Top Pro & Con Arguments


Legalizing recreational marijuana creates a “Big Marijuana” industry, while boosting illegal marijuana sales and use.

“Big Marijuana” is already using similar tactics to “Big Tobacco,” which marketed cigarettes using ads that appealed to kids, including the Joe Camel cartoon character. Marijuana food products are frequently colorful, sweet, or branded with cartoons to attract children. Marijuana is available in kid-friendly forms such as gummy bears and lollipops, and products sometimes resemble familiar brands, such as “Buddahfinger” or “KeefKat” in wrappers that look like a Butterfinger or KitKat candy bar. [103] [129] [134] [149] [167]

Mark A. R. Kleiman, a drug policy expert, said, “[I]f you’re in the [for-profit] cannabis business, casual users aren’t much use to you while heavy users are your best customers, accounting for the bulk of your sales…. [T]he commercial interest demands maximizing problem use.” Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, senior economist at RAND Corporation, agrees, noting heavy marijuana users account for the “vast majority of the total amount sold and/or consumed.” [147] [148]

The percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds using marijuana is higher in every legal marijuana state than the national average. For example, 16.21% of Colorado teens and 18.86% of teens in Alaska reported marijuana use in the past year, compared to an average of 12.29% for the United States overall in 2015-2016. Colorado past-month teen marijuana use jumped 20% in the two-year average after marijuana was legalized for adults. [39] [78]

Further, creating a commercialized, legal market has actually enhanced opportunities for the illegal market, because prices charged by state-licensed sellers can easily be undercut by cartels. A drug dealer told Vice News, “Right now with the way the tax structure is in Washington, the black market is going to thrive.” [134] [135] [173]

In Colorado, a sharp increase in marijuana-related charges filed under the state’s Organized Crime Control Act coincided with the legalization of marijuana, indicating a rise in organized crime. The Colorado Attorney General’s office stated that legalization “has inadvertently helped fuel the business of Mexican drug cartels… cartels are now trading drugs like heroin for marijuana, and the trade has since opened the door to drug and human trafficking.” Local officials said that Mexican cartels were growing marijuana under the cover of legal operations in Colorado and using that to fuel the black market in other states. [102] [134] [174]

Additionally three United Nations treaties set worldwide drug controls. As a party to the treaties, the United States has agreed to limit the use of marijuana “exclusively to medical and scientific purposes.” The move by some U.S. states to legalize adult-use marijuana has upset the U.N. monitoring organization, which stated that legalization “cannot be reconciled with the legal obligation” to uphold the Single Convention treaty. Legalizing marijuana puts the United States in a position of weakness when we need to hold other nations accountable to legal agreements. [136] [137] [138] [139]

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