Marijuana or cannabis are currently considered one of the most visible and mostly used illicit drugs recorded in various countries around the globe. Cannabis itself is capable of influencing not just the user’s brain function but also the entire body. Many governments have outlawed the production and distribution of this plant due to the reported cases of crimes and death tolls due to using this plant as a drug. However, many have argued that marijuana or cannabis could be utilized for other uses that do not curtail addiction or criminal activities. This plant, known for its 400 various types of chemical composition, is also capable of aiding patients with medical conditions such as glaucoma, and appetite loss due to the effects of AIDS and chemotherapy. As of today, many are still arguing if legalization of marijuana, especially in the US, would stop the increasing drug-related cases or begin regulation. However, legalization would enable law enforcement agencies and the government to regulate the production of marijuana and its distribution and also collect high tax revenues for those wishing to distribute marijuana for medical and scientific use.
Marijuana is the American term referring to dried leaves and flowers of the plant known as Cannabis sativa or cannabis. Both the flower and the leaves of this plant contain chemicals known as “cannabinoids”. The cannabis are also known to extract the “hashish” or tiny hair-like structures that are usually produced through extraction of cannabinoid-rich trichomes. Cannabis plants often differ from composition, especially in terms of their cannabinoid content. Usually, the difference is often caused on how the plant was grown, how it was planted and when the cannabis were harvested for use. With this considered, the potency of marijuana would substantially depend on how the cannabis is planted and harvested. The concentration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is often considered when it comes to producing marijuana with high addictive content. Cannabis stalks and stems do not have psychoactive content or cannabinoids as compared to the leaves, flowers or buds, and the trichomes found on the flowers. With this said, marijuana with high amounts of stems and leaves are not as valuable as that of marijuana containing flowering tops or buds.
Male cannabis plants are often planted as they are capable of producing enough pollen for female cannabis to capture and produce the seed. Female cannabis produces sticky resin that would enable it to trap the pollen from the male cannabis. It is noted by marijuana growers that unpollinated females could produce more resin, thus increasing the chances of the plant to acquire more concentrated cannabinoid content for the final product. Unpollinated flowers could be unable to produce seed, thus noting that high-potency marijuana is produced by making sure the females do not become pollinated, rendering it seedless or sin semilla. “Sinsemilla” normally produces marijuana that has 10 to 18% THC or three times the level of “commercial-grade” marijuana that comes from pollinated plants. In the case of “Hashish”, which is created by pressing the resins of the cannabis together, could contain 40% worth of THC. Normally, the “hashish” is produced mostly in Asia and North Africa. The Europeans also prefer the “hashish” and thus having a stable market. The hashish also had French history as it was connected to the Baudelaire and other French bohemians in the 19th century. It was also claimed by some users that the hashish has some properties that make it different from sinsemilla, which could have been due to the concentration of the THC or the CBD content of North African hashish used by Europeans. Marijuana could also produce “hash oil”, which is the byproduct of chemical extraction. This product is mostly used medical marijuana or other low concentrations.
There have various studies that were done to identify as to what makes marijuana addictive to people. In recent studies, the chemical known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is notable to cause intoxication and psychoactive reactions in humans. It has been noted that THC is just one of the 60 cannabinoids found in marijuana and the concentration of the cannabinoid depends on the maturity of the plant, including the harvest period. While there are other cannabinoids found in marijuana, it is THC which is closely studied. Nonetheless, these cannabinoids are being studied as to how much they influence THC, especially the effect of marijuana. Another known chemical found in marijuana is cannabidiol or CBD. While CBD is not as intoxicating as THC, studies show that CBD is capable of calming the anxiety caused by high THC dosage. Others stress that CBD is capable of fostering antipsychotic activity .
Cannabis or its dried version marijuana could be used in various means, such as in medicine, religion and even as a source to have fiber or oil. History denotes that the Spaniards introduced cannabis to the Western Hemisphere, primarily as a source for fiber and seeds that could be pressed to produce reddish oil that could be medicine or euphoric aromatherapy. The ancient Chinese had used cannabis or “ma” as a means to produce fiber and medicine for gout, malaria, and even absentmindedness. It is noted in history that the Chinese highly respected the use of cannabis as it became their source for fiber to create clothing and became their medicine for thousands of years. Indians see marijuana or cannabis as an integral part of religious ceremonies, calling the plant “soma”. There were even recounts that Indians would run naked in cannabis fields to acquire resin that is used for cakes. Today, the cannabis plant continues to be grown in fields around the globe and had become vital in the Second World War as a source for fiber to make ropes. Cannabis seeds were also used as bird seeds. However, with the recent study, marijuana or cannabis became a source of controversy due to the capacity of use to impair development of all forms. Mental and physical deterioration are also reported by several studies to be the effect of marijuana. However, its medical capacity is also noted throughout marijuana’s history and present research that supporter’s claim that could benefit the public once it is legalized for use and production .
With the fact that marijuana could be used for medical purposes, the issue of legalization enters the picture considering the negative consequences it has to people. In the United States, the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health had recorded that at least 17.4 million people ages 12 and above were noted marijuana users. The survey also showcased that from 2008 up to 2010; the rate of young drug users in the country aged 18 to 25 have increased up to 21.5% due to the availability of marijuana. Marijuana is also noted as the preferred drug used by 8th to 12th graders, and by 2010 alone, there were 2.4 million new marijuana users. Teenagers as young as 17 to 19 years old usually become initiated to try out marijuana. It is also noted in the survey that marijuana’s potency had doubled since 1998, adding the risks it has to users . With this in mind, US policymakers noted several key arguments that would showcase the consequences of legalizing marijuana. One of the considerations of opponents is the fact that people would still continue using the item despite the presence of a law that would either approve or support its use. In the United States, marijuana has long been considered an illegal drug by both federal law and policies set by the Food and Drug Administration. Ironically, both laws also include medical marijuana as an illegal drug. While there are already states that have approved the legalization of marijuana despite the 2008 classification by the federal government, it is visible that people had disregarded the legalization and its sub clauses. Lawmakers also believe that marijuana should not be legalized and push through; as it is possible that more people would get addicted to the substance as it would be obtainable in the market. Amending the current federal and FDA classification regarding the legality of marijuana would also use time and money that could be allotted for other projects or issues. With time, it is also possible that a new type of drug would replace regularly distributed marijuana that is twice addicting and consequential to users .
Aside from the availability of marijuana in the market, there is also the concern that there would be an increase in the population that would become addicted to marijuana, from children to adults. The US’ Shafer Commission tasked to discover the positive and negative aspects of legalization of the drug noted “legalization of marijuana would bring an increase of users with some percent of them being heavy users”. The commission report noted that legalization would make the drug cheaper for the public that formerly flocked the black market, allowing children to purchase it. There is also the sentiment that the public may consider government legalization of marijuana as a form of endorsement despite its continuous warnings against it. Heavy users of marijuana would also present additional risks as they may seek out other communities to create a more potent drug or variant and have it spread to other states. In the case of the young users of marijuana, legalization may entail the misconception that alcohol and substance abuse is accepted in society, removing all belief to the risks involving such abuse. It is probable that children and teens are inclined to resist drugs first because of the risks entailing such use. If it is legalized, it is possible that children would be enticed to try the drug despite the risks. Early usage of the drug could also render development crippling as young users tend to become more immature and their spiritual development would deteriorate. Since children tend to grow faster than adults, early usage may cause severe consequences. It is crucial that marijuana is not legalized to safeguard the children’s health and development, unhindered by any substance or drug .
Opponents to legalization of marijuana use also note that taxes would be influenced by the higher social costs that would decrease tax revenue. They believe that the costs to society produced by alcohol and tobacco, both noted by law as taxable substances, is much higher than the revenue it generates. Adding marijuana would increase more costs to society as it is capable of producing side-effects that may be detrimental to users. Alcohol also gives the federal government only $9 billion, with states having $5.5 billion worth of excise tax. However, once these numbers are combined, it only comprises less than 10% of the estimated $185 billion worth of alcohol-related expenditure on health care, criminal justice, prevention, and even in the less of productivity. For tobacco, it does not yield net revenue once it is taxed. Nonetheless, Americans spend more than $200 billion worth of tobacco-related costs due to smoking. Only $25 billion is collected by the government in terms of tobacco taxes. Legalization would also become a problem for law enforcement and criminal justice systems due to the increased chances of arrests, violations and even case investigations. As of 2008, arrest for alcohol-related crimes totaled up to 2.7 million cases. If marijuana is added to the picture, an additional 750,000 cases would be added to the law enforcement and judiciary of the federal government, causing issues on case backlogs or settlement. Finally, there is also the sentiment that legalization would do little to end the violence attached to drug use or marijuana use .
However, supporters to legalizing marijuana use in the United States point out that legalization would be beneficial in terms of its political, medical and economic benefit. Politically, legalization of marijuana could present newer guidelines that could help in reducing drug-related crimes and violence. Law enforcers would be able to regulate the quality of life in their neighborhoods once marijuana or other type of drug is legalized as they could identify the areas to search if there is a crime or illegal activity present. Legalization will also present scientists permission to discover strategies that would help in eliminating the health risks entailing the use of marijuana or any other drug that is due to market production. Legalization, according to supporters, also must be based from the libertarian legal code, giving basic liberty to citizens to control what they wish to do with their bodies once legalization of marijuana is enforced. Other supporters also note that legalization of marijuana in the US would be similar as to how tobacco and alcohol is regulated .
There are scientists and experts that argue that marijuana is capable of serving as treatment for diseases or complications. In the 1970s, there have been reports that cancer chemotherapy patients have lesser nausea bouts after smoking marijuana. Multiple sclerosis patients were also reported having improved functioning after smoking marijuana. After a few months, a compound called Sativex, which was made from cannabis, was developed in Canada, sprayed into the tongue of the patient. Other researchers also found evidences that smoking marijuana would also be of considerable use for those with Alzheimer’s disease; however, there is still the question as to which compound fosters treatment. Chronic pain disorders, neuropathic pain caused by HIV-1, and the reduction of neurological trauma damage are also some of the recorded instances wherein smoking marijuana becomes an effective treatment. Marijuana is also noted by some physicians to treat asthma, Crohn’s disease, anorexia, emphysema, and even hypertension. There are also studies that stress the possibility that marijuana’s compounds could also solve the problem of tumor growth, including the formation of gliomas .
For the economic sector, legalization of marijuana use would enable the United States to find a lucrative business that can sustain the economy. In taxation alone, marijuana sales could produce millions of dollars’ worth of annual revenue. The additional funds could enable both the state and the federal government to decrease their debts in the international market, improve programs for the public, and even provide new services to the American people. Considering the current marijuana market in the United States, it is noted that it is a billion-dollar industry. Most of California’s annual sales come from Marijuana, earning the state approximately $14 billion sales yearly. Since there is still a lack of consensuses as to how the sales would be directed or invested due to the lack of legalization, the sales of marijuana go to drug dealers and corrupt officials protecting these dealers. Legalization could divert the sales to the government, enabling them to regulate the funds and utilize it for the country’s benefit.
Marijuana legislation would also provide the revision of creating a marijuana distribution and regulating commission that would enable the government to save money from drug wars. Since 2009, the Federal Government has spent $31 billion on drug control, which also includes the $10.1 billion allotted fund for substance abuse prevention and treatment for 2012 . US economist Jeffrey Miron wrote in his paper “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition”:
“Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of legal regulation would save approximately $7.7 billion in government expenditures on prohibition enforcement - $2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels”
The figures are noted to be based from marijuana taxes with the same level as to the consumer product taxes. Once it is legalized and placed in the similar status as that for alcohol and tobacco, it is possible that marijuana can generate as to $6.2 billion worth of sales at the federal level. Aside from Miron, there are other economists and groups supporting legalization. The Marijuana Policy Project, a non-profit organization supporting legalization noted that marijuana legalization could generate funding that is capable of covering the entire cost of anti-terrorism port security measures for the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 that is worth $7.3 billion. There are also citizens that see the benefits of taxation and regulation of marijuana once it is legalized. In Oakland, California, for example, voters approved a special tax on marijuana distribution in July 2009. Oakland plays host to four dispensaries of cannabis producers. The money that had been collected from the 1.8 sales tax on marijuana – estimated to be $300,000 in 2010 – is directly given to the local fund. In Oregon, Democrat Representative Peter Buckley noted that the legalization of marijuana must be supported so that the wasted millions that go to prohibition of marijuana could go to programs that require funding. In his end, he supported Measure 80, or the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act that would replace a flawed prohibition system and would enable Oregon officials to have a taxation-and-regulation-model that could regulate marijuana or cannabis production and distribution. Measure 80 is also noted to be a stricter act that would ensure no youth from Oregon could access marijuana, ensure that stricter criminal penalties are in place, and save the state $60 million that had been allotted for criminal cases and enforcement costs per year .
As of today, the debate continues as to the next move of the Obama Administration in the issue of legalizing marijuana and if the entire country would consider the drug a legal substance that must be sold in the market. On the one hand, the negative effects of marijuana present a strong front against the legalization process as it is capable of intoxicating and influencing a person’s psychological functions. The number of cases that entail marijuana use around the country proves the negative health risks marijuana usage entails. Legalization also opens marijuana to a younger market, which may be detrimental to their development. There is also the issue that legalizing marijuana would be only adding to the current social costs of the two legalized substances – tobacco and alcohol – and would also increase the burden of law enforcement and the judiciary due to the increased cases of substance use.
On the other hand, it is undeniable that medically, and economically, marijuana legalization would benefit the country; especially now that the United States is facing economic recession. Medically, legalizing marijuana could serve as treatment to various complications such as nausea, immobility, and chronic back and nerve pains. There is also the fact that smoking marijuana would help in curing Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, asthma and even tumor. If given the chance to be legalized, scientists and medical experts could be able to study marijuana’s properties more closely without the need of acquiring it in high prices or from other countries. Economically, the revenue that the marijuana market could become funds for the government to utilize in other projects or improve the current standards of government services and branches. Additional revenue from marijuana revenue and taxes could also boost the economy considering its billion-dollar worth while in the black market. Legalization could also save more funding for the government as it would eliminate the expensive drug wars to restrain marijuana production illegally. It is possible that legalization of marijuana would be put into force once scientists are given the time and resources to examine the drug further and discover means to reduce the risk potency it could produce on users.
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