Legalizing marijuana is good for our health (and for our pockets)

It is practically consensual that cannabis is less dangerous to health than tobacco and alcohol. And in several countries it is even used for medicinal purposes. So why not authorize it for recreational purposes as well?

Jul 5, 2023 - 01:12
Legalizing marijuana is good for our health (and for our pockets)
Image by Ekaterina / Pixabay

The status of marijuana as a prohibited recreational substance in many countries is a complex issue influenced by various historical, social, political, and cultural factors. While some argue that marijuana is less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol, the prohibition of marijuana for recreational use has remained in place in many jurisdictions for several reasons:

  1. Historical Stigma: Marijuana has a long history of being associated with negative social perceptions and fears, often driven by racial prejudices and political motivations. This historical stigma has contributed to the continuation of marijuana prohibition.

  2. Federal and International Laws: In many countries, marijuana is classified as a controlled substance under federal law, meaning it is deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. International drug control treaties, such as the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, also influence national drug policies and classifications.

  3. Legal and Political Hurdles: Changing drug laws and policies can be a complex and politically contentious process. Many lawmakers and policymakers may be hesitant to support the legalization of marijuana due to concerns about public perception, potential risks, and the influence of conservative viewpoints.

  4. Health Concerns: While some argue that marijuana is less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol, it is not without risks. Marijuana use can have negative effects on cognitive function, mental health, and respiratory health, particularly when used in excessive amounts or by vulnerable populations.

  5. Lack of Comprehensive Research: The scientific research on marijuana is still developing, and some policymakers may be cautious about making significant changes to drug laws without comprehensive data on long-term effects and potential risks.

  6. Law Enforcement Priorities: Drug enforcement agencies may prioritize targeting marijuana as part of broader drug control efforts, leading to continued prohibition.

  7. International Drug Treaties: Some countries may be hesitant to legalize marijuana for recreational use due to obligations under international drug control treaties, which restrict the legalization of certain substances.

But the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana is multifaceted, and proponents of legalization put forth various arguments to support their stance. Some of the most important arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana include:

  1. Medical Benefits: Many studies have shown that marijuana can have therapeutic benefits for various medical conditions, such as chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, nausea, and certain mental health disorders. Legalization would allow patients to access marijuana as a treatment option under appropriate medical supervision.

  2. Economic Benefits: Legalizing marijuana can create new industries and job opportunities, including cultivation, retail, and research. It also generates tax revenue for governments that can be used to fund public services, education, and infrastructure.

  3. Criminal Justice Reform: Proponents argue that marijuana prohibition has resulted in the criminalization of non-violent offenders, leading to overcrowded prisons and disproportionately impacting minority communities. Legalization can help reduce the burden on the criminal justice system and redirect resources toward more serious crimes.

  4. Consumer Safety and Regulation: Legalizing marijuana allows for quality control and regulation of the product, ensuring that consumers have access to safer, standardized products. Illicit marijuana may be contaminated with harmful substances, while legal products can be subject to quality testing and labeling requirements.

  5. Personal Freedom and Civil Liberties: Advocates of legalization argue that adults should have the freedom to make their own choices regarding marijuana use, as long as it does not harm others. Legalization is seen as a matter of personal liberty and individual rights.

  6. Reducing Drug-Related Violence: The illegal drug trade can be associated with violence and criminal activity. Legalizing marijuana can remove a significant revenue source for illegal drug organizations, potentially reducing drug-related violence.

  7. Social Equity: Legalization efforts often include provisions to address social equity issues related to the impact of past marijuana policies on minority communities. This can involve expunging past marijuana-related convictions and creating opportunities for minority entrepreneurs in the legal marijuana industry.

  8. Public Health Approach: Some advocates argue that marijuana use should be treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. Legalization can enable the implementation of harm reduction strategies and better access to treatment and support services for those struggling with substance use.

  9. Regulation of Access by Minors: Legalization can include strict regulations to prevent access to marijuana by minors and implement age restrictions similar to those for alcohol and tobacco.

Attitudes toward marijuana are evolving, and many countries have made progress in legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use. Some regions have recognized the potential benefits of legalization, such as generating tax revenue, reducing the burden on the criminal justice system, and addressing issues related to the illicit drug trade. As public opinion and scientific research continue to influence drug policies, the landscape surrounding marijuana prohibition may continue to evolve in the future.

Vincent Taylor EA Global Coordinator