The Controversy Over Marijuana Legalization

The topic of marijuana legalization has been debated at the global level for numerous decades. It is important to have a certain idea about the subject of discussion, therefore the policy differences and comparisons on cannabis in different states will not be the main subject. The given research proposal will review the history of the use of this plant and describe the different points of view of medical scientists on the benefits and harms of cannabis. Some will agree that compared to many other problems, the question of the partial or complete legalization of marijuana does not seem to be a pressing issue that requires immediate resolution. Nevertheless, it is necessary to have an argumentative discussion on this issue right now. The illegal status of marijuana is the reason for people losing their jobs, money, and freedom due to imprisonments because the current justice system punishes cannabis users as harshly as hard drug addicts.

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The significance of the research is that it will be able to illustrate the problem of the controversy more clearly and concisely. The legalization process requires a thorough and precise analysis of the given issue because there are a number of both positive and negative consequences. The decriminalization procedure should occur; however, it should not be treated as a marketing campaign because the controversy demands a detailed argumentative basis. Nevertheless, it is clear that the problem of marijuana legalization needs to be resolved by analyzing and discussing the current data. The research question is how the given issue can be fixed and what drawbacks it might have. Although the given drug possesses several ramifications for its possible legalization, it should be allowed to enter the market legally because the black market does not represent the interests of consumers.

The summary of the literature review consists of numerous studies done in the recent five years, which analyze the topic of controversy behind marijuana legalization. Their controversy behind cannabis decriminalization possesses a long historical background. For a certain period, hemp was entirely legal, and no restrictive concerns existed. It was used in making highly useful materials. For example, in the 19th century, most of the relevant products manufactured in the United States were made of hemp, aided by Franklin bills. Moreover, about half of the medical products sold were based on cannabis (Maier, Mannes, & Koppenhofer, 2017). Later, woodworking enterprises in the USA tried to lobby for the ban on hemp because the paper produced from it was much cheaper than the paper made from wood (Maier et al., 2017). However, due to the lack of scientific argumentation and because of the small amount of research, their goals were not realized (Ward, Thompson, Iannacchione, & Evans, 2017). These enterprises did not manage to raise a serious discussion on this topic.

The discussions on the given topic underwent several social and jurisdictional shifts. In the second decade of the last century, the West was characterized by the strengthening of government restrictions and a wave of various prohibitions. The government of the United States sought to establish a monopoly on public morality, in addition to marijuana and alcohol, raising the issue of gambling, prostitution, and sexual deviations. For example, the government wanted to reduce the number of available drugs and, accordingly, reduce their demand. From 1911 to 1917, cannabis was banned in some US states and regions. In 1915, the Harrison Act was signed, which was a bill that regulated the supply of opium and its prescription by doctors (Stringer & Maggard, 2016). Since then, every prescription for drugs needed the doctor’s annual registration with the federal government.

The controversy behind marijuana legalization shifted towards social acceptance due to the findings in positive effects of the drug. Marijuana has a number of medicinal properties. For instance, marijuana can improve appetite and taste sensations, relieves muscle tension and pain symptoms, positively affect the prevention of allergic dermatitis. Furthermore, cannabis can be useful during the manifestation of post-traumatic symptoms and stressful states, but it is not used in psychopharmacology because of a discussion around other possible dangers from its use (Johns, 2015). The legalization controversy involved a great deal of public fear. In general, marijuana is less dangerous than most drugs, although distinguishing cannabis from other ones is difficult. For example, it was found difficult to compare with alcohol because each person has a predisposition to various kinds of addiction (Ward, Lucas, & Murphy, 2018). It is worth noting that the scientific community in the field of psychology currently puts more emphasis on considering the problem as not physiological but as a psychological dependence on drugs.

Nonetheless, the issue of cannabis controversy can be dismantled further with relevant data and statistics. Advocates for the liberalization of marijuana laws provide the following arguments. People trying marijuana have far fewer risks of becoming addicted than consumers of other drugs. For instance, the risk of addiction among those who have tried cannabis at least once was estimated at 9% in the United States in the early 1990s, compared with 32% for nicotine, 20% for heroin, 17% for cocaine, 15% for alcohol and 11% for stimulants. More than nine people out of 10 who tried marijuana do not become addicted (Beverly, Castro, & Opara, 2019). There was not a single case of death due to marijuana.

Although the general public is highly skeptical of the drug, there not many negative ramifications; for example, the amount of cannabis, which is necessary for overdose, cannot be physically smoked by any individual. Marijuana possesses a number of inhibitory properties on the nervous system. In comparison, about 5 million people die from smoking cigarettes a year and approximately 3 million from alcohol. In fact, this is the only objective criterion for comparing marijuana with other addictive substances (Maier et al., 2017). Therefore, in the context of a direct danger to the life of a person, marijuana is considered as being safer than alcohol, let alone hard drugs.

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There are some ethical concerns related to the process of marijuana decriminalization. The main one is regarding the teenager’s abuse of cannabis. The drug can be potentially destructive for mental development. The full legalization can lead to a similar situation with cigarette smoking among teenagers and even children. It also includes secondhand smoking, which is as dangerous as the primary smoking process. Although marijuana does not cause cancer predisposed states, it alters the brain development stage in a highly negative way. The budgeting concerns are not a major problem because the legalization process will be beneficial for the government in the long term due to the decreased amount of incarcerations. However, the time frame will be prolonged because the decriminalization procedure will demand consecutive approvals and jurisdictional analysis. In addition, the legalization will need to reconsider the cases of already incarcerated prisoners who were punished due to cannabis use and distribution.

In conclusion, the legalization does not necessarily mean “to allow,” but “to legitimize.” The point is that the existing mass practices of the use of various psychoactive substances in society are left to the black market and law enforcement agencies, which leads to corruption, increased violence, and a worsening situation in health care. The state will only improve regulation in this sector. The legalization process cannot be compared to a marketing campaign because it is a scientifically-driven system with a systematic approach. The current drug fights are taking more lives than before the time of the development of anti-drug conventions. In the end, the legalization of cannabis should occur under the strictest monitoring because the black market does not represent the interests of the consumer, and it will continue to distribute the drug. The controversy over marijuana legalization poses a number of issues that need addressing, and it is clear that all the evidence and research show that the given drug is not as dangerous as it was proclaimed. In addition, this controversy revealed that there are not only pharmacological reasons for criminalizing cannabis but also political ones.


Beverly, H. K., Castro, Y., & Opara, I. (2019). Age of first marijuana use and its impact on education attainment and employment status. Journal of Drug Issues, 49(2), 228-237.

Johns, T. L. (2015). Managing a policy experiment: Adopting and implementing recreational marijuana policies in Colorado. State and Local Government Review, 47(3), 193-204.

Maier, S. A., Mannes, S., & Koppenhofer, E. L. (2017). The implications of marijuana decriminalization and legalization on crime in the United States. Contemporary Drug Problems, 44(2), 125-146.

Stringer, R. J., & Maggard, S. R. (2016). Reefer madness to marijuana legalization: Media exposure and American attitudes toward marijuana (1975-2012). Journal of Drug Issues, 46(4), 428-445.

Ward, K. C., Lucas, P. A., & Murphy, A. (2018). The impact of marijuana legalization on law enforcement in states surrounding Colorado. Police Quarterly, 1(1), 1-9.

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Ward, K. C., Thompson, A. J., Iannacchione, B. M., & Evans, M. K. (2017). Crime, laws, and legalization: Perceptions of Colorado marijuana dispensary owners and managers. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 30(1), 28-51.

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