Legalization of Marijuana in the United States Essay
In this report, there will be discussion of why marijuana should be legalized in the United States, for the primary purpose of taxation to alleviate the country’s debt, but for medicinal purposes as well. Herein will contain the reasons why the legalization of marijuana should take place, taxes placed on it for the purpose of debt relief and the medicinal value of the plant. It is imperative that the United States pass legislation to legalize the use of marijuana, as there are many people that use the drug for recreational reasons, and those who use it for medicinal reasons as well.
According to a survey conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009, 16.7 million Americans over the age of 12 had used marijuana at least one time in the month before this survey was conducted. That is roughly 5% of the population in the U.S. that were honest enough to admit to marijuana use. Given that so many people use the drug, if legalization were to take place, the taxation of it alone would critically help the United States’ debt problems. Often marijuana is labeled as a ‘gateway’ drug, meaning that it is the beginning drug for people to pursue other more dangerous drugs, like cocaine or heroin. This is a false assumption, and this report will seek to prove that as well.
Marijuana has been used for centuries by varying indigenous peoples throughout Europe and Asia. It is thought to be first used as an intoxicant around 1000 B.C. in India. In China, it was used to make cloth and medicine, and considered to be in use in other parts of the world prior to 500 A.D. (National Commission of Marijuana and Drug Abuse, 2010). Among the many religions that use marijuana for religious purposes, the most commonly known are the Rastafarians. They use the drug to “enhance their consciousness of the relationship between God, Creation and the individual soul.” (Marijuana Legalization Organization, [MLO] 2006). Among other religions, the Quakers, Judeo-Christian, and Shinto use marijuana for religious reasons (MLO, 2006). Marijuana should be legalized, taxed and restricted to certain age groups for use in the United States, as the reasons for legalization far outweigh the reasons not to legalize.
In order to find out the medicinal value and the reasons for taxation of marijuana, I employed a Google search, and found a multitude of articles, journals and other written outlets both for and against legalization. Marijuana has been found to relieve pain and is a safe and effective treatment of peripheral neuropathy, which is a common occurrence in HIV/AIDS patents. Caused by nerve damage, this type of pain often cannot be effectively treated with standard narcotic pain medicines, but marijuana was shown to give these sufferers relief. It has also been shown to help those suffering from hepatitis C virus to curb the nausea associated with the traditional treatments. It is also being used for sufferers of multiple sclerosis and diabetes (Kampia, 2007). Although there are many medicinal purposes for the plant, legalization and taxation of it would be of enormous benefit to the United States Economy.
The costs to the United States and taxpayers are enormous to keep marijuana illegal. There are no certain numbers available due to the variability of costs of factors. Some of those factors are:
Cost of law enforcement officers
Cost of prosecution and defense of offenders
Cost of incarceration of convicted offenders
Cost of social services and foster care for children of offenders (MLO, 2006).
Given these costs, which are few in the plethora of available issues concerning keeping marijuana illegal, the costs of growing the plant and taxing it are hugely different and beneficial. According to MLO (2006) estimates, the U.S. spends anywhere from $7 to $12 billion each year on drug control programs. These do no include misdemeanor cases, but it is important to note that these numbers to not allow for the expenditures on marijuana alone, as it is all inclusive.
Summary of Results
In Mendocino County, CA, marijuana growing is an industry in and of itself. Given that in California the federal, state and county laws governing the growth of marijuana conflict with each other, authorities have a hard time cracking down on certain growers based on how much they are growing. In Mendocino County alone, they generate an estimated $1 billion a year in marijuana revenue. Economically, it is simple. It costs roughly $400 to grow one pound, one-pound sells for $2,500, and then is resold on the street for about $6,000. The profit margin is huge, and marijuana is helping to fill the gaps in other failing industries (Regan, 2009).
If the United States government were to legalize marijuana, it would be able to partake in some of the revenue generated by the plant, instead of spending billions of dollars a year to fight it. According to Jeffrey Miron, an economics professor at Harvard, the government could save $7.7 billion a year if it did not spend money fighting and prosecuting marijuana activities. Then, if they taxed marijuana at a similar rate to that of cigarettes and alcohol, they could generate an additional $6.2 billion in revenue (MLO, 2006). That is nearly $14 billion in revenue each year, which does not include the economic effects of legalization, such as job creation and growth of related industries.
Economically, if marijuana were legalized, it would create an enormously powerful industry in and of itself. There would be an increased need for a workforce for the farmlands that would be used to farm the plant. They would need distributors and growers, and would implement the pharmaceutical companies to distribute the plant. The pharmaceutical companies and the pharmacies that receive the distribution will need additional labor forces. The need for experience, expertise and knowledge of the plant and its effects would create a need in Universities and other educational programs, as the need for experts in the area would rise dramatically. In turn, these experts would increase enrollment rates in colleges, as future pharmacists with this knowledge would grow. All of this would dramatically boost the economy through increased work forces, educators and taxation of the plant (Culture Shockkk, 2010).
Currently, marijuana has a market value in the United States that exceeds $35 billion, which is far higher than the crop values of corn ($23 billion), soybeans ($17.6 billion) and hay ($12.2 billion). California has more than 1/3 of the harvest, at $13.8 billion, which is higher than their grapes, vegetables and hay combined (MLO, 2006). Given these numbers, the United States would be foolish not to implement legalization, regulatory taxation and sales on this drug, so the American economy can reap the benefits and rewards that only a few are currently enjoying.
Based on the findings of the religious, medicinal and most importantly, economic value of marijuana, the United States government needs to take a step back and legalize the plant. They need to implement a similar structure that is currently in place in regards to other legal “drugs”, such as cigarettes and alcohol to prevent underage people from being able to purchase it. By legalizing marijuana, our economy would grow exponentially, as the economic value of the drug far outweighs the few negative side effects of marijuana. The government would stop spending billions of dollars each year trying to enforce prohibition of marijuana, instead of embracing its uses religiously, medicinally and socially.
People have used marijuana for centuries, and the idea that it causes laziness and lack of motivation cannot be true. If it were, the more than 5% of the American population that use the drug would be the only people in the country that do not have a job or are on welfare in my opinion. Alcohol is a mind-altering substance, yet it is legal in all 50 states, and its use in my opinion is encouraged through television advertisements, and the sheer number of lounges and bars that offer it in each town and hamlet across the country. Like alcohol, marijuana needs to be regulated, taxed and limited to the age of majority for use, but marijuana is not much different in its effects compared to alcohol.
You cannot overdose on marijuana as you can with alcohol and it has not been linked to cancer or any types of death, whereas alcohol has been, as has tobacco (Stamper, 2009). There is no substantial proof that marijuana is as bad or worse for you than alcohol or tobacco, as it is totally natural, it is not a fermented product and it has not been soaked in a multitude of toxic chemicals before its sale and consumption like tobacco has. The United States government needs to step up and legalize marijuana to enjoy the effects of a growing, expanding economy, which we have been suffering without for too long.
I highly recommend that the United States government implement a legalization process of marijuana, both for medicinal and social uses. It would not only increase the economic status of the U.S., in which we are currently in dire need of, but would also release our officers, lawyers, prisons and social services units of an extraordinary amount of burden that they are currently experiencing. Due to the overreaction of the government in regards to marijuana, there are many people who are being jailed and whose children are suffering from trivial convictions of marijuana use and possession.
Legalization would increase the development of new jobs, distribution centers, pharmaceutical companies and more, as these people would be in greater need for the people who are of legal age that choose to consume the plant. Through legalization, many sufferers from a variety of diseases would not feel burdened by their legal ability to use marijuana, as they would not be required upon questioning to produce a prescription for the plant, thus allowing those people to alleviate their fears of prosecution for doing what is legal for their pain. Like alcohol, marijuana is a mind-altering substance, but it does not have the negative side effects of alcohol, and there are no recorded deaths from overdose and akin to tobacco, it does not contain a number of toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer among other health issues.
the continued study and research of marijuana and its potential negative side effects still need to be discovered, but as of yet in the findings that I discovered, there were few, if any to be noted. Marijuana is a more viable resource for the treatment of pain than other narcotic pain medications that are currently available, as it is not known to be addictive, like narcotic pain relievers are. Social use of marijuana is similar to the widely accepted social consumption of alcohol, with far fewer side effects and dangers. Future research of marijuana and the legalization of it needs to follow the same paths that alcohol and tobacco use have followed. There needs to be more research that is conclusively able to state that marijuana use is more positive than negative, as currently there is no research available to support the theory that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’. Researchers and lawmakers also need to realize that marijuana is a naturally occurring plant, and that it should be held at a lower standard than alcohol or tobacco, because of its lack of conclusive evidence showing that it is detrimental to human health in any way. Alcohol and tobacco use has been legal for years, and both of these substances are deadly. Marijuana is not a deadly substance, yet it retains the façade that it is. This needs to be changed through more extensive research, thus allowing for the legalization of the plant, through which the United States would only benefit.
Culture Shockkk. “The Social Effects of Legalizing Marijuana.” Culture Shockkk: a collective truth. Dot People Inc. Web. 20 April, 2011.
“History of Intoxicant Use.” druglibrary.org National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. n.d. Web. 21 April, 2011.
Kampia, Rob. “New Study Shows Medical Value of Marijuana.” AlterNet. n.p. 22 February, 2007. Web. 20 April, 2011.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health. n.p. Web. 20 April, 2011.
Marijuana Legalization Organization. Marijuana Legalization Organization. n.p. 2006. Web. 21 April, 2011.
Regan, Trish. “Pot Growers Thrive in Northern California.” CNBC TV 22 January, 2009. MSNBC.com. Web. 20 April, 2011.
Stamper, Norm. “420: Thoughts on Pot vs. Alcohol from a Former Police Chief.” Huffington Post 20 April, 2009. Print.