An Argument in Favor of Marijuana Legalization in the United States

In 1978 the state legislator of New Mexico made a law allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from nausea caused by chemotherapy, much of this due to the efforts of a cancer patient by the name of Lynn Pierson. The Federal government modified the law to make it comply with IND regulations requiring a research program. The FDA also demanded many studies and required the doctors to fill out many pages of forms for every patient and documenting their progress, slowing the process to a stand still. This process of getting marijuana to the patients was taking so long that New Mexico officials considered using confiscated marijuana from the state highway patrol. In August of 1978 Lynn Pierson, who worked so hard for the legalization of marijuana, died of cancer without ever receiving legal marijuana. A few weeks later the Federal Government suspended the marijuana program. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics reasons for making marijuana illegal were that it was highly addictive and caused violent crimes. Today neither of those reasons has been backed by much data and many experts believe the opposite. According to the National Household Survey on drug abuse, more than 76 million Americans admit to trying marijuana. Along with those who value marijuana: for recreational reasons, many doctors say that it has medicinal uses as well. The government should look at these facts and consider the legalization of marijuana.

There are many arguments against the legalization of marijuana. One commonly held view is marijuana is “gateway drug or a drug that opens the door for harder drug use such as cocaine or heroin. The Institute of Medicine disagrees, and in their 1999 report they explained that marijuana has been mistaken for a “gateway drug” in the past because patterns in adolescence drug use is strikingly regular. Because it is the most commonly used illicit drug, it is likely that it is the first illegal drug that people try. Most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine, before they use marijuana (Joy 32).

Another complaint about marijuana is that it is a dangerous drug that causes permanent brain damage. Dr. Iversen of Oxford University says, “Cannabis does not cause structural damage to the brains of animals as some reports had claimed, nor is there evidence of long-term damage to the human brain or other than slight residual impairments in cognitive function after drug use is stopped (Woolf 24).” In fact, commonly used drugs such as aspirin are more dangerous than marijuana. Even though marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug there have been very few deaths resulting from its use. Yet thousands of people die every year from the use of aspirin, which causes gastric bleeding. It has been proven through animal testing, that it is almost impossible for a human to digest or inhale enough marijuana to cause a state near death (Woolf 24).

The government is not this strict on other drugs; alcohol and tobacco are both legal drugs. In terms of its short-term effects marijuana is not much different from those caused by alcohol, as it affects the user’s psychomotor skills. More than 100,000 people per year are killed from alcohol related accidents and health problems (Griffiths 36). Also three times as many people are killed in alcohol-related accidents than all other illegal drugs combined. Tobacco, which is far more addictive than marijuana kills more than 430,000 people per year, but is still considered an acceptable and legal drug (Griffiths 36).

It is Ironic that marijuana is safer drug than the legal drugs alcohol, tobacco, aspirin, barbiturates, and morphine, yet the government spends almost 9 billion dollars a year to keep drug offenders behind bars. This money could be spent on much better things, like the education system. For example: from 1986 to 1996 the California state government built 21 new prisons and only one new university (Ambrosio and Schiraldi 3). In 1969, $65 million was spent by the Nixon administration on the drug war; in 1982 the Reagan administration spent $1.65 billion; and the Clinton Administration spent $17.7 billion (Office of National Drug Control Policy). Even with this increase in spending, the use of marijuana is still rising. Why should the government spend billions of dollars trying to stop a relatively safe drug, when they could be making billions taxing the sales of marijuana? Also while 58% of Federal inmates are drug offenders, 46% of those are in for marijuana (Beck and Allen 12). With the average cost of $23,749 a year per inmate the states and government could save a lot of money if they sentenced drug abusers to treatment programs instead of prison (Beck and Allen).

What’s the reason for keeping all these people behind bars? Many say that the use of marijuana causes violent crimes. When the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse studied the relationship between marijuana and violent crime, they found

“Rather than inducing violent or aggressive behavior through its purported effects of lowering inhibitions, weakening impulse control and heightening aggressive tendencies, marijuana was usually found to inhibit the expression of aggressive impulses by pacifying the user, interfering with muscular coordination, reducing psychomotor activities and generally producing states of drowsiness, timidity and passivity (Schafer and Raymond 76),”

Today, the U.S nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Alaska and Wyoming (Irwin 3). In 1998 our incarceration rate was 645 people per 100,000, which is three to ten times higher than the rates of other modern democratic societies. Experts believe this incredibly high incarceration rate is due to drug arrests increasing by as much as 800% in the last fifteen years. After these inmates get of prison many of them resort to violent crimes, because it is even less likely that they will find a job after than before serving a sentence, and most of them are doomed to unemployment and will likely go back to prison on a more serious offence such as robbery.

If the government legalized the use of marijuana there would be a heavy burden removed from the courts and prison systems. Many Americans could enjoy a drug safer and less harmful than likes of alcohol, tobacco and many prescription drugs with out the worry of breaking the law. Already 76 million Americans use marijuana and the number seems to be increasing, despite the increase in government spending in efforts to control drug use. If the government legalized marijuana, people like Lynn Pierson could get the medical treatment they deserve and Americans could enjoy a drug that they have been using since the founding of this country.

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An Argument in Favor of Marijuana Legalization in the United States. (2022, Nov 23). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from

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