Marijuana has been known about since approximately 2900 BC and different strains have been used to treat a variety of medical conditions. Marijuana is the dried flowers of the cannabis plant. It contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is a mind-altering compound. Cannabidiol, or CDB, is also found in marijuana. CBD is the opposite of THC and is not mind-altering. Marijuana has three main types of strains, Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid. Each different strain of marijuana has specific characteristics. Sativa provides energy, and helps jump start creative processes.
Sativa allows focus for long periods of time and a sense of well-being. This strain is used often when battling depression. Indica has a high to help feel at ease, and can help with insomnia, it effects the muscles to relax and reduce body pains. The last strain is Hybrid, which is the mishmash of two strains to get strong components of each strain. Hybrid marijuana can be grown to be cautiously paired with the patient’s needs. Aside from dried leaves and buds for smoking there are a variety of forms in which medical marijuana comes in, such as flavored oils for vaporizing, pills, and even topical applications. In 1970, congress passed the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which established a law that labels marijuana a Schedule 1 substance, which means “there is a high potential for abuse and is not currently accepted for medical use in treatment.” (“ProCon,2019”) However, voters have had many chances to weigh in on marijuana in the laws of numerous states. The legalization of marijuana has many plausible benefits to society, yet it is viewed as a potential threat by others.
On November 7, 1972 Proposition 19, also known as the California Marijuana Initiative appeared on ballot. This was the first attempt to legalize marijuana by using the measures of a ballot in the United States. CMI would have “removed all penalties in the State of California for persons 18 years of age or older for using, possessing, growing, processing, or transporting marijuana for personal use.” Proposition 19 would legalize personal use of activities, but would not legalize sales of marijuana or reassure the usage of marijuana. The outcome of Proposition 19 was 33.5% voted yes and 66.5% voted no. In 1996, California approved Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana for medical purposes at the state level.
Since the passing of CSA and classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 made it difficult for research to be conducted by scientists or physicians. In the early 1970’s Oregon, Alaska, and Maine decriminalized marijuana, and in 1978 New Mexico approved a medical marijuana research program. “As of 2017 there were a total of 29 states that allow the use of marijuana solely medical purposes, and of those, eight also allowed recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.” (Trumbler,2017) States such as Oklahoma, Missouri, Utah, and Michigan were all in the process of gathering signatures and were to vote on medical marijuana measures in 2018. In 2020 there will be six states that will be able to vote on recreational marijuana to become legal. The legalization of marijuana has had many implications for state economies and the national economy.
“Since the legalization of marijuana in certain states, the industry calculated more than $8 billion in sales in 2017, and estimated to reach approximately $11 billion in 2018, and if the sales continue to increase, by 2022 the marijuana industry is estimated make roughly $23 billion.” (Heinrich,2018) With the sales of marijuana rising in 2019 in Colorado accumulated more than $302 million in taxes and other expenses on medical and recreational cannabis. “Research has found that the legal cannabis industry has contributed more than $80.8 million to the local economy.” (Krishna,2019) The legalization of marijuana could potentially be an economic engine and could produce many jobs. “A group study in Nevada (RCG and Marijuana Policy Group) states that legalize recreational marijuana in the state could support over 41,000 jobs until the year of 2024, with all of those jobs $1.7 billion would propagate in labor income.” (Krishna,2019) “Along with a few other states Illinois passed laws for the taxes of marijuana, earmarking 20% of proceeds to mental health services and substance abuse programs, and 2% to public education and safety campaigns.”(Warnick,2019)
Legalizing marijuana could benefit the economy and the government would gain a substantial amount of revenue from the generated profit. In a recent study a report showed the US government would collect up to $131.8 billion between 2017 and 2025 if marijuana were to be legalized, which is approximately more than $10 million every year. Legalizing marijuana would allow drug companies the opportunity to synthesize different marijuana-related medicines, and other investors could give attention to recreational cannabis and craft cannabis-related devices such as vaporizers. With the companies being able to expand because of the legalization of marijuana many job opportunities will be available. The legalization of marijuana would considerably reduce law enforcement costs, the Federal government spends about $3.16 billion a year to enforce cannabis laws, if marijuana is legalized the government would obtain all of that money back in terms of taxes. Along with the laws that are being enforced many court cases associated with marijuana, those cases take a lot of money from public coffers. If marijuana were to be removed from the controlled substance list, court cases would diminish and would result in fewer incarceration and would save more money.
Along with the economic prosperities that come from the legalization there are miscellaneous health benefits as well. Cannabis plants may contain up to 40 percent CBD, and CBD is thought to have anti-inflammatory on the central nervous system. “Medical marijuana has been proven to treat a wide array of what was considered “untreatable” conditions including migraines, anxiety, seizures, and has even made positive contributions when fighting cancer.” (“Health Europa,2019”) Marijuana is used for chronic pain, and can even help lessen the tremors of Parkinson’s disease.
Medical marijuana has also had positive research for veterans who suffer from PTSD. The suffering pain of Crohn’s disease has also said to improve in patients who are using medical marijuana. “Medical marijuana contains CBD, which is a chemical that impacts the brain, making it function better without giving it a high, along with THC which has the pain-relieving properties.” (“Health Europa,2019”) However, even though medical marijuana does have great benefits there are some liabilities to using medical marijuana. “The frequent use of marijuana can seriously affect short-term memory, smoking marijuana can also damage lung tissue, and marijuana is considered a “gateway drug” which could lead others to use other drugs.” (Morrow,2020) The frequent use of marijuana not only affects your physical state but it can also affect your psychological well-being, those who are heavy marijuana smokers could potentially have lower levels of life satisfaction and less motivation and lack of gratification for life. Heavily smoking marijuana may also lead to the loss of all interest and desire to face challenging situations. “With the constant smoking of marijuana can lead to emotional disorders, increased risk of schizophrenia, and increased tolerance to intoxication”. (“Drug Free America,2020”) Other possible side effects of medical marijuana may include: increased heart rate, dizziness, slower reactions times, and possibly cyclic vomiting syndrome.
“In 2013 Washington State legalized marijuana for recreational use, since then the number of low-level court filings for marijuana fell by 98% between 2012 and 2013.” (Morris,2018) “The number of adults that are over the age of 21 that was convicted for misdemeanor possession charges fell from 297 in January to 0 in January of 2013.” (Morris, 2018) A study published in the Economic Journal in 2018 found that legalization of marijuana is contributing to lower crime rates in the United Stated and Mexico. Crimes have dropped around 13 percent in areas that are close to medical marijuana states. Even though the numbers have decreased, it is clear, that the legalization does not necessarily eliminate illegal production and distribution, it tends to diminish it dramatically.
Legalization of marijuana has decreased the number of teens trying cannabis and that could be because it is more difficult for teens to obtain medical marijuana through licensed dispensaries. Since legalization has happened in many states it has been a growing concern that legalization of marijuana could lead to an increase in demand for “harder” drugs, such as opioids. Opioids include strong prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, and heroin is also considered an opioid. In 2018 medical marijuana put a dent in the opioid abuse epidemic, and showed that some people would rather use medical marijuana to treat their pain, and avoid using more addictive opioid drugs. A report in JAMA Internal Medicine found a “14 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions in stats that allow easy access to medical marijuana” (Harris,2018) With medical marijuana dispensaries available the number of opioid prescriptions decreased by 3.7 million daily doses, and would see an estimated 1.8 million fewer pills dispensed daily. Cannabis can prevent opioid tolerance building, and can treat the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Although marijuana can be addictive for long-term smokers, it is less likely for someone to form an addiction to marijuana than it would be to addicted to an opioid. Unlike most opioid drugs it is nearly impossible to take enough marijuana to overdose, opioids have a higher rate of overdoses.
In summary the legalization of marijuana has many advantages but also has its disadvantages. Legalizing marijuana for medical reasons could have great benefits for those who are battling with cancer, have anxiety, or struggling with migraines. Even though marijuana has many positives, just like any other type of drug there are negatives as well. Smoking marijuana frequently could lead to potential lung problems, different psychological issues like schizophrenia in severe cases, and sometimes even emotional disorders such as bipolar or depression. Some states that have legalized marijuana have seen first-hand how cannabis can create a revenue to help the economy. Some states are using the tax money that is being profited from selling recreational marijuana to put into their state’s schools, and helping with public safety education. In certain situations marijuana is used to help with the opioid epidemic, those who have become addicted to certain prescription opioids for pain reliever now have the option to look into the varieties of medical marijuana that could be used to help the same pain that the opioid is being used for. Marijuana does have negative attributes, but for someone to form an addiction to marijuana like they could with opioids is fairly unlikely, and the overdose rates of marijuana are next to inexistent. Medical marijuana has some side effects such as dizziness or lack of concentration, but is no where near as dangerous as prescription medications that are even offered at doctor’s offices.
- Harris, Richard. “Opioid Use Lower In States That Eased Marijuana Laws.” NPR, NPR, 2 Apr. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/04/02/598787768/opioid-use-lower-in-states-that-eased-marijuana-laws
- -, Health Europa, et al. “20 Health Benefits of Cannabis That Everyone Should Know.” Health Europa, 16 Mar. 2020, www.healtheuropa.eu/health-benefits-of-cannabis/92499/.
- Franciosi, Anthony. “12 Pros & Cons of Marijuana Legalization.” Honest Marijuana, 25 Oct. 2019, honestmarijuana.com/legalization-of-cannabis-pros-and-cons/.
- Heinrich, Martin. “The National Cannabis Economy.” The National Cannabis Economy , Dec. 2018, www.jec.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/bf473de9-98bb-4465-a310-de992926409a/national-cannabis-economy-final.pdf.
- Krishna, Mrinalini. “The Economic Benefits of Legalizing Weed.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 10 Mar. 2020, www.investopedia.com/articles/insights/110916/economic-benefits-legalizing-weed.asp.
- Morris, Julian. “Does Legalizing Marijuana Reduce Crime?” Does Legalizing Marijuana Reduce Crime, 2018, reason.org/wp-content/uploads/does-legalizing-marijuana-reduce-crime.pdf.
- Morrow, Angela. “The Debate Over the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Use.” Verywell Health, Verywell Health, 14 Jan. 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-medical-marijuana-1132484.
- Trumble, Sarah. “Timeline of State Marijuana Legalization Laws – Third Way.” – Third Way, May 2016, www.thirdway.org/infographic/timeline-of-state-marijuana-legalization-laws.
- Warnick, Aaron. “Protecting Public Health Key as Marijuana Legalization Grows: Colorado Leading the Way among States.” The Nation’s Health, American Public Health Association, 1 Aug. 2019, thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/49/6/1.1.