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The discourse on the legalization of marijuana remains, not only controversial but also inconclusive. Proponents of marijuana legalization argue that the legalization of marijuana, especially medical marijuana has many benefits based on scientific findings. The advantages include recreational purposes such as relaxation and emotional stability effects. Proponents of marijuana legalization quote the economic impacts of the act postulating the projected $132 billion revenues by 2025 arising from taxes if all states decriminalize the production and use of marijuana. Medical benefits follow the chemical composition of the drug such as cannabidiol (CBD) which has anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, anti-psychotic, hypnotic, sedative and anti-convulsive actions for pharmacological functions (National Cancer Institute, 2017). Babilone and dronabinol are other chemical elements present in marijuana which are useful in managing and treating cancer because the two components together with CBD inhibit the growth of tumors and malignant tissues. Critics such as Knopf (2017), on the other hand, contend that legalizing marijuana opens it to not only abuse but also accessibility by children. However, skeptics posit the leveraging of the two active stances through proper regulations, policies and public education. Whereas scientific research remains incomplete on some aspects of marijuana use, its controlled application as medicine has exposed a great potential in harnessing it for better medical outcomes.
Legalization of Marijuana
Marijuana or cannabis is a form of a drug derived from the dried leaves and flowers of Indian hemp plant. Marijuana originated from central Asia. Although documentation and evidence on the spread of the production and use of marijuana remain scanty, it is currently one of the most abused drugs across the world. Up to 183 million individuals use marijuana around the world, and the proportion of marijuana users in the US is 55 million making it the leading illicit drug used in the country (Kerr, Bae, Phibbs, & Kern, 2017). The controversies surrounding the illegalization of the planting, handling, and use of marijuana followed widespread negative attributes of the drugs, such as increased susceptibility to respiratory diseases and diminishing learning capacities and memories among users. Restrictions on marijuana began in the 14th century across Islamic states, followed by other nations in the 19th and 20th centuries when international coordination led to the criminalization of marijuana in many colonies and countries across the globe. However, the 21st century saw the decriminalization of the use of marijuana in countries, such as Canada in 2001 and Uruguay in 2015, who legally restricted marijuana for medical and recreational use respectively (Monte, Zane, & Heard, 2015). District of Columbia and eight states allow marijuana use for recreational purposes. Recreational effects of marijuana include enhanced appetite, feeling of relaxation and joy, improved sleep, and increased sexual pleasure.
The controversy over the legalization of marijuana is a balance between its benefits and perceived dangers. Although marijuana has more than 400 chemicals, the two primary compositions are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that contains addiction and intoxication effects, and cannabidiol (CBD) that has medical effects. The therapeutic properties of marijuana are reflected in its chemical content, cannabidiol (CBD), which is an antioxidant compound with pharmacological effects such as anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, anti-psychotic, hypnotic, sedative, and anti-convulsive actions. Marijuana has physical, physiological, and psychological effects. Physical effects of marijuana include lowering blood pressures, increasing heart rate, and reddening of the eyes due to dilation of eyes' blood vessels. Physiological effects of marijuana include ataxia or loss of body coordination and visual and auditory illusions. Psychological effects include paranoia, panicky feelings, anxiety, happiness, loss of concentration, and memory lapse. Despite marijuana being labeled as an illegal substance, it has a less severe impact and addictiveness compared to cigarettes and alcohol (Hall & Weier, 2017). Marijuana legalization should be allowed as research shows that marijuana use for sports purposes may not lead to augmented misuse of the drug among current non-users and because medical marijuana is beneficial for some patients with seizure disorders.
Benefits of Using Marijuana
In 1996, California became the first US state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes (Gavrilova, Kamada, & Zoutman, 2017). More than 24 states have followed California's suit, but the pattern of legalization centers on medical uses rather than recreational applications. According to Evans (2013), marijuana has social, economic, and medical benefits. Some of the medical benefits of marijuana are pain relievers for individuals with movement disorders, glaucoma, spasticity, nausea, and neuropathic pain. Marijuana is also useful for patients with dementia, HIV, and other diseases that cause appetite loss as it assists in stimulation of appetite. Animal and laboratory studies suggest that cannabinoids, THC, and CBD, as chemical components of marijuana, destroy cancer cells without affecting the nearby cells. For this reason, marijuana has well-established attributes in cancer treatment and management of its side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, pain, vomiting, and nausea. Controlled clinical trials in an Israeli project suggest an affirmative link between cannabinoids, such as THC, CBD, nabilone, and dronabinol and cancer cells death and inhibition of their growth (Kerr, Bae, Phibbs, & Kern, 2017). Furthermore, the capacity of marijuana to control glucose levels in the body indicates the possibility of marijuana to reduce obesity risks. As a result of the positive attributes of marijuana in cancer treatment, researchers such as Monte, Zane, and Heard (2015) advocate for the increased medical use of the drug to curb the rising mortality caused by cancer estimated to 60% in 2030. The social benefits of marijuana legalization are evident, with recent studies suggesting a 13% reduction in violent crimes along the Mexico-US border. The reason for the decline in drug-related crimes is legalization led to reduced smuggling and lowered cartel activities. Researchers found marijuana legalization decreased homicides, murder, and robbery by 41%, 10%, and 19%, respectively in California (Gavrilova, Kamada, & Zoutman, 2017); solving the high cost of managing people convicted of possession or distribution of marijuana and the characteristic crowding of the facilities. Recreational use of marijuana follows its emotional benefits such as reducing anxiety, relaxation effects, and emotional stability. Lastly, marijuana legalization has economic implications, because taxation derived from recreational usage, as the most used drug in the US, can lead to commercial gain. Studies estimate that if marijuana becomes legal across all the states, the labor market will receive federal revenue taxes amounting to $132 billion by the end of 2025 (Evans, 2013). There are also budgetary savings upon lifting the marijuana ban as there will be no costs associated with criminal justice and enforcement of drug laws.
The balance between adverse effects and health, social, and economic benefits of marijuana have led to the suggestion that it is necessary to regulate its usage than illegalizing. Some of the social implications of controlling the use of marijuana include the prevention of access to children and imposition of punitive measures that restrict child access to marijuana and abuse, while at the same time benefiting from some of its scientifically proven benefits. Changing the philosophy on marijuana use from criminalization to education nurtures positive behavior change and creates an informed marijuana user base that can make decisions based on adequate information as opposed to coercion by the administration.
Preserving the benefits of marijuana is reliant on the role of the political class to enact policies and regulations that control the usage of marijuana to guarantee medical and recreational use only and prevent abuse. The other political interventions are encouraging public input, consultation, and modernization of the governing rules and structures to make marijuana use more sustainable (Galston & Dionne, 2013). Scientific inferences and general public opinions agree on the necessity to restrict marijuana for medical use only. The three forces of scientific knowledge, social-political acceptance, and laws and how they play a role in determining the direction that medical marijuana takes in society. Involvement of state actors in making significant changes to the criminal code on three aspects of production, possession, and distribution of cannabis products.
The proponents of marijuana legalization cite medical, social, and economic benefits of the drug. However, the opposing side has valid reasons that support the ban on marijuana use. The prevailing opposing view by Guttmannova et al. (2016) demonstrates that marijuana legalization increases the likelihood of youth abusing alcohol. Consequential effects of chronic indulgence of marijuana include severe consequences such as depression and psychosis. Despite California legalizing marijuana, the rate of abuse is still on the rise as reflected by 413, 000 pounds of the drug confiscated in 2012 alone (Keyes, Wall, Cerda, Schulenberg, 'Malley, Galea, & Hasin, 2016). Colorado, Oregon, and California, the states that allow marijuana for medicinal use, demonstrate the adverse effects of legalization of the drug. California's payment of $30 million in 2011 as imprisonment costs to cater marijuana-related arrests challenges the economic benefits of marijuana (Evans, 2013). Health and well-being implications of the use of marijuana outweigh its therapeutic purposes. For instance, utilization of the drug among young children affects brain development and increased susceptibility to asthma attacks and lung irritation among adults. Between 2013 and 2014, the abuse of marijuana in Colorado rose above the national average by 74% (Monte, Zane, & Heard, 2015). As a result, the state recorded the highest adverse health issues due to marijuana abuse as reflected by The Hospital Association's reports indicating the rise of emergency visits on marijuana-related cases to 18,255 in 2014 up from 8,197 in 2011. Research by Knopf (2017) reveals that 10.47% of Colorado youth between 12 and 17 years old abused marijuana. The lift on the ban of marijuana in Oregon saw an increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions among college students. Between 2011 and 2016, there was a 14% rise in marijuana-triggered accidents in Oregon (Kerr, Bae, Phibbs, & Kern, 2017). Therefore, despite marijuana legalization advocates making positive strides in the US and other parts of the world, undesirable consequences challenges the widespread recreational and medicinal use of the drug.
Research provides evidence on medicinal and recreational significance derived from marijuana use. However, the concept of the legalization of marijuana production, distri...
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