We’ve all heard the arguments against the complete legalization of marijuana — the arguments opponents often make, even if they’re fallacious.
Legal weed leads to more traffic accidents and deaths. Legal weed means more teens will be using it. Legal weed adds to the costs society pays for medical care and addiction treatment. Those arguments are easily disproven.
And of course, there’s the fallback: weed is bad for you.
That last argument is just disingenuous.
“Weed is bad for you” is usually a moral rather than a medical argument. Of course, smoking anything may cause some health issues, but as experts from the U.K. Drug Policy Commission have said, marijuana is no more of a health hazard than junk food. And there’s no arguing with the many health benefits of cannabis.
The next time you get into a “discussion” with a weed opponent, here’s some ammunition.
Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legalized
These reasons aren’t in order of importance since justifications for legalization are subjective. No matter their order, they’re all compelling.
1. Marijuana Helps Medical Patients
It’s long been established that cannabis is an effective treatment for glaucoma and that it relieves nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy.
Nearly four million patients are estimated to be benefiting from legal weed nationwide, even though only about two-thirds of the states have established medical marijuana programs. It’s believed many more are using cannabis to treat physical or emotional issues without participating in a state-established program.
The majority use weed to deal with chronic pain because study after study has shown it to be an effective treatment that doesn’t cause the side effects associated with many prescription medications, nor the addiction potential of opioids commonly prescribed for pain control.
The benefits of medical marijuana have also been proven, to varying extents, for a wealth of other health conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease and depression to epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
Not all legal states make it easy for patients to obtain cannabis prescriptions, and it’s illegal for patients in non-legal states to seek treatment. Universal legalization would make the benefits of marijuana available to all patients who need it.
2. Legal Marijuana Boosts the Economy
In states that have legalized cannabis, weed is an income generator.
A report by the cannabis data analytics firm New Frontier Data found that the federal legalization of marijuana could create more than $125 billion in new tax revenue and approximately 1.6 million new jobs in the coming years.
That’s not difficult to believe. The Marijuana Policy Project has found that legal states have collected a combined total of more than $10 billion in tax revenue during the first years of piecemeal legalization.
That number doesn’t include local and county tax revenue generated by dispensary, growing, and production operations, and it certainly doesn’t reflect any federal tax revenue that could be created by nationwide legalization.
As the federal government, municipalities, and states face critical revenue shortfalls, legalizing marijuana is an obvious and intelligent approach.
3. Legal Marijuana Frees Up Law Enforcement Resources
Enforcing existing federal laws against weed use is still a big deal for police.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report says that 545,602 people were arrested in America during 2020 (the last year pre-Covid) for cannabis-related offenses, a large percentage of them for possession. The advocacy group NORML says that’s an arrest every 58 seconds.
Compare that with the 495,871 people arrested for violent crimes during 2020 — nearly 10% more arrests for weed than violent crimes — and it’s clear that resources which could be used to investigate serious crime and apprehend suspects are being wasted on low-level offenses, which are legal in many American states.
4. Legal Marijuana Would End Racial Disparities in Enforcement
The ACLU has reported that even though black and white citizens use cannabis in approximately the same percentages, blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for weed use than whites. The numbers are starkest in states like Kentucky and Iowa, but the greater likelihood of minority cannabis arrests is even seen in West Coast states where weed is legal.
Legalization would end this disparate enforcement of marijuana laws.
5. Legal Marijuana Would Lead To Lower Crime Rates
Research from some legal weed states shows that violent crime rates dropped after laws legalizing marijuana took effect. Increased traffic and security around dispensaries also played a major role in lowering crime rates in their neighborhoods.
One example: the Tacoma News Tribune reported that violent crime in Washington State declined substantially in the years after legalization. FBI crime statistics show that it was not an anomaly. Some believe that could be because people are using weed instead of alcohol, and alcohol use has long been linked to violent crimes.
There’s a corollary, too. The more that legal marijuana cultivation and dispensary sales dominate the American cannabis industry, the greater the blow dealt with organized crime and the drug cartels that have controlled the weed business for decades. One estimate claims that 30% of Mexican cartel revenue is derived from marijuana trafficking.
6. Legal Marijuana Would Mean Safer Weed
No one regulates street dealers who can freely sell contaminated or adulterated products. Regulated weed sales at dispensaries, on the other hand, ensure that products are inspected, tested for toxins and contamination, and safe to use. In short, only legal weed is predictably safe weed.
That’s why the American Public Health Association has called for nationwide legalization of marijuana. They say that legalization should be viewed as a public health priority and that it should be accompanied by strict regulatory mechanisms to protect consumers and keep weed out of the hands of minors.
That makes nothing but sense.
7. Americans Want Legal Marijuana
Most Americans have seen through baseless moral arguments against legalizing marijuana.
The latest Pew Research poll has found that more than 90% of U.S. adults believe that weed should be legal either just for medical patients or for both medical patients and recreational users. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think recreational weed should be legalized nationwide; less than one-third believe it should only be legal for patients.
In a country where alcohol and tobacco sales are legal, despite the demonstrated fact that both substances are more harmful to users than cannabis, it’s past time to end the double standard that sees marijuana legal in two-thirds of U.S. states but illegal in the federal level.
Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legalized: FAQ
Q: Haven’t there been higher rates of traffic deaths in states that have legalized marijuana?
A: One problem with pro-and-con arguments is that proponents and opponents can cherry-pick statistics, and legalization opponents have done that with police data from specific years in specific states. However, a study done by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University looked at all the data and concluded that legal states saw an 11% drop in traffic fatalities in the years after legalization. The decline was even higher for those aged 15-44.
Q: What about the issue of second-hand marijuana smoke?
A: We don’t know if you live in a legal state, but if so, how many people have you seen smoking weed in enclosed areas where non-smokers would have to deal with second-hand smoke? Quite honestly, it doesn’t happen. Additionally, studies have shown that exposure to someone else’s marijuana smoke would have to be extreme for it to have any effect or cause any impairment. “Second-hand smoke” is a red herring in any arguments against legalization.
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