Legalization of Marijuana in the United States Author: Heidi Heffron-Clark ENGL112ON_AC: Composition Professor: Julie Joki Talk about a hot topic! Marijuana and the discussion surrounding full legalization of the substance in the United States, has been creating a stir for many years now. Some people feel that there is no need to legalize another drug and take the risk of allowing it to get into the hands of children or people that may not be exposed to it if were not legal.
Others say that if we legalize marijuana, it’s the start of a slippery slope that might lead to attempts to legalize other drugs. To the contrary, there are also many people, myself included, that feel that the risks of legalizing marijuana in the United States are minimal compared to the potential benefits. Legalizing any drug is going to come with a lot of debate and resistance, but the great benefits of legalizing this particular drug need to be seriously considered, and there has never been a better time to do so.
Amazing health benefits that include both preventing illnesses and treating symptoms of diseases, economy boosting benefits resulting from legalization, regulation and taxation and the fact that it has been successfully legalized in other countries all lead to the conclusion that the legalization of marijuana in the United States is the right thing to do for the sake of the entire country! One of the greatest reasons to consider legalization of marijuana would be due to the immense medicinal benefits that marijuana provides.
Medicinal marijuana is beneficial in the treatment and prevention of many different illnesses including, but not limited to, cancer, Tourette’s, OCD, Multiple Sclerosis, Seizures, Migraines, Glaucoma, ADD/ADHD, Crohn’s, and Alzheimer’s. If marijuana were legalized and regulated, people suffering from any of these illnesses would have an alternative to current medications with horrible side effects. It could also be something that is eventually covered by insurance or available affordably over the counter, saving people a great deal of money on their already expensive health care costs.
One of the deadliest diseases that could potentially reap considerable benefits from the legalization of marijuana is cancer. Cancer treatments and medications tend to have horrific side effects. One of those side effects is the extreme nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy, radiation and other anticancer drugs. Cancer patients usually receive antiemetics to help control the nausea and vomiting but there really is no single solution to reduce those symptoms in all patients.
Antiemetics in multiple combinations seem to work well for some; however some doctors and scientists believe that THC (the active marijuana constituent) may be the best treatment for many others. The U. S. FDA has already approved the use of THC for treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have not responded to the standard antiemetic drugs (National Cancer Institute, 2000). If we have already considered certain levels of THC to be legally acceptable, why not look further into the benefits of what a broader scale legalization could do for the medical field and suffering patients?
In addition to nausea and vomiting, other common symptoms in cancer patients are the loss of appetite, loss of desire to eat, and incomplete absorption of nutrients which leads to anorexia and/or cachexia. “Maintenance of body weight and adequate nutritional status can help patients feel and look better, and maintain or improve their performance. It may also help them better tolerate cancer therapy” (National Cancer Institute, 2000). THC can help counteract the loss of appetite and desire to eat, which in turn could help the patient not only feel better, but potentially tolerate the treatments better as well.
Although we will probably never be able to cure all diseases, if marijuana helps aid in treatment or helps slow down the progression of certain illnesses, isn’t it worth legalizing? Temple University researchers have been studying more effective ways to treat multiple sclerosis utilizing synthetic cannabinoids based on the chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Their research focuses mainly on the cannabinoids that are found in both the human body and the marijuana plant in an effort to help control the activation of the human body’s immune cells. Controlling and calming the body’s immune system is a key factor in fighting MS. ‘This is a totally new approach to treating this disease,’ says Adler, director emeritus and senior advisor for CSAR and Laura H. Carnell professor of pharmacology research. ‘These cannabinoids hold enormous potential, and that’s encouraging since we’re limited in options when it comes to preventing or reversing MS’” (Temple University, 2009). The use of marijuana not just as a way to ease pain but as a way to actually slow down the progression of a disease like MS and to help build the body’s immune system to better fight the disease is an amazing benefit that should not be taken lightly.
In addition to helping treat cancer and prevent MS, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have found that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, inhibits the formation of amyloid plaque, the primary pathological marker for Alzheimer’s disease. Their study results have shown that THC “‘may provide an improved therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease’ that would treat ‘both the symptoms and progression’ of the disease”(Scripps Research Institute, 2006).
In fact, their research has found THC to be considerably more effective than some of the currently prescribed, FDA approved drugs for Alzheimer’s treatment. Furthermore, marijuana has also been linked to successful treatments for migraine headaches, ADD, ADHD, seizures, Tourette’s syndrome, and PMS related symptoms. Not only has it been successful in the treatment of these illnesses, in some cases, it’s actually less harmful than the current legal, approved, and prescribed medications being used to treat them.
If the fact that it’s currently considered an “illegal substance” was taken out of play and some random doctor or scientist suddenly discovered marijuana and let the public know that it contained chemicals that had all of the above medicinal benefits (with very few side effects), it would be legalized, regulated, and distributed immediately – as it should be! Medicinal benefits aside, the legalization could not only financially benefit our country, in a time when we desperately need financial benefits, it would actually help assist in the decriminalization of the drug. Why not ake the money, power and control over this substance away from the criminals in this country and give it to the working class, the FDA, and the local and federal governments? One immediate benefit would be the creation of jobs and income for working class citizens, and farmers.
The legalization of something like marijuana would probably be regulated and distributed similar to the way tobacco is in the United States. Currently in the US, tobacco farm managers earn approximately $66,000 per year (which breaks down to an hourly wage of about $32/hour) and there are over 3600 of them employed nationally (My Majors. om, 2010). I am positive that there are people in our country right now that would be more than willing to take a job that pays that kind of salary. In addition to the farmers, there would obviously be jobs created in the cultivating, manufacturing, and distribution of the marijuana plant. The creation of thousands of stable jobs within our country would only help our current economic state! In addition to the immediate economy boost that job creation would provide, consider the fiscal benefits to the regulation and taxation of marijuana!
We already tax tobacco and alcohol at incredible rates, why not add marijuana to the “pot” as well? If taxed according to our current tobacco laws, the US could stand to make a great deal of money off of this maneuver. In 2010, tobacco cigarette pack sales in the US were 14. 7 billion and the tax revenue from those cigarette sales was $16. 5 billion (Tobacco Free Kids. org, 2011). Any country’s economy would jump at the chance to add an additional $16. 5 billion annually but our country is so far in debt currently that it would be fiscally irresponsible to not consider this.
Not only would this kind of annual taxation help eliminate our immense debt, it could potentially help keep the government from raising income taxes or making controversial fiscal cuts elsewhere. Enough about the outstanding health benefits and fiscally responsible economic benefits, let’s talk about regulation and control of this substance and the benefits that would create for our society. One of the main arguments for not legalizing marijuana is because it would create easier access for children to get it or it would get in the “wrong” hands.
The problem with that argument is that children already have access to it and it’s, for the most part, only in the “wrong” hands. Legalizing marijuana would mean regulating it. Regulating it would mean controlling it. The government would have control over who can legally produce marijuana, who can legally distribute marijuana, and who can legally purchase and consume marijuana. If there were laws in effect similar to those of tobacco and alcohol there would be legal ages and legal limits of amounts that you could have and still be considered safe and able to operate a motor vehicle.
If it were regulated like prescription drugs, there would again be legal ages, dosage recommendations/restrictions, and warnings about usage. Left as it is now, illegal and without controls, it actually endangers the public rather than promoting public safety. Complete prohibition of marijuana gives all the control of its production and distribution to criminal entrepreneurs, such as drug cartels, street gangs, and drug dealers who add harmful chemicals to it and push additional, more addictive and harmful illegal substances.
It also promotes the use of marijuana in inappropriate settings, such as in automobiles, in public parks, or in public restrooms. “A regulatory scheme for marijuana that is similar to the scheme…for alcohol would be favorable compared to the present prohibition. Ideally, such a regulatory scheme for marijuana would maintain the existing controls that presently govern commercial alcohol production, distribution, and use – while potentially imposing even stricter limits regarding the commercialization, advertising, and mass marketing of the product” (NORML. org, 2010).
If we put the regulation and control of this substance in the “right” hands, then we will be able to create rules and regulations that would be much more beneficial than just leaving the laws the way they are which gives all the control to the “wrong” people. Health benefits, economic benefits, regulation and control in the appropriate places are all important reasons to consider legalization of marijuana in the United States, but we aren’t the first country to be weighing these options. There are actually other countries that have benefit from the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana and have been doing so for years.
If it can be successful in other countries, then there is no reason why the United States cannot make it successful as well. For many years, other countries have had much more liberal laws (if any at all) against drug use and these countries have had much success in their “war on drugs” by using such laws. Countries such as Canada, Germany, Israel, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Luxemburg, Australia, Great Britain, India, and the Netherlands have all successfully been able to regulate and control the use of drugs in their country.
Most have led to much lower rates of children under the age of 18 possessing or using drugs, lower drug related crime rates, and overall lower possession and use of drugs among adults. Interestingly, the European country with the most liberal drug laws also has seen some of the greatest success from its drug laws, or lack thereof. “Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E. U. … The U. S. as long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E. U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U. S. , it also has less drug use” (Time. com, 2009). Clearly, our current system isn’t working. Our complete prohibition and extremely strict penalties have led to some of the highest drug use in the whole world.
I think it’s about time we stop thinking that we have this all figured out and start learning from the success of other countries. Considering other countries’ success rates combined with the immense medical benefits in both the treatment of symptoms and the prevention of diseases and the potentially huge economic benefits that legalizing marijuana in the United States would provide; there really is nothing left to debate. The United States of America would be foolish to not legalize the use of marijuana and start reaping the benefits of it immediately!
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