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Legalization of Marijuana

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Legalization of Marijuana:

The image is one that is burned into the brain of the collective conscious of the American, pop culture mind: Jeff Spicoli, played by actor Sean Penn, enters the classroom of Mr. Hand on the first day of school, confused, disoriented, and defiant. One of the other students informs a young woman, “This guy’s been stoned since the third grade.” Anyone viewing this scene of the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High would at least giggle at Jeff’s antics, as being “stoned” is often associated with young surfers or bum-like high school students. However, such a comedic representation at times overshadows an issue which has grown popular in the modern political debate: the legalization of marijuana. For decades, American citizens have argued about whether or not pot should be legalized in the United States with both sides of the argument citing economic, social, and ethical reasons for marijuana’s legalization or continued ban. Despite the fact that some would argue against the legalization of marijuana, after conducting thorough research, it is obvious that marijuana should be legalized and its use sanctioned by the American government for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: the unfairness of marijuana laws, the economic growth which could occur from legalizing marijuana, and the lack of ethics behind marijuana bans.

Marijuana is defined as a psychoactive drug made from the leaves of the cannabis plant, which contains high levels of THC; marijuana can be smoked, inhaled, ingested with food, or vaped. It most often has an overwhelmingly intoxicating effect. A person using marijuana will have a variety of reactions; some will feel euphoric or incredibly relaxed, whereas others will have bouts of laughter, sensory sensitivity, and increased appetite. Some individuals even experience panic or fear to the point of paranoia. It is well accepted that utilizing marijuana will cause a person to be mentally impaired for a short time. Historically, marijuana was illegal in all fifty states and was classified as a dangerous, gateway drug. It is only recently become known that marijuana usage is not purely detrimental. In fact, marijuana can have positive effects for those suffering from the pain of chemotherapy treatments or other ailments (Miron). Despite the negative history surrounding marijuana and because of its potential medicinal uses, many states in America have moved towards the legalization of marijuana. In fact, “since 1996, numerous states have revised their state criminal laws to permit marijuana to be sold and used for medical purposes” (Larkin). As time passed, even more laws were passed to allow marijuana to be legal, including ones that state that “recreational marijuana use is now legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia…[also] many more states have legalized marijuana for medical use” (Miron). Although some would argue against legalizing marijuana, the overwhelming evidence would suggest that marijuana should be legalized federally for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, laws which restrict the use of marijuana, as well as other drugs, are unfair in their creation and restriction. Historically, laws involving the production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana have been unnecessarily harsh and geared towards punishment rather than rehabilitation. In fact, “federal law has prohibited marijuana cultivation, processing and distribution since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937” (Larkin). Since that time, individuals who are found to be in possession of marijuana with intent to distribute face jail time, prosecution, and even time in federal prison depending on the amount in their possessions. Statistics show that such arrests and prosecutions primarily affect minorities, such as Hispanic-Americans, African Americans, and economically disadvantaged individuals, as these are the individuals whose culture is the most exposed to environments of drug use. Additionally, popular use of marijuana by those of non-minority cultures is seen more as a rite of passage than as a crime . Therefore, laws which continue to prohibit the production, use, and selling of marijuana can be classified as unfair to certain populations as well as to the American nation as a whole. Rather than categorically damning those who use marijuana, the state governments and federal government should closely examine the original intention of the laws created and the modern effect of such laws on changing and developing population groups. As some suggest, such an examination would reveal that there is little or no alternative except to legalize marijuana, if for no other reason than in fairness to those often marginalized by the justice system.

Furthermore, the argument is often made that the legalization of marijuana would create an economic influx which could aid with the recovering of America’s economic crisis.

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