Should the United States legalize Marijuana?
Two writers debate whether marijuana should be legalized nationally.
Published: Monday, March 1, 2010
Updated: Monday, March 15, 2010 12:03
Marijuana is dangerous and should not be legalized.
I wish I had counted how many times I heard the words "It's natural" or "It's from the earth." The marijuana legalization debate is a tug-of-war pitting hopeless addicts and carefree teens against holier-than-thou conservatives and concerned, skeptical citizens. The futile debate over the legalization of marijuana has become shallow and annoying.
What makes it stupid are the arguments in favor of legalization. A legitimate drug, to a certain extent, cancels out people's free will when they are addicted to it. The brain adjusts its decisions and actions to satisfy its chemical need for the drug.
In a Psychology Today article, Stephen Mason, Ph.D., does not agree with this, saying that much depends on having an addictive personality.
However, in an article written for the Harvard Mental Health Letter, Steven Hyman says the answer lies within a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. It is proven that when a person engages in any action which satisfies desire, the brain releases dopamine into the nucleus accumbens and creates pleasure.
It serves, Hyman says, as a signal that the action performed promotes survival or reproduction. This action is then recorded and is very likely to be performed again. The more it is performed, the more the brain believes it is necessary. It becomes addicted.
Some people say that marijuana isn't as dangerous as tobacco and alcohol if used in moderation, and that restricting its use infringes upon our liberties.
First of all, the free will aspect is automatically cancelled out upon addiction, which is chemical dependence. And it's the free will to do what? To get high and go cause dangerous situations for oneself and others?
Tobacco does not tap into the pleasure senses as deeply as marijuana does. Its addiction stems solely from nicotine.
Cigarettes do not impair or hinder perception and brain function as marijuana does. Cigarette smoke harms the lungs, whereas marijuana affects the brain, the lungs, the heart and the immune system.
Marijuana use releases large amounts of dopamine and creates an ultimate addiction to pleasure. Obviously, using it once or twice won't cause addiction. Nevertheless, it is a guaranteed road to addiction.
Alcohol impairs fast decision making, clarity of sight and movement. Marijuana impairs all of these, and the memory and senses as well.
Many claim that the legalization of marijuana will both increase tax revenue and reduce crime, since the drug will drop in price.
A study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and cited in the Los Angeles Times suggests that if marijuana were to be legalized and taxed, the estimated $1.39 billion of revenue would be cancelled by the costs of drug-related damages. The same study indicates that, for each tax dollar, an average of $8.95 is spent on fixing damages in some way caused by the abuse of alcohol or tobacco. Who knows what expenses marijuana might add?
Marijuana of the sort that is sold on the street will never be legalized. It would be regulated to different extents. More effective marijuana would still be pursued on the streets. If anything, crime would increase, because an easy source of money is gone and the dealers will be busy looking for new business in harder drug sales.
In any case, legalizing marijuana doesn't make sense.
Alex is a freshman at Baruch College.
There are potential benefits to marijuana and it should be legalized.
Government officials have battled for and against marijuana since the early 1900s. Many highly-regarded doctors and physicians have declared that marijuana is safer than both alcohol and cigarettes. The death toll from both alcohol and cigarettes is more than half a million lives each year.
A recent poll by ABC News and the National Post indicates that "81 percent of Americans are for legalization of medical marijuana, while only 18 percent are against it."
Fourteen states have already legalized the use of medical marijuana, including Alaska, Montana and Oregon. Thirteen other states are in the process of legalizing medical marijuana, New York among them. The economy benefits as well; California has made more than $18 million taxing marijuana dispensaries.
In New York, the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. These are punishable by fines and as many as three months in prison. Our prison system has nearly a million people who were arrested for non-violent marijuana-related charges. The taxpayers' money pays for holding these people and for building new prisons. Legalizing marijuana would lessen the burden on our already full prisons and free those who shouldn't been there in the first place.
The HempCon 2010 was held last week in California. This convention supported medicinal and recreational marijuana. Over 150,000 people visited Los Angeles to attend the convention. Every year, more and more learn about the benefits marijuana can potentially bring.
Our neighbor to the west, New Jersey, is the latest state to accept the use of medical marijuana. A patient would need a prescription from a licensed physician and then apply for a state I.D. card to purchase marijuana from dispensaries.
Medical marijuana can be used for many chronic problems, ranging from glaucoma to easing the adverse effects of treatments used for cancer or AIDS. The FDA, together with the now-defunct Investigational New Drug program, handed out generous amounts of marijuana cigarettes to various patients in the 1980s.