With approximately 3 million and 8 million individuals reporting its daily and monthly use, respectively, marijuana has remained the most widely utilized illicit drug in the US (Pacula & Smart, 2017). Moreover, states have been trying to experiment with its liberalization policies for the past few years even though the federal law has criminalized its distribution and use in the country since 1937. More particularly, state decriminalization laws were initially passed in the 1970s; in the 1990s, patient medical access policies started being embraced, and recently states have been trying to experiment with recreational markets legalization, leading to numerous cannabis liberalization laws across the US which is normally unrecognized when performing assessments of changes in the recent policies (Pacula & Smart, 2017). Despite these significant developments, marijuana legalization has attracted mixed reactions in the past decade not only in the US but globally as well (Kerr, Bae, & Koval, 2018), with the majority of legalization supporters argue that doing so continues to be one of the greatest medical innovations. By contrast, opponents believe that legalizing marijuana for either recreational or for medicinal purposes will negatively influence the war on drug use by creating an avenue for its abuse. Studies have consistently linked long-term marijuana use with mental issues (Wilkinson, Yarnell, Radhakrishnan, Ball, & D’Souza, 2016). Therefore, this study aims to use research-based evidence to create policies that legislators might utilize in understanding the effects that drug legalization would have on people. There are two hypotheses to be tested:
Hypothesis 1: If we legalize marijuana, then its positive impact in the field of medicine will be immense, especially with regards to pain management.
Hypothesis 2: If we legalize marijuana, then its negative impact on society will be immense, especially with regards to short-term memory loss.
The legalization of marijuana is a multifaceted and controversial matter which is currently the topic of serious discussion. States continue to pass ballot initiatives aimed at removing prohibition and legalizing as well as commercializing it to generate additional revenues. Galston and Dionne (2013) attempt to offer explanations as to why public opinion has drastically changed towards supporting marijuana legalization in less than a decade. Interestingly, public attitude data show that its legalization has no party boundaries in the political context. Moreover, the steepest declines have been recorded in non-marijuana users. Galston and Dionne (2013) believe that this dramatic shift is due to the decline in the number of US citizens that view marijuana as a ‘solution’ to hard drugs. They revealed that some individuals within the society currently perceive it as less harmful compared to alcohol. Other reasons for justifying the rising marijuana legalization include waste of public resources in constituting marijuana legislation, the possibility of new public revenue source from taxation of legalized marijuana, as well as the unfairness and spottiness of the existing policies (Galston & Dionne, 2013).
Only a limited amount of literature exists on medical marijuana in the US, majorly because of federal-imposed restrictions. Oftentimes, it is a challenge to obtain permission from federal authorities to carry out clinical trials. However, some studies on the legalization of marijuana have been conducted. For instance, Dragone, Prarolo, Vanin, and Zanella (2017) give evidence on how legalizing the drug in the country might essentially reduce levels of crime. Using evidence from Oregon and Washington, Dragone, et al. find out that cases of rapes and thefts immensely decreased following recreational marijuana legalization in the two states. They also reveal that whereas consumption of other hard drugs and alcohol-reduced, consumption of marijuana went up significantly. Similarly, Kerr, Bae, and Koval (2018) focus on students in Oregon to test whether marijuana use increased following its legalization in comparison with other US states that had not adopted recreational marijuana legalization. Their results demonstrate that indeed the marijuana use rate rose to some extent, while tobacco rates decreased. Nevertheless, changes in the use of marijuana never changed considerably for students under and over 21 years despite the removal of prohibition.
Marijuana Legalization in Canada
Focusing outside the US, Osborne, and Fogel (2017) examine the views of adult Canadian marijuana users on drug legalization and decimalization. Their study takes a different approach from other studies on the use of marijuana by paying attention to employed individuals in various occupations, such as graduate students and white-collar professionals using the drug for nonmedical, recreational reasons. The authors investigate their perspectives on Canadian legal policy and law and the probable effect of marijuana on their consumption of the drug by drawing on data from the in-depth interview. Similar to Galston and Dionne (2013), the study indicates that the majority of the participants supported cannabis use legalization in general for various reasons, citing reducing the stigma connected to marijuana use, increased safety, lowering the criminal justice system costs, decreasing violent crime linked with the drug trade, economic benefits, and prohibition as unjust.
In underpinning Osborne and Fogel’s (2017) result on marijuana legalization, Todd (2018) describe the problem which comes as a result of criminalizing the use of the drug and the impacts that it has particularly on blacks. Indeed, the support for cannabis law reform and push toward legalization has gravely implicated public policy. Although the drug has been mostly criminalized, prohibition has not lived to its expectation and continues to affect both public and individual health, as it has substantially impacted the workplace, the environment, and the use of public resources. Based on the above findings, legalization government agencies should legalize marijuana consumption, as data seems to suggest it has positively impacted public policy.
Caulkins, et al. (2015) also comprehensively assess the different alternatives that confront individuals that consider options to the policy of marijuana and thus can applaud the lack of certainties. According to the researchers, the legalization of marijuana can never be likened to a binary choice between the “control cannabis like alcohol” and prohibition. Other intermediate approaches need to be incorporated into debates, such as production by socially responsible entities or nonprofits and government monopoly; even though discussions in the US have centered on the above two approaches (Caulkins, et al., 2015). Such is the case with Uruguay, where the government tightly controls sales and orients, citizens, on public health, yielding significant insights for the country’s lawmakers in the future.
However, decisions concerning whether to change regulations related to marijuana entail many and competing factors, including the tax revenue and administrative expense and cost for local and state governments, economic opportunity for the cost of efforts to suppress and the degree of illicit transactions cannabis sellers; personal liberty and the beneficial effects of cannabis use for most users that fail to experience disorders related to substance use; and substance-use disorders prevalence and their associated problems (Caulkins, et al., 2015). There have to be trade-offs, and various opinions regarding the level of impact on a variety of outcomes cause no any single policy to be better across all aspects. Besides, these decisions have to be made based on numerous uncertainties, as there is neither recipe for the legalization of cannabis nor fully established working models in legalized cannabis markets. Thus, Caulkins, et al. (2015) suggest that any initial set of selections would require reconsideration as per the changing conditions, new knowledge, and experience. Thus, there is an emphasis on policy flexibility in so as far as marijuana use is concerned.
Even though studies have concentrated on the need to legalize marijuana use, critics have often reported its negative impacts on society. Wilkinson, Yarnell, Radhakrishnan, Ball, and D’Souza (2016) assess the potential impact of its legalization on public health and situations where cannabis or its components might be recognized as a treatment method. There is a limited indication on the amount of evidence for the legitimate use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, notably spasticity in multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, nausea/vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and HIV/AIDS cachexia. Sufficient clinical evidence remains inadequate despite marijuana showing therapeutic promise in other areas, as the link between prevalence and legalization remains unknown. While states in which consumption of cannabis is legal to have relatively high use rates compared to non-legal counterparts, the higher rates existed even before the drug was legalized. Thus, Wilkinson, et al. list some public health issues that have continued to maintain relevance as states proceed with legalization for recreational and medicinal use. They are whether there will be increased marijuana health-related issues, namely pulmonary disorders, psychosis, and dependence/addiction; the relationship between opioid use and marijuana; unintentional marijuana product ingestion by children; and acute marijuana intoxication impacts on driving abilities.
Personal Arguments Regarding Marijuana Legalization
In light of this rapidly changing legal landscape regarding marijuana use, it is important to provide a personal opinion on my understanding of the potential impact of its legalization. Among the key areas that relate to the legalization of cannabis is its effect on medicine, where it has positively influenced the field. More and more US states continue to pass legislation that legalizes medical cannabis with the view to enabling citizens to access better care in the treatment of different illnesses and conditions, such as pain management. Medical professionals prescribe medical cannabis in mitigating various forms of pain, namely nerve pain, glaucoma, cancer, and headache. Nevertheless, there is strict legislation in place since patients have to obtain cards before the doctors prescribe. Therefore, individuals that believe marijuana can be abused anyhow in areas where it is legalized are misguided. Convincing evidence shows that medical marijuana can treat Crohn’s disease, seizure disorders, nerve pain, nausea due to cancer chemotherapy, and muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis. It is established that the human body converts cannabis and its associated elements into chemicals that work to minimize pain and other inflammatory conditions. It plays an integral role in helping the body’s natural chemicals perform more effectively thereby fostering optimal health.
Conversely, marijuana legalization opponents believe that using marijuana daily in the long-term adversely affects the functioning of the human body, especially the brain and memory functioning. Users may start experiencing challenges in storing short memories when marijuana knocks the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating short-term memory. This brain region is temporarily affected by barring the learning of new concepts and the development of new memories, clearly indicating loss of short-term memory. Heavy consumers and addicts of marijuana often experience false memories, potentially, negatively impacting on their day-to-day performances. Indeed, evidence indicates that those that heavily used cannabis at one point during their teen-aged periods show a greater likelihood of experiencing short-memory loss in the coming years (Kerr, et al., 2018). Further, previous studies suggest that compared to individuals who smoked irregularly or never smoked at all, cannabis addicts struggle with cognitive activities.
The actual task that lies ahead depends upon getting more precise information about the product type and the quantity which different individuals consume since legal markets will continue evolving. Imagine attempting to evaluate the negative impacts of taking marijuana without the capacity to make the difference between an occasional/experimental smoker and heavy smoker. Essentially, that is the state of science now concerning marijuana consumption measurement. Accurate data on elements, including simultaneous use, episodic impairment, heavy use, regular versus experimental use, and a standardized dose of marijuana are yet to be captured in numerous data tracking technologies employed in assessing the impact of the policies, and they are urgently required. Like alcohol, marijuana possibly produces beneficial effects for a given populace (adult people) but harmful to others (young adults and youth). Overall, all these should be checked before legalization.