The idea of controlled legalization of narcotics is an issue that many people in the United States have been thinking about recently. A great deal of important people in this country have been formulating their opinions about this topic. One might wonder why important figures are occupying their time with such a proposal. The answer is that since it is becoming an important matter to a growing number of Americans every day, they have no choice but to express their ideas on the subject.
Now that everyone is talking about the possibility of legalizing marijuana and other drugs, two opposing groups have sprung up. Of course neither group feels that the government should completely abandon the idea of drug regulation, but that is where the similarities in the opinions end. The two factions each have their reasons as to why they feel the way they do and it is difficult to say that either one is completely wrong.
"Since the beginning of time, people have been afraid of things they don't understand. Marijuana is an example. Why must such a harmless plant be prohibited?" This is the statement of a seventeen year-old high school student in Michigan. What he has said here reflects the opinion of a great many people across the country, especially young people. It is true that marijuana has not yet been proven to be as harmful as many of the other narcotics on the streets today. Heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and steroids all have many known side-effects that are worse than the common known side-effects of marijuana. On the other hand there are other some extremely bad uncommon side-effects of marijuana as well as the possibility that there are side-effects that have not been discovered yet. These side-effects are or could be worse than the ones of the aforementioned drugs. For the most part, however, scientists believe that the casual user of marijuana is at less risk than the users of heroin, cocaine and other drugs of that nature.
The people that feel that marijuana should remain illegal also have a strong argument. There is a substantial list of reasons why they feel this way: 1) marijuana smoke has been proven to be as much as five times more toxic to the lungs as cigarette smoke; 2) marijuana smoking can result in damage to chromosomes in male sperm cells which may lead to birth defects; 3) marijuana causes changes in the user's perception of their surroundings, thereby making activities such as driving an automobile quite dangerous; 4) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most active chemical in marijuana but as many as 400 other chemicals can be produced while or immediately after smoking marijuana, and scientists haven't even begun to study the reactions of the body to these substances. As can be seen, there are many dangers to smoking marijuana.
The isolated legalization of marijuana has different consequences than the controlled legalization of all drugs. If marijuana were to be governmentally regulated, then quite a few beneficial situations could possibly come into being. Firstly, there would be a much slimmer chance that the marijuana would be laced with another substance such as PCP (a hallucinogen). Secondly, marijuana has been proven to be helpful to cancer patients in that it helps to ease the constant nausea associated with chemotherapy. Many cancer patients as well as other people with severe illnesses are currently getting marijuana on the street and it may be more harmful to them than if they were able to get governmentally produced marijuana. If marijuana was to be legalized then these people would be able to easily help themselves through an extremely rough period in their life.
Many professors of popular culture have drawn conclusions that the removal of drug "prohibition" would do the United States a world of good. However, these statements are generally made in reference to all drugs, not marijuana specifically. The controlled legalization of some of the "hard" drugs such as cocaine and heroin could possibly reduce crime as well as the spread of infectious diseases like AIDS but, a lot of people think legalizing those drugs would do more bad than good to society.
More than $100 billion has been spent by the United States government in the past fourteen years in the "war on drugs". 70% of this money has been spent in law enforcement. Only approximately 30% of the money is spent on education of the young to stop drug use before it starts. If marijuana was made legal then a large portion of the 70% could be spent on more worthwhile causes. Many people who are pro- legalization/decriminalization feel that it is ridiculous to incarcerate people for possession of marijuana and then let convicted murderers out of prison early to make room for the drug users. If there were no convictions of people for marijuana possession then there would be an enormous surplus of government funding as well as prison space that would be able to be put towards much better causes.
It is justifiably argued by many that the laws that Congress would pass would be interpreted differently in different states if they had the liberty to do so. Therefore, in some states marijuana might become decriminalized, meaning that it would really only be used for medical purposes; in others they might make marijuana completely legal. This could wind up to be pretty much pointless. The reason some feel this way is because then each state that didn't have full legalization would have to keep all sorts of enforcement agencies anyway. Besides the point, many think that it wouldn't work. They see New York City as a perfect example of why it wouldn't work. There are all sorts of restrictions on gun purchases but if you really want a gun, you can get one in a matter of hours because they are available elsewhere. To put this into the prospective of marijuana, if you live in Utah and it is still completely illegal there, you could most likely easily get marijuana from nearby Nevada where it would be legal. If it's available somewhere, it will probably become available everywhere. That is the argument the adversaries of legalization/decriminalization make.
To conclude, much consideration would be necessary by virtually the entire nation if legalization of marijuana were ever to be seriously considered by the U.S. government. It is an issue that many people feel very strongly about and it almost seems as if the proposal would never even make it to Congress because there would be people that wouldn't let it, some way or another. Hopefully some resolution will be reached in the near future so that people who want marijuana don't have to be so heavily haunted by the idea of imprisonment, and the people who want to keep it illegal won't have to worry about it becoming a part of their lives.