Information in a medical study will undoubtedly come as no shock to a majority of people, smoking marijuana has been linked to having less motivation at the office. While the author of the study was unable to determine whether this was because cannabis users were predisposed to be laid-back, the social environment in which cannabis is used or the drug’s effects, it was clear that there was a correlation. There has been a lot of conversation recently about the possible decriminalization of marijuana. While we believe that some of the punishments for possession of cannabis are excessive, it seems that many people in the media and politics have a black or white opinion on it. It is either wrong, or it should be legal and taxed – those seem to be the only two prevailing options. We felt it was time to take a more open approach to the discussion and find out what truly might be in our nation’s best interest.
The Financial Argument
Again, while we do not agree with some of the exaggerated sentences for marijuana possession, the current bipartisan, restrictive, and balanced drug policies are working relatively well. Having said that, the most commonly abused illegal drug in the world, and yes, the United States as well, is marijuana. A person that support legalization for financial reasons often proposes that the reason cannabis is costing society money is because of its prohibition – this is not true. Most people will argue that the cost of cannabis is because of the strain on the justice system. Again, this is a false premise. Studies have found that the percentage of people serving time in prison for cannabis is actually less than one-half of one percent.
There are lessons to be learned from two widely used legal drugs: alcohol and tobacco. Even though both are regulated and taxed, the cost to the health care system and other adverse consequences of their use are much higher than the tax benefits that they provide. Considering that smoking alone is the number one preventable death in the United States, it should be obvious that something being regulated and taxed does not necessarily mean it will not be a detriment to society.
The Legal Issue
Some argue that legalizing marijuana is guaranteed to somehow reduce the number of people that use the drug. The idea behind it is that once marijuana is legal, people would use less because it removes the “taboo factor,” suddenly not being cool anymore. The best analogy we have to counter that argument is gambling. When legalized gambling was instituted into the United States (granted, only in specific locations) illegal gambling increased instead of it decreasing. In a study by MacCoun and Reuter, they found that when the United States government became a beneficiary of legal gambling, it stopped looking at gambling as a problematic behavior and started promoting gambling instead. This is something that could easily happen if marijuana was decriminalized and the government sold it.
Again, legalizing gambling has done little to remove illegal gambling – in fact, it has only increased the demand for illegal gambling. Whereas legal gambling is regulated and taxed, illegal gambling doesn’t have those stipulations. The only way to ensure that illegally selling marijuana is eliminated is to not regulate and not tax marijuana to any prospective buyer. That isn’t something that even proponents of marijuana legalization would feel is a good idea.
A Cultural Shift
While it is true that culture shifts rarely happen overnight, in due time legalizing marijuana could lead to the growing acceptance of drugs altogether. While it does not mean that heroin would become widely available at our pharmacies, it does shift the culture towards a “legalize it” mentality. Behaviors in society move with small incremental changes and stay relatively stable. Gradually more drugs would find acceptance and eventually the legalization of harder drugs would be advocated. While marijuana legalization would not mean that drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin are sold over the counter at every corner drug store, it does bring up the interesting argument “where does it stop?”
Legalization Brings New Problems And Questions
Even before legalization becomes a viable option, there are many questions that need to be addressed first. Is it going to be legal at 18 or 21? How are people going to detect whether someone is actually under the influence of marijuana while they are driving? The problem with marijuana metabolites is that they show up in the system for upwards of 30 days after a person uses cannabis. Is it something that could be consumed in public, only in specific locations (the example here being alcohol and bars) or something that could only be enjoyed at home?
So What’s The Answer
We are not going to suggest to you that we have discovered the ‘perfect method.’ Men and women far smarter than the person writing this article have debated this topic before and have been unable to come up with a solution as it relates to marijuana legalization. One thing that we always advocate is looking at drugs, cannabis in particular, and realizing that punishment is not always the best option. Treatment and education should be the first two steps, not punishment. Instead of offering those people struggling with addiction a jail cell to “contemplate their mistakes,” why not provide them with quality rehab and support and ensure that they no longer make the same mistakes in the future? Until someone comes up with an idea that manages to provide a solution that is going to please both sides of the argument, marijuana legalization is going to remain a controversial issue.