Legalization of Marijuana

Ty Harris, BHS Journalism

In recent years, the number of people who use marijuana, either recreationally or medicinally, has risen greatly among adults and teenagers. As of 2018, it is legal to consume marijuana for recreational purposes in 9 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in 30 states for medicinal purposes. According to a HealthDay/Harris poll, the majority of the American population (85%) supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Fewer people support its recreational use; however, there are no major risks to using marijuana recreationally. The only risk is developing marijuana use disorder, which is as serious as tobacco addiction or alcohol dependency, both of which are legal. Therefore, recreational marijuana use for adults at least age 18 should be legal.

One of the main arguments advocating the illegality of recreational marijuana is the risk of marijuana use disorder; in other words, an addiction to marijuana.

Marijuana use disorder is classified as a physical dependence, as opposed to a psychological addiction. The difference between them is that a psychological addiction implies an inability to stop using the drug even though there are obvious harmful effects of its use and a physical dependence is defined by minor harmful side effects—such as headaches or nausea—caused by ceasing to use the drug. Since there are no obvious, major harmful effects of marijuana use, it is not classified as a psychological addiction.

According to an article by R. Sam Barclay published in the Healthline newsletter, for a North Carolina resident named George—who had been using marijuana recreationally at the age of 50 ever since he graduated college—quitting marijuana was not a problem. He described it as being as easy as quitting “eating chocolate.” And although it may not be this easy for some people to quit using marijuana, the drug is as addictive as alcohol, which is legal. Additionally, the health problems that arise due to marijuana use are not as major as those that arise due to tobacco use, which is also legal.

Another problem which someone may argue arises due to marijuana use is the risk of lung damage. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association provided conclusive evidence that marijuana does not harm the lungs, and, in fact, it may increase lung capacity in some users.

Some people may argue that marijuana is a gateway drug, meaning its use will lead to the use of other “harder” drugs such as cocaine or heroin. However, as research published in Scientific American concludes, people who use marijuana before other harder drugs is an indirect correlation and not a cause. Almost all people who used marijuana before other drugs also smoked tobacco or drank alcohol often.

Additionally, according to a study published in the Clinical Psychology Review, there are several mental health benefits. The consumption of marijuana can reduce some forms of anxiety and may reduce nightmares due to PTSD or other stress disorders. Marijuana use increases the brain’s creative function and helps people to come up with new ideas. It also improves “verbal fluency,” or one’s ability to think of different vocabulary.

In addition to the mental health benefits, the risk of overdose due to marijuana use is nonexistent. Not one single death caused by marijuana use has ever been recorded, and according to a 2015 study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,200 people each year (an average of 6 a day) die due to alcohol poisoning, which is a legal substance.

All things considered, using marijuana recreationally harbors less risk than using other legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco, there is no risk of overdose or lung damage, and there are numerous medical benefits and several mental health benefits. Therefore, recreational marijuana use for adults should be legal.