There are now areas in the United States that allow the recreational use of marijuana and cannabis. However, a majority of states remain firm in keeping marijuana illegal and inaccessible.
This, however, does not make sense. Even when it is illegal, millions of people still use marijuana. According to the United Nations, 158.8 million people around the world use marijuana. That is around 4% of the world’s entire population. In the United States alone, around 94 million people have said that they have tried marijuana at least once in their lives. By 2006, domestic production of cannabis in the US was at 10,000 metric tons, or around 2.2 million pounds. That increased in 2014, when 22.2 million people admitted to using marijuana in the previous month.
This means that we have 94 million people who are considered to be criminals, all for trying out or using marijuana. The tax money spent on cracking down on marijuana and its users could have been better spent in worthier projects. In states where marijuana has been legalized, this is what happened. On top of saving money that was being used to apprehend marijuana users, the legal marijuana trade also meant more revenues for both the state and local governments. Altogether, the marijuana-related money has been used to improve social services, education, infrastructure, substance abuse education and rehabilitation, homelessness, and other programs.
Stopping kids from using marijuana
There are kids and young adults that use marijuana. In 2016, around 9.4% of 8th grade students said that they used marijuana within the previous year, while 5.4% used it in the previous month. That number more than doubles when it comes to 10th graders, where around 24% said they used marijuana in the past year and 14% used it in the past month. Rates of use were even higher among the 12th graders, where 35.6% used marijuana in the previous year and 22.5% used it in the past month. Around 6% of 12th graders surveyed also revealed that they use marijuana daily or almost daily.
Prohibition is not the answer if you want to stop kids from using marijuana. When you legalize marijuana, there are registered sellers who are more than willing to follow laws. Most states where marijuana is legal prohibit selling marijuana to people under 21. The dispensaries follow this rule to the letter, or they get in trouble and have their license suspended. Can you say the same for street dealers?
It is widely being floated that the reason marijuana should be kept illegal is because it is considered to be a gateway drug. Again, being able to easily secure marijuana might be a deterrent for people trying out other drugs. Making marijuana accessible would also mean its prices go down, making other drugs such as cocaine and heroin more unattractive to people, because:
- They are illegal
- They are more expensive than marijuana
- They are harder to find than marijuana
Cutting down the incidence of abuse
The Drug Abuse Warning Network has reported a rising incidence of medical emergencies that could be attributed to cannabis use. According to them, there were close to 456,000 drug-related emergency room visits in 2011, and that represents an increase of around 21% from 2009 figures.
With marijuana legal, the amount sold to a person is highly regulated both by the state and the dispensaries. This means that it would be virtually impossible for a person to overindulge. More than this, the revenue from marijuana-related sales are also used for education against substance abuse and drug rehabilitation. This means that people are more aware about the ill effects of marijuana and how to avoid these, while institutions are better equipped to deal with possible addiction.