As is common with most controversial issues today, there are more than two sides to the debate over the legalization of marijuana. It’s not a debate that can be simply summed up by a list of pros and cons. It’s a complicated issue that affects both the young and the old of our society, the wealthy and the poor, the healthy and the sick. It is because marijuana has become so highly used among this last group that makes the debate even stickier.
According to NORML’s (the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) website, “Since 1996, sixteen states and Washington, DC have legalized medical marijuana use.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated in its NIDA Info Fact sheet on marijuana that “Scientists have confirmed that the cannabis plant contains active ingredients with therapeutic potential for relieving pain, controlling nausea, stimulating appetite, and decreasing ocular pressure.” The NIDA Info Fact sheet goes on to say, “Scientists continue to investigate the medicinal properties of THC and other cannabinoids to better evaluate and harness their ability to help patients suffering from a broad range of conditions, while avoiding the adverse effects of smoked marijuana.”
Yet, while the debate over marijuana’s medicinal value goes on, the rest of the country simply argues whether or not legalization of marijuana would just be better for the country from an economic and “war against drugs” point of view. From an economic point of view, there are those like Ted Genoways, editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, who said “perhaps it’s even time to consider legalizing and taxing marijuana. Such a move would undercut the ‘cash cow’ that supports the Mexican drug cartels, would create a tax base to fight harder drugs, and would allow drug enforcement agents to focus their interdiction efforts.” As stated on one legalization website (legalizationofmarijuana.com), “Legal prohibition does not stop consumers from consuming drugs; it does not stop traffickers from producing and selling it.”
Which leaves the other option and that is not to legalize marijuana for any reason and continue prosecuting mostly young offenders. The chart below shows what usually happens to young offenders.
According to NORML, “By far, most of the people who are in treatment for marijuana are forced there! 57% are forced into treatment by the criminal justice system while only 15% admitted themselves to treatment.” Or there are those who don’t get caught using marijuana illegally. According to one NIDA Info Fact study, that was 32.8% of 12th grade students in 2009.