies related to tobacco and alcohol effects precisely because its usage has been active for a longer time. However, it is important to realize that although weed usage has not been around for as long, the research equipment that associates with the testing of different substances in the modern age is tens of times more capable of depicting accurate measures.

Additionally, I believe that a very significant way legal cannabis is used is to treat specific diseases which only this substance can do. Sadly, many figures of authority are afflicted by the legality stance of marijuana throughout the world. In fact, some years ago I watched a Brazilian documentary called Ilegal – A Vida Não Espera, about a girl and her mom striving to treat the little child from a rare form of epilepsy; a treatment that could only work with the usage of the cannabis plant. It is emotional, thought-provoking, and it makes you realize the number of people we could treat by legalizing this drug, at the least for medical purposes. Also, even though the girl from the movie is part of an incredibly small percentage of people with these diseases, the point still stands that cannabis would help the girl in treating herself. A helpful analogy is that of abortion: the cases of rape are a tiny fragment of all women who undergo an abortion, but people still use this situation as the predominant argument in favor of it.

If this substance were to be legalized, I would argue that its market should be controlled the same way as any other drug. Besides, the illegal weed market – and drug trade, for that matter – would not be significantly affected if marijuana was decriminalized. Based on average cognitive behavior, what marijuana smokers would do if the drug were legalized, is to go to a store that provides it. The drug traffickers, knowing that the drug was decriminalized, would continue their trade in a non-criminal manner. The notion that weed sellers would change their market strategy by resorting to another drug due to the legalization of marijuana (such as heroin or cocaine) is something inarguably and virtually false. That’s because the supply and demand standard would drastically change their business, possibly modifying their occupation as a drug trafficker as well, even though the majority of these people don’t leave their job because of their socio-economic status.

All of this reminds me of why the War on Drugs commanded by ex-POTUS Richard Nixon was an inarguable failure. By intervening into the United States’ illegal drug trade, the administration diverted from another solution which would not only create a compromise between opposing parties, as it would settle the situation in an egalitarian way: by legalizing it [2]. Despite that, the 70s were a different era; a time when the reality of the young generation using an abundant amount of drugs ended up scaring the American administration of that time.

Captura de Tela 2018-02-22 às 11.23.09.png

You got it all wrong, Mr. Nixon: it is legalizing weed that can reduce crime.

Another helpful point to address is the difference between decriminalization and legalization. Decriminalization means that something is not regarded as a criminal offense but it is still illegal, whereas legalization is the legal market of that substance. Interestingly, several countries are legalizing marijuana, which consequently also leads to the decriminalization of the drug. Experts suggest that politicians are increasingly taking note of the benefits that the legalization of weed can bring to society. For example, some governments that seek revenue are considering the legalization measure as a means of increasing the percentage of their GDP, which analysts conclude is most likely an efficient way of doing that.

Before transitioning to a more radical procedure such as completely legalizing the drug, several countries, such as Canada, resorted to imposing taxes on the decriminalized substance initially. Later on, Canadian authorities soon legalized the drug after a significant amount of time having the status of decriminalized. As a result, their economy significantly boosted – making the marijuana market responsible for an unbelievable 40% of the Canadian population. According to a poll made by the company Deloitte,“legalized marijuana in Canada would be worth up to $22.6B per year,” as stated in the title.

Captura de Tela 2018-02-22 às 11.24.43.png

Thirdly, there is also the claim that marijuana is a “gateway drug.” I never truly understood this statement, as all drugs can be considered a path to other substances depending on the way that it makes you feel, and how interested you become to other alternatives of the same sensation. Although there are inarguable biological truths, it is often that these processes change depending on the person’s body and guidance regarding their health.

I believe that a fallacy concerning this claim is that weed has mainly been known as a drug heavily focused on the young generation, who are people who don’t have their brains as developed as adults. As a result, people whose mind’s lack of resistance to weed equates to their curiosity to experiment with other drugs being higher than expected. Contrary to this circumstance, older people are more biologically capable of using tobacco and alcohol and not feel the urge to use other illicit substances:

The balance of rewarding vs. aversive effects of drugs of abuse is tipped toward a reward in adolescents, as shown in place preference, place aversion, and taste aversion studies. This could increase consumption of drugs of abuse by adolescents […]. Adolescents are consistently less sensitive to withdrawal effects. This could both promote drug use in early stages and protect against the development of compulsive drug seeking after long-term use.” In other words, “early exposure to cannabinoids in adolescent rodents decreases the reactivity of brain dopamine reward centers later in adulthood. To the extent that these findings generalize to humans, this could help explain the increased vulnerability for addiction to other substances of misuse later in life that most epidemiological studies have reported for people who begin marijuana use early in life (link!).

Along with that, even though there are points that can refute marijuana as being a “gateway” drug, I still believe it to be true, as I consider all of them potentially able to hook people into other illegal and dangerous narcotics.

Moreover, it is my intuition to assume that the number of people that use cannabis would increase if marijuana were legalized, while the use of other illegal drugs would decrease, although not in a large percentage. Firstly, individuals who buy marijuana illegally would immediately divert to the legal way of doing that once the substance has been legalized, consequently lessening the weed trafficking of that country. However, this does not mean the complete eradication of the trafficking system, due to the many people who are faced with the prospect of not affording it legally but still being able to buy it through traffickers at a lower price.

Secondly, many people who are interested in cannabis but who are not willing to insert themselves into an illegal environment just to acquire the drug indicate that the legal weed market would conglomerate much more users than the total number of smokers that there was before the legalization.

Captura de Tela 2018-02-22 às 11.27.06.png

Marijuana trafficking in Las Vegas.

Lastly, although it is abundantly clear that I am in favor of the legalization, I still completely agree with some of the setbacks that are caused by this substance. One of them, for instance, is the smokers’ illusions that since marijuana is natural, it can’t be as dangerous in relation to artificial drugs, meaning that one can’t be seriously harmed because of it on the long-term. Although there has never been a reported case of weed overdose, the bad aspects of the substance – such as memory loss – will always be there, just like any other drug. Even so, many times the weed that is being sold goes through some process which drastically modifies it.

Lastly, I could go much further into the political and cultural implications of marijuana. I could talk about Obama’s beneficial shortening for drug offender’s penalties, for instance (Obama shortens sentences for more drug offenders). Or I could analyze two experimental groups – Portugal and more recently Uruguay. But I think that this is “enough” to outline my preliminary thoughts on weed legalization. More than causing people to think about this issue, I wrote this as a means of clarifying what cannabis represents to our world at the current moment. Overall, I just wish that my words can establish some insight to those people who are in favor or against this substance. Thanks!

Footnotes:

[1] Lachenmeier, Dirk W., and Jürgen Rehm. “Comparative Risk Assessment of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis and Other Illicit Drugs Using the Margin of Exposure Approach.”Scientific Reports. Nature Publishing Group, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 June 2017.

[2] Coyne, Christopher J., and Abigail R. Hall. “Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs.” Cato Institute. Cato Institute, 12 Apr. 2017. Web. 28 June 2017.

Note: I apologize if I didn’t cite all the sources. As you can see, I decided just to link them midway through.

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