Top Pro & Con Arguments
Legalizing recreational marijuana results in helpful regulation of a safe drug, without increasing potential negative consequences.
People buying marijuana on the street have no way of knowing if what they’re ingesting is covered with mold, fungus, pesticides, or other harmful substances. Once marijuana is legalized, the government is able to enforce laboratory testing and regulations to ensure that marijuana is free of toxins. For example, Washington law requires health warnings, quality assurance, labeling for the concentration of THC, and other important regulations for consumers.
Further, legalization comes with regulations to prevent kids’ exposure to marijuana, including child-resistant packaging, such as the regulations implemented in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Legalization allows the government to set age restrictions on buyers and to license and regulate the entire supply chain of marijuana, including growers, distributors, retailers, and testing laboratories. California regulations include limitations on the serving sizes for edible marijuana products, seed-to-sale testing and tracking, and 24-hour video surveillance at retail stores.
Due in part to these regulations, “the rates of marijuana use by young people are falling despite the fact more US states are legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use and the number of adults using the drug has increased.” Marijuana use among 8th graders in Washington state decreased following legalization in 2012, from 9.8 percent to 7.3 percent in 2014/2016, according to a Dec. 2018 report from RAND. A study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that past-year marijuana use decreased by 17%, from 15.8% in 2002 to 13.1% in 2014, among US kids ages 12 to 17. Colorado teens between 12 and 17 years old reported a nearly 12% drop in marijuana use just two years after adult use was legalized, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that leads marijuana legalization campaigns, said, “Study after study has confirmed that marijuana policy reforms do not cause rates of youth marijuana use to increase…. The most in-depth state surveys suggest modest decreases in rates of youth marijuana use in Colorado and Washington.”
Additionally, traffic deaths dropped 11% on average in states that legalized medical marijuana. In fact, studies show that drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to be more cautious and take fewer risks than drunk drivers, such as making fewer lane changes and reducing speed. A fact sheet about marijuana’s effects on drivers posted on the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration website stated that “Some drivers may actually be able to improve performance for brief periods by overcompensating for self-perceived impairment.” Benjamin Hansen, an economics professor at the University of Oregon at Eugene who studied traffic deaths post-medical marijuana legalization, concludes, “Public safety doesn’t decrease with increased access to marijuana, rather it improves.”
The fact of the matter is that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, which are already legal. Alcohol and tobacco are known to cause cancer, heart failure, liver damage, and more. According to the CDC, six people die from alcohol poisoning every day and 88,000 people die annually due to excessive alcohol use in the United States. There are no recorded cases of death from marijuana overdose.
Three to four times as many Americans are dependent on alcohol as on marijuana. A study in the Lancet ranking the harmfulness of drugs put alcohol first as the most harmful, tobacco as sixth, and cannabis eighth. A national poll found that people view tobacco as a greater threat to health than marijuana by a margin of four to one (76% vs. 18%), and 72% of people surveyed believed that regular use of alcohol was more dangerous than marijuana use. “In several respects, even sugar poses more of a threat to our nation’s health than pot,” said Dr. David L. Nathan, a clinical psychiatrist and president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.     Read More