What if marijuana was legal? The marijuana debate has many people wondering the answer to that question. People are very polarized on the topic, and both sides think they can predict what would happen if marijuana were legalized. States like California that allow marijuana to be used and grown for medical purposes are a good place to start looking, but we can’t use them to predict accurately because marijuana is still illegal in our country, according to the federal government. That affects how the drug is sold, transported, and taxed.
True and complete legalization for marijuana would have implications that we just can’t predict. No society has suddenly made marijuana, which is used and abused in private across the country, free and legal for all to use. Experts on the subject are more than willing to make guesses at what would happen if marijuana was legal.
Keeping Marijuana Illegal
Scientific studies may have conflicting results, but overall they link smoking marijuana to heart and lung disease, throat cancer, and a decreased memory capacity. Therefore, making marijuana legal would increase the number of people being affected by these diseases. Others point to the staggering amount of drugs that have been seized coming into the United States. They point to how drug use is strongly linked to criminal activity, and predict that legalizing marijuana would lead to an increase in violence and crime. (1)
The federal government, which overall is working to keep marijuana illegal, agrees that there is no real benefit to legalizing marijuana. “As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem,” wrote Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.”(2)
Those who want to see marijuana become legal claim that the drug war is failing, that people arrested and imprisoned for marijuana use are not cured of their habit during time spent in jail. They predict that legalizing and controlling marijuana would decrease crimes associated with the substance, and lead to safer and more responsible use of the substance.(1)
Those in favor of legalization also point to the medicinal uses for marijuana. It relieves nausea suffered by cancer patients undergoing powerful chemotherapy. It is also used by patients who have multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and AIDS. (3)
NORML, a group that is working to reform marijuana laws, makes the following summary. “Legalizing marijuana won’t address drug use. It will address marijuana use by regulating it like we do alcohol and tobacco. Legal marijuana would be an answer to many Americans’ health challenges. Legal marijuana would raise tax revenues to benefit society and community. Legal marijuana removes the cost of arresting, prosecution, and monitoring on parole and probation and, by definition, eliminates crime.”(4)