Cannabis is experiencing a revolution in the way it’s viewed by both people and governments alike. Previously illegal in the entirety of the western world, cannabis is now undergoing a massive legalization effort.
31 states in the USA alone have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, with 9 states even legalizing it for recreational usage.
However, the debate still rages on towards total governmental legalization; despite medical advances, people are still unsure of whether or not cannabis should be legalized, putting forward valid arguments both for and against it.
Here are the top reasons both for and against marijuana legalization that are currently being used today.
Arguments for Marijuana Legalization
Generally speaking, when you talk to a cannabis supporter, they’re going to give you three main points to encourage legalization: the medicinal benefits, the tax revenue potential and, perhaps of most concern to Americans, the aspect of free will.
Medicinal Benefits of Cannabis
Cannabis is a drug known pretty much the world over as a narcotic, but it also has a myriad of health benefits as well. Humans have been using the Cannabis sativa plant as an herbal remedy for millennia, and we use it even more today.
Thanks to plant breeding and molecular science, we are able to selectively breed Cannabis plants with exactly the properties that we need to help best treat individual illnesses.
THC is used for its psychoactive properties, which can help with a variety of pain and neurological symptoms caused by illnesses such as diabetes, glaucoma and Parkinson’s. THC interacts with the CB1 receptors in the human brain, encouraging a reduction in the sensation of pain.
THC also encourages dopamine release, helping patients suffering from mental disorders such as anorexia or depression.
Some say, however, that the CBD side of cannabis medication is even more useful, as it’s able to treat the symptoms of an unimaginable number of disorders and diseases without causing a high.
CBD interacts indirectly with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system – the health system discovered as a result of experimentation with cannabis – and this system deals with a surprisingly large number of sections of the human body.
For example, the CB2 receptor is one of the principal causes of inflammation response to damage in the human body; essentially the same as how the brain creates a fever in response to a viral infection.
CBD can help reduce this unnecessary inflammation in back pain or even eczema, as discovered in a notable study by the National Academy of Sciences by Carrier et al.
This is due to the fact that degenerative diseases are a result of decaying cells, or in the case of Parkinson’s, an unwanted cell known as a Lewy Body that is caused by oxidation.
Additionally, CBD has been shown to contribute to healthy cellular regeneration, allowing for the potential to actually recover from such diseases, as noted in a study conducted Lastres-Becker et al., for the Journal of Neurobiology of Diseases.
Marijuana Tax Revenue
Tax revenue is usually the primary concern of the government; if something can help make the government money, it stands to reason that they should be interested.
The main point that proponents of this argument put forward is that, like any other consumer good, marijuana can be taxed at every stage, from the plant’s growth, its processing and then eventual sale. And, because of the relatively labor-intensive process behind the creation of marijuana (and the fact that it’s a psychoactive drug, meaning it can be taxed in the same way that sugar or cigarettes are taxed) means tax revenue from weed could potentially be extremely high.
Ever since the state of Colorado legalized marijuana in 2012, the state has been used as a benchmark for the potential benefits of legalization nationwide.
Though skeptics initially claimed that tax revenue would be minimal, Colorado was in fact able to allocate a huge amount of funding to its education and rehabilitation programs, thanks to the $247 million dollars raised per year thanks to the tax revenue.
Free Will – Let the People Smoke Weed!
This argument is based less on economic principles and benefits to the healthcare of a nation, and more on simple individual liberty.
Though the idea of individual liberty is relatively new, being only a few centuries old, the western world has firmly embraced it as a core tenant of moral philosophy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the USA, the fabled Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
The idea of personal liberty – the ability to do what you want, when you want (assuming it doesn’t conflict with others’ personal liberty) – is as old as the country itself. Yet somehow, 84% of the states in the USA still criminalize marijuana for recreational purposes.
This argument focuses on the fact that it doesn’t matter what the health risks associated with marijuana usage are, it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not we partake.
Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization
The arguments for marijuana legalization are generally fiscal and logical, but it doesn’t mean that people don’t still have reservations about total legalization. Despite medical advancements and its demonstrated benefits, some people are still skeptical of cannabis and argue against its legalization.
While cannabis does have a number of useful attributes – specifically with regard to treating people’s ailments – it may still be a dangerous substance.
The psychoactive effect that THC causes in the brain leads to motor impairment, reduced judgment, and instances of anxiety of paranoia in some people.
When Colorado legalized marijuana they may have been increasing their tax revenue, but they were also quadrupling their number of emergency room visits by teenagers.
Regardless of its uses, some people argue that marijuana is dangerous, and should be criminalized to keep it away from people whom would harm themselves while using it.
Possibility of Addiction
This argument is one from a bygone era, as it has largely been disproven by science, but the fear of the very idea of addiction is still a frequent argument on the tongues of those against the legalization of cannabis.
Many commercials and government initiatives existed to push the narrative of cannabis being a “gateway drug”; the idea that cannabis, once used, will make you increasingly at risk to using more dangerous, more illicit substances.
Though scientific studies have found no link between cannabis usage and addiction, it is true that users of cannabis are more likely to abuse alcohol and try harder substances like cocaine. But this amount is only minutely increased in comparison to any other young person.
To people who argue against legalization, however, the risk of their children becoming addicted to marijuana – and then to other substances – is a very real fear.
Smoking is Harmful in General
This argument is focused on the most common method of imbibing marijuana: smoking. Smoking anything – whether it is tobacco, marijuana, or even cloves – is probably dangerous and bad for your health, specifically your respiratory system.
While it is true that any form of combustion you breathe in is dangerous for your long-term health, this argument ignores the many other methods of imbibing marijuana besides smoking a joint. For example there are edibles, oils, dabs, tinctures, and several other equally strangely named methods of imbibing cannabis that do not require the combustion of plant matter.
Regardless, users of this argument focus solely on the fact that smoking a joint is, by far, the most common method of imbibing cannabis.
Of all the arguments used by those against legalization, this is perhaps the most understandable. The fear of children taking drugs is a very real one, as narcotic use has been linked with decreased hormonal and brain development when taken as a teenager.
The fear with legalizing cannabis is that, if it were completely legal and easy to purchase, children would have access to the drug far too easily, resulting in playgrounds across the world filled with marijuana smoke (well probably not that extreme, but you get the idea).
However, the same arguments aren’t made for the legalization of smoking and alcohol, both of which are extremely detrimental for developing children.
In the example of Colorado’s legalization, the ability to purchase marijuana from stores has actually reduced usage rates among children, at least according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In the study, it noted that underage children used the drug less than when it was illegal, as their methods of easily obtaining it were reduced.
Final Thoughts on the Great Marijuana Debate
The battle for complete cannabis legalization rages on, not just in the United States of America, but across the western world. Proponents want people to think of the potential medical benefits, as well as the tax revenue, whereas those against legalization focus on the potential risk factors associated with increased cannabis use, as well as the danger to exposing children to the drug.
For each of these arguments there exists a reason that is valid to the believer of them, even if they are not entirely logical. People can feel strongly about a particular ideal, even if it is not supported by scientific evidence.
Regardless of your affiliation or personal beliefs, cannabis legalization is a tricky subject — but at least now you know the main arguments both for and against cannabis legalization.