There are a ton of reasons why cannabis should be legal despite what anti-drug advocates may say. Legalization is rapidly occurring across the world, but there’s still a large group of people out there who are staunchly against marijuana. A century of anti-drug campaigns have worked to make society believe that cannabis is dangerous and taboo. Attitudes are now slowly changing, but you may still find yourself having to defend your position on cannabis. These are some of the top reasons why cannabis should be legal.
Cannabis Has Undeniable Medical Benefits
Cannabis is currently classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Drugs in this category are considered to have “no medicinal value.” However, this obviously isn’t true of cannabis, and possibly other drugs on the list as well.
Currently, 33 US states have passed medical cannabis laws. Patients in these states receive cannabis prescriptions for health conditions like cancer, eating disorders, insomnia, PTSD, glaucoma, HIV/ AIDS, anxiety, chronic pain, appetite loss, MS, and many more. Cannabis, and specifically cannabinoids, have undeniable benefits for medical patients.
The Legal Weed Industry = Big Money
The legal cannabis industry is hugely profitable. Experts predict that global cannabis sales could hit $15 billion by 2020. This impressive number could be over $65 billion by 2025. States that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana open up their economy to interesting business opportunities and tourist dollars.
In the first 3 months after California legalized recreational cannabis, the state reported over $60 million in tax revenue. Since Colorado became the first state to legalize in 2014, their revenue has steadily climbed to over $1 billion. In fact, they have so much extra money from cannabis that they were able to set up special funds to build and improve schools. They’ve also used funds for health care, substance abuse treatment programs, and law enforcement. In some cases they even just gave part of the money back to residents as bonuses!
Additionally, there are a ton of jobs created by the legal marijuana market. The number of full-time employees in the cannabis industry is growing rapidly every year. This is great for the economy and for the people in the community.
Anti-Drug Laws Have Always Been Racist BS
Cannabis has been illegal in the United States since 1937. One of the main players behind cannabis prohibition was Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and known racist. Anslinger was once quoted saying that, “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
Anslinger’s racist campaign against marijuana was helped by his friend William Randolph Hearst, who owned tabloids across the country. Using their media reach, a smear campaign against cannabis was born. They claimed that smoking weed made people violent or sexually crazed, despite the fact that no scientific studies backed this up.
The racist anti-cannabis policies continued with President Nixon and the War on Drugs. Nixon’s aide John Ehrlichman revealed in a quote, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”
Throughout United States history, laws against cannabis have been implemented with racist intentions. These laws then systematically and disproportionately affect those communities. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that black individuals are 3 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than someone who is white. This occurs despite the fact that black people and white people have similar rates of cannabis use.
Drug Laws Don’t Work Anyway
Prohibition and drug laws have never accomplished their stated goal of reducing drug use. In 1937 when cannabis was first made illegal, very few people had heard of it or tried it before. Today, as obvious proof that these laws haven’t worked, cannabis is now the most used illicit drug in the US.
Anti-marijuana laws hasn’t stopped more than 22 million Americans from using cannabis in just one month alone. Advocates of prohibition are fighting an uphill battle and only serving to increase cannabis’ popularity. In fact, research shows that when cannabis is legalized, teenagers are actually less likely to use it overall.
In the Philippines, president Rodrigo Duterte has launched a violent war against drug users in his country. Thousands of citizens die at the hands of police each year, and tens of thousands more are gunned down and left in the streets by “unidentified gunmen.” It is routine for schoolchildren to be tested for drugs and for journalists to be attacked and murdered journalists. Despite all this, drugs have not gone away in the Philippines. The government seizes $19 billion worth of drugs per year, and surely even more are unaccounted for in the country.
Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol and Tobacco
The war against cannabis is particularly confusing when you compare the use of marijuana to that of other drugs that are objectively more dangerous. Alcohol and tobacco are clearly more harmful than cannabis, but they have a different history and reputation with society.
Alcohol use can cause health problems or encourage violent, sexual, impulsive behaviors. It’s well-known that tobacco causes cancer and is highly addictive. However, tobacco and alcohol have been widely used and normalized throughout human history. Cannabis is objectively less dangerous than both of these, but has been stigmatized as the drug of choice for fringe groups and criminals.
Legalization Protects Minors from Drug Abuse
A classic argument of anti-drug advocates is that cannabis legalization will put drugs straight into the hands of children. On the surface, it makes sense that legalizing weed could make it easier to access; however, statistics show that legalization leads to a reduction in youth cannabis use rates. Regulating cannabis products and checking IDs at a legitimate storefront ultimately makes it harder for kids to get weed. It turns out that criminals never cared about selling drugs to minors, go figure.
Legalization also makes cannabis more mainstream, which may make it less appealing to rebellious teens. Anyone who’s ever been close with kids will tell you that a surefire way to get kids to do something is to tell them that they aren’t allowed. Parents and educators should be talking openly and honestly to kids about the risks and benefits of cannabis and how to use responsibly when they’re of age.
Arresting People for a Plant Is Ridiculous
Despite the United States claiming to value individual freedom, they continue to give people criminal records over a harmless plant. Cannabis prohibition is costly to taxpayers, creates tension between citizens and law enforcement, and keeps police and lawmakers distracted from bigger issues.
Cannabis arrests have led to the destruction of people’s homes, property, and lives. The possession of a simple plant has led to a lifetime in jail. Marijuana charges have affected people’s ability to find employment and support their families. Regardless of your moral stance on drugs, destroying someone’s life over a plant is wrong.
Regulation Makes Marijuana Safer
Regulation guarantees that marijuana products are properly dosed and safe for consumption. There is virtually no chance that legal weed will be laced with other drugs, full of dangerous contaminants, or anything else that may be happen during an illegal cannabis sale. Regulation helps consumers and medical patients identify which products they want more easily.
Cannabis Prohibition Gets in the Way of Medical Research
We don’t know the full extent of cannabis’ medical value yet, and drug laws are to blame. Scientists have been restricted in conducting cannabis research for nearly a century due to prohibition. More research has been conducted in the last 10 years since states and countries have started to legalize medical cannabis. However, due to federal laws, scientists still face significant hurdles.
Aside from making cannabis difficult to access, prohibition also often leaves researchers with weed of much poorer quality than street cannabis. Large universities and research institutions still shy away from pouring research money into an illegal drug. This can make it difficult to get heavyweight names behind studies. Legalization would open the door for scientists to research marijuana benefits and risks freely.
Cannabis Prohibition Is Expensive
The United States spends $20 billion a year enforcing cannabis prohibition. Over 300 economists have signed a petition urging for the end of marijuana prohibition due to its financial toll on the country. These experts predict that ending prohibition would save the federal government over $7 billion in enforcement each year as well as generate billions more in tax revenue.
Cannabis Prohibition Breeds Violent Crime
Cannabis prohibition makes the production and sale of marijuana more dangerous. When cannabis is illegal, disputes between buyers, sellers, and distributors cannot be resolved in a courtroom. This often prompts criminals to resolve their disputes through violence. Illegal cartels are involved in the deaths of thousands of civilians each year.
Legalization of cannabis makes handling the product much safer overall. The industry would become as standard and regulated as any other market. Plus, legal cannabis sales would take a huge portion of the cartels’ profits, leaving some groups crippled.
It’s What the People Want
Perhaps the best reason to legalize cannabis is that the US is a democracy and it’s what the majority of Americans want. If we could have a national referendum on cannabis tomorrow, weed would be legalized overnight.
The Pew Research Center states that 62% of Americans support legalization. This number jumps up to an even more impressive 74% among Millennials. Legalization is clearly in our future, but because of the glacially slow design of US politics, voters have to wait for cannabis to be legalized one state at a time for now.
While we wait out the days until federal legalization, we can spread these truths about cannabis and stay politically active. With any luck, enough voters will turn out to swing more states toward legalization. Once enough states have legalized, the federal government is sure to follow suit and finally legalize cannabis in America.