Legalization of Marijuana

Image depicting the states with marijuana on the ballot in 2016 and those projected for 2017. (ballotpedia)

by Julia Ransom

As we approach the 2016 Presidential Election, there is a lot of talk about the legalization of marijuana. At this time, we are closer than we have ever been to actually taking the step in legalizing one of the most popular illicit drugs in the United States. Election day will decide whether or not states like Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona, and Nevada will vote to legalize it. In states like Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the use of recreational marijuana has been legalized for about four years. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is currently considered a Schedule 1 drug in most states, which puts it under the same category as heroin. That being said, it is implied that a person who is caught with marijuana receives the same punishment as a person who is caught with heroin, depending on the amount they possess. This factor could potentially influence people to vote in favor of legalization. Following the legalization in Colorado, the arrests for marijuana have gone down significantly, and the amount of tax revenue has increased.

There is a subset of people who believe in the healing powers of marijuana, including all of the medical benefits. Others are skeptical, and believe that there isn’t enough evidence to support some of the claims surrounding the healing powers. Some predict that legalizing marijuana would hold more power than the tobacco and alcohol industry. A drug that was once known as the “gateway drug” is now considered a less harmful substance than tobacco or alcohol. Our perception of this drug has revolutionized in recent times. In the media, there are a few public figures who have stated that they support the legalization of marijuana. It is possible that this has an impact on how people perceive the drug.  However, there is great concern that the focus is on the business potential of legalization, rather than the physical or health impacts. Ask yourself, is someone capable of driving a car or doing their daily tasks under the influence of marijuana? Some would say yes; others would argue no. Research has shown that marijuana can be harmful to adolescents and the way they develop. The fear is that this drug could get into the wrong hands.

In regards to the 2016 Presidential Election, there is no clear indication of whether or not either of the candidates supports the legalization. Based on numerous reports, both seek more research on the issue before taking a stance. Although, among the population of people who do vote on this issue, it tends to be split. According to Business Insider, there are many medical benefits to consider. Research shows that marijuana can be used to treat glaucoma, reverse the carcinogenic effects of tobacco, improve lung health, control epileptic seizures, stop the spreading of cancer, decreasing anxiety, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, speed metabolism, ease pain, and help those who’re suffering from other illnesses.

With all of the positives of using medical marijuana, there are some negatives. There are both short term and long term impacts on marijuana users. The National Institute of Drug Abuse provides information about the potential impacts of this drug. The short term effects generally include altered senses, changes in mood, difficulty with critical thinking, or impaired memory.  In the long term, it can actually affect the way young minds develop. Smoke from marijuana can also cause breathing problems, as it irritates the lungs. They have also linked problems with smoking and pregnancy. Many people believe that there needs to be more education about the harmful effects of the drug, especially to younger audiences.

Overall, before voting to either legalize or not to legalize marijuana, there are a lot of factors to consider. There is some research on the issue, but there is more to be done. It has been proven that the legalization could benefit our country financially, but is it ethical? It has been proven that there are health benefits, but aren’t there serious risks as well? As we engage in more research and studies, we will be closer to answering these questions. As of right now, the topic of legalizing marijuana is still being explored. Stay tuned to see what happens in the 2016 Presidential Election.