According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average 160-pound male human would need to consume fifteen shots under four hours to experience fatal alcohol poisoning. Nicotine poisoning could harm this same man after vaping just two JUUL (a prominent electronic cigarette company) cartridges. However, this same man would need to consume 1,500 pounds of marijuana in fifteen minutes is what it takes for the average human to get a lethal response: that is equivalent to over two million joints.
The decriminalization of marijuana will benefit society as it would alleviate much of the issue of mass incarceration, substantially expand the U.S. economy, and encourage the safe consumption of drugs in our progressively-liberal society.
Critics of marijuana legalization often note its addictive nature and negative effects on the adolescent brain. However, the obvious course of action would be to decriminalize recreational marijuana for everybody under twenty-one years of age.
Opponents of marijuana legalize maintain that marijuana decriminalized would make marijuana easier to possess, similar to the current gun epidemic: increasing the ease of access and availability will lead to less responsible use, but easy access to marijuana doesn’t cause drug abuse. For example, 42% of people in the United States, where marijuana has illegal until recently have tried marijuana, whereas only 20% of people in the Netherlands, where marijuana was legalized forty-one years ago, have tried marijuana in their lifetime.
Over 800,000 people are arrested every year due to marijuana-related crimes, with these arrests reflecting systemic prejudice against African-American men in urban settings. Non-violent offenses like these are enough to show up on CORI records and ruin one’s life forever. Additionally, upon release from prison, ex-convicts tend to continue to live a “low life” of violence and crime, defeating the purpose of prison: rehabilitation. In 2005, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) tracked 405,000 convicts and found that 77% of drug offenders fell into recidivism, or reverted back to crime, within five years of release. The BJS also reported that about 75% of the nation’s drug offenders were African-American, Hispanic, or Latino.
From an economic stance, governments will spend much less money sustaining drug offenders in prisons if marijuana is decriminalized. In addition, tax revenue will increase, which can fund several sectors, such as education and public projects, thanks to the high marijuana state tax rates, with Washington having a 37% sales tax. In Massachusetts alone, the Department of Revenue projects the annual revenue made by marijuana to be $172 million by July 2020, only four years after its recreational legalization. Finally, the marijuana industry offers many jobs. In Colorado alone, dispensaries created over ten thousand jobs during the first two years of its legalization.
Most importantly, ideas are drastically shifting about traditional taboo. In 1969, only 12% of Americans favored the legalization. According to Gallup Poll, the percentage of Republicans, who traditionally oppose marijuana legalization, rose from 42% to 51% over this past year. In a country that is progressively accepting drugs into the culture of the people, the rising popularity of marijuana can alleviate the current opioid epidemic, in which about 100 people die daily due to opioid overdose. For patients who have relied on lethal painkillers like OxyContin, marijuana can guide them away from this abusive opioid and give former addicted patients a purpose in life again.
Although research shows us that marijuana is not truly as bad as the way it is usually depicted in middle school and high school health classes, vigilance should still be encouraged toward the dangers of irresponsible use. Meanwhile, adults who are more knowledged about marijuana’s upsides carry the responsibility of benefiting society through pushing for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
By Aditya Acharya