Top Pro & Con Arguments
Legalizing recreational marijuana comes with serious societal costs.
Marijuana use harms more than just the person using the drug. Societal costs of marijuana use include paying for increased emergency room visits, medical care, and addiction treatment for the uninsured; more victims of drugged driving accidents; and workplace accidents. Legalizing marijuana would put one more harmful substance in our society that costs more than the revenue it generates.     
After retail marijuana stores opened in Colorado, emergency room (ER) visits related to marijuana shot up nearly 30% and hospitalizations related to marijuana rose 200%.“The emergency department has seen increased visits for primary care needs, breathing problems related to inhalation of marijuana, including asthma, bronchitis, upper respiratory tract infections, as well as psychiatric needs, accidental or intentional overdoses and, unfortunately, increased pediatric patients with issues related to marijuana,” said Karen Randall, an ER physician in Colorado. Further, people end up in the ER with anxiety attacks or psychotic-like symptoms from eating sweets infused with more marijuana than they were expecting–or, in some cases, not expecting at all. People are used to the idea that a candy bar is a single serving size, but a candy bar with marijuana could have four or more times the recommended dose of THC, depending on the state’s regulations. As a result, poison-control marijuana exposure cases for kids ages 9 and under increased more than five-fold in Colorado after legalization.         
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as four million Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder, such as abuse, dependence, or addiction. Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist and addiction medicine specialist, said, “I’ve been treating cannabis addiction for 20 years. When people are addicted to cannabis, cocaine and alcohol the drug they have the most difficult time giving up is the cannabis.”  A study in the Journal of Drug Issues found that the number of US daily marijuana users has risen dramatically since 2002 and now 68% of users report daily or near-daily use.  Kevin Sabet, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, wrote, “The scientific verdict is that marijuana can be addictive and dangerous… Many baby boomers have a hard time understanding this simply because today’s marijuana can be so much stronger than the marijuana of the past.”     
Marijuana-related traffic deaths rose 62% following the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Jim Leal, former Chief of Police of Newark, California, said of legalizing marijuana, “You are commercializing a product that is just going to put more impaired drivers on the road, worsening a problem that we already have. What officers are seeing with THC levels being very high is they are seeing impairment being far worse than they have ever seen in the past.” The Highway Loss Data Institute found an increased crash risk in legal marijuana states and said collision claims in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington increased 6% as compared to states that don’t have legal marijuana. A meta-study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) concluded that “Cannabis use prior to driving increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.”       
Workplace incidents involving employees under the influence of marijuana increased from 6% to 20% the year after legalization in Colorado. Employees who screened positive for marijuana use had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and absenteeism rates 75% higher than those who tested negative, according to a study done on postal workers. Paul L. Bittner, partner and vice chair of the Labor and Employment Group at Ice Miller law firm, said, “You not only lose productivity, but the bigger concern for employers is potential liability if there’s an accident and someone gets hurt or killed.”     Read More