The Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana in the United States
University of Smart People
The Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana in the United States
“Drugs can be a lot of things to a lot of people. They can be exciting, they can be
something to alleviate pain or help cure a disease, they can be marketplace commodities,
they can destroy some people’s lives, they can even be a way to a position of power”
(Holowach & Schubring, 2008). The annual number of deaths caused by illegal drug use
is approximately 20,000; the number of deaths caused by marijuana use each year is zero
(ReconsiDer, 2007). Many Americans do not believe marijuana should be legalized
because there is nothing positive that would come from it. In fact, the medical benefits of
marijuana are astounding. Marijuana, also known as cannabis sativa, reduces nausea and
vomiting caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients (National Cancer Institute, 2009)
and helps AIDS patients maintain their weight by inducing hunger (AIDS, Inc., 2009).
Patients with epilepsy have found marijuana to be just as helpful with grand mal seizures
as anti-convulsant prescription drugs, but with fewer side effects (Drug Policy Alliance
Network, 2009). As helpful as marijuana has proved to be, many still worry about the
side effects of marijuana use. Most side effects of marijuana use are temporary and
dissipate within a few hours of use. The biggest worry is that marijuana use will lead to
lung cancer, as cigarette smoking does. Currently, tests have been inconclusive showing
that marijuana smoke causes cancer (Drug Policy Alliance Network, 2009). Although
more research needs to be done, it is thought that marijuana can cancer because it
contains a higher amount of tar than cigarettes, it is inhaled deeply and held in the lungs
for a long period of time, and many of the same cancer-causing agents are found in
cigarettes and marijuana (National Cancer Institute, 2009). The active ingredient in
marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can be extracted from the cannabis sativa plant.
This extract can be added to foods, such as baked goods, so it does not have to be
ingested through smoking. This way lung cancer can be avoided if marijuana smoke is
found to be a cause of lung cancer. If marijuana is legalized, more tests can be completed
to further our knowledge on the benefits and complications of marijuana use. At this
time, the United States would benefit economically, environmentally, and medically with
the legalization of marijuana.
If legalized, marijuana revenue generated from sales would stay in the U.S.
instead of leaving the country to fund drug cartels. One of the main products of drug
cartels is marijuana and the main supplier to the U.S. is Mexico. Funds paid to cartels are
used to fund violence and other illegal activities. Decriminalization of marijuana will
reduce the taxpayer burden by freeing up resources spent in both criminal justice and law
enforcement. Costs to house an inmate vary from state to state and from prison to prison.
In Florida, for example, it costs an average of $55 a day or $20,000 a year to house an
inmate, according to the Florida Department of Corrections (2009). The drug control
budget for 2007 was $13.8 billion and could have been drastically reduced. In 2007, 82%
of drug violations were for possession; 42% were for marijuana possession (U.S.
Department of Justice, 2009). Marijuana accounted for over half of the drug possession
arrests in 2007 (Figure 1). As seen in Figure 2, the number of possession related arrests
are on an upward trend. If marijuana was legalized, there would be a large decrease in the
number of possession related arrests, which in turn would lower the cost of law
Figure 1. Breakdown of arrests by drug type in the United States in the year 2007 (U.S.
Department of Justice, 2009).
Figure 2. Number of drug possession related arrests from 1990 through 2007 (U.S.
Department of Justice, 2009).
The legalization of marijuana can also help the economy by creating more jobs
across the nation. According to the United States Department of Labor (2009), "Over the
year, jobless rates increased in all 50 states and the District of Columbia” (Regional and
State Employment and Unemployment, para. 1). Some of the jobs that would emerge
would be in manufacturing, transportation, and packaging of marijuana. If marijuana
became legal for recreational use, there would also be jobs in the sale of marijuana, this
could create many new small businesses and contribute to generating a higher profit in
stores that participate in the sale of marijuana. This would not only create more jobs but
reduce the number of unemployment payments the government is paying to those unable
to find work.
Just as there are several economical benefits, the two greatest environmental
advantages of legalizing marijuana are that hemp production would be allowed and both
marijuana and hemp are grown organically. In 1999, the European Union documented
26,821 uses for hemp fiber (Small, E., 2002). Hemp is a renewable resource that can be
used to create items such as paper, rope, clothes, and many other fiber-based items.
Instead of using trees, the use of hemp would drastically reduce the number of trees cut
down each year to make paper. According to the Ecology Global
Network (2008), "Nearly 4 billion trees worldwide are cut down each year for paper,
representing about 35% of all harvested trees” (Natural Resources & Sustainability, para.
1). There are already many hemp products being used in the United States today but
refined hemp products can only be imported. The United States would be able to keep the
entire profit from selling hemp products if hemp was grown in the U.S. Marijuana and
hemp are very easy and inexpensive to grow. Both plants can be grown organically,
meaning they only need dirt, water, and sunlight to grow. This is due to the plants natural
resistance to disease. This would reduce the number of harmful chemicals that go into the
environment when mass producing farmed plants and trees.
There are also many medicinal benefits that will come with the legalization of
marijuana, in addition to the environmental and economical benefits. Patients with AIDS
commonly attribute their rapid weight loss to the nausea the disease causes. Marijuana
can help AIDS patients maintain their weight because it the drug causes the patient to feel
hunger. Marijuana also reduces the pain of headaches and the anxiety caused by living
with the illness (AIDS, Inc., 2009). Studies have shown some strains of marijuana have
anticonvulsant properties that can reduce convulsions cause by epileptic seizures
(ProCon, Inc. 2009). In many cases, glaucoma is caused by elevated eye pressure
damaging the optic nerve. Marijuana provides relief to patients with glaucoma by
reducing the increased eye pressure (EyeCare America, 2007). Many studies have shown
there are more cancer causing agents in marijuana smoke than in cigarette smoke, which
may lead to a higher risk of head, neck, and lung cancer (American Cancer
Society, 2009). Because there are risks associated with smoking marijuana, there are
ways to ingest marijuana without smoking it. Marijuana can be turned into oil and used in
baking or used in other foods. According to ProCon, Inc. (2009), “Heating marijuana's
active ingredients in the plant to a point where it produces a vapor (a fine mist), then
inhaling the vapor into the lungs” (para. 4).
There are several states that have already legalized medical marijuana. These
states include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana,
Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington (ProCon, Inc.
2009). There are many common conditions that have been approved in these states. The
conditions included, but are not limited to: HIV or AIDS, cachexia, multiple sclerosis,
seizures, glaucoma, extreme nausea, anxiety, chronic pain, muscle spasms. Conditions
not currently approved by the state in question can be reviewed by that state's health
board (ProCon, Inc. 2009). If a physician prescribes marijuana for one of these ailments,
the patient will need to complete a registry application. Once approved, the patient will
receive a card stating they can carry a certain amount of marijuana and that they have a
medical condition, approved by the state board, to use marijuana. If they are caught with
marijuana and do not have their card on them, they can face criminal drug charges. In
these states that have already legalized marijuana, the patient or primary care-giver is
permitted to carry a certain amount of marijuana on their person at any given time. As
seen in figure 3, the amount can vary from state to state. They are also allowed to
cultivate a certain number of cannabis sativa plants. Patients using medical marijuana in
these states can also obtain marijuana through a local dispensary. Dispensaries are a safe
way to obtain the correct strain of marijuana for their medical ailment. Although there are
thirteen states that have legalized marijuana, there are still thirty-seven other states that
need to legalize marijuana, at least for medicinal use.
Figure 3. The amount of marijuana and plants that can be in a patient or caregiver's
possession at any one-time (ProCon, Inc.2009).
Whether marijuana is legal or illegal there will always be people who use
marijuana in excess, just as some have with alcohol. With the legalization of marijuana,
the government would be able to put a tax on marijuana purchases. Part of the marijuana
tax can be used to educate children and adults appropriately about the effects of drug use.
There would also be more money for drug treatment programs. Marijuana should be
legalized because of the many benefits the United States would reap. The main supplier
of marijuana to the U.S. is Mexico. If legalized, marijuana would be grown locally. The
profit made by marijuana sales would stay solely inside the United States, instead of
funding violence and other illegal activities through international drug cartels. Not only
will the economy benefit from the legalization of marijuana, but there would also be
environmental benefits. The legalization of marijuana would also lead to the mass
production of hemp, which is a renewable resource. This would open many doors to a
much more environmentally friendly and profitable way of producing items such as
paper, rope, clothes, and many other fiber-based items. Marijuana and hemp can both be
grown organically, so there would be no need for harsh chemicals that damage the
environment. In addition to economical and environmental benefits, the most important
benefit of all is the medical uses of marijuana. Marijuana has been proven to increase
hunger in AIDS patients (AIDS, Inc., 2009), reduces epileptic convulsions (Drug Policy
Alliance Network, 2009), reduce nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy (National
Cancer Institute, 2009), and lowers intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma
(EyeCare America, 2007). Marijuana use may not be helpful with every medical
problem, but it has been proven to be helpful in patients with AIDS, glaucoma, epilepsy,
and cancer. If an AIDS patient benefits from the use of the drug Azido-Thymidine
(AZT), why deny them the benefits of marijuana?
AIDS.ORG, Inc. (2009). Marijuana. Retrieved from http://www.aids.org/factSheets/731-
American Cancer Society. (2009). Smoking Marijuana May Increase Cancer
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Florida Department of Corrections. (2009). Inmate Cost Per Day. Retrieved from
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Marijuana. [Television series]. Los Angeles, CA: Terra Entertainment.
National Cancer Institute. (2009). Marijuana Use in Supportive Care for Cancer
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ProCon.org, Inc. (2009). Medical Marijuana. Retrieved from
ReconsiDer. (2007). Drug Deaths. Retrieved from
Small, E, Marcus, D. (2002). Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America.
ASHS Press. Retrieved from http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-
The Ecology Global Network. (2008). Paper Chase. Retrieved from
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Content and Development Points Earned
175 Points XX/175