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The legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems

Pros and Cons of Legalizing Marijuana

As a clinical scientist working in the addiction field for the past 25 years, I am asked a lot of questions about the complex issues of alcohol and other drug use and addiction.

While alluring, however, such definitive answers are frequently inaccurate and misleading, based on a lack of knowledge and consideration of a larger context. As renowned journalist, Henry L.

I am going to tell you about some different drug policy positions that you may not have pondered at all, or pondered for very long. Many of these positions even get confused in serious media reporting on these issues, generating even more confusion and misinformation.

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On the plus side, knowledge of these different positions may lead you to impressing your friends with statements such as: Below, I outline briefly the spectrum of different possible drug policy positions ranging from the most, to the least, restrictive, and highlight some of the potential pros and cons of each.

A Liquor Raid, 1923 Source: The Volstead Act on which the initial amendment was based, banned the the legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems, sale, and distribution of all alcoholic beverages. Prohibition legislation was eventually repealed with the passing of the 21st amendment in 1933. This meant that alcohol was again legal. In most countries and the US, prohibition generally remains the primary policy position for psychoactive drugs that have the potential to be misused, cause intoxication, addiction, and induce harms.

We often end our thought process there. But, let me introduce you to or remind you of some other terms and concepts that you may not have heard of or spent much time thinking about. They are very different. Decriminalization means that if you are caught in possession of small amounts of a drug for personal use, you do not incur a criminal penalty. It is still illegal to use the drug.


Multiple states have now passed laws the legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems the possession and use of marijuana. It is an implicit recognition that decriminalization might be a potentially useful policy position, even if sufficient social and political will to enact it is currently absent. Notably, in the case of marijuana, its use for medical purposes has now become law in the majority of US states. If properly regulated and supported by clinical science for specific medical conditions, medicalization of a drug can help destigmatize use, and decrease pain and suffering related to those specific conditions.

Because of safety concerns e. This form of legalization bans product branding and advertising that are designed by industries to proactively increase sales, consumption, and profits. This is what happens currently with alcohol and did for a long time unabated for the legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems. An alternative is to have local, state, or federal control over the production and sale of the drug.

On the plus side of the legalization without commercialization position, people who wanted to use the drug recreationally could do so by obtaining and using it without fear of recrimination, which would eradicate criminality, incarceration, and black markets.

It would also lessen the stigmatization of addicted users, lessening a known barrier to seeking treatment. For instance, restrictions could be placed on how much and to whom the newly legalized products are advertised.

A drug like marijuana for example, could be made legal for recreational use, but its commercial advertising in certain venues and at certain times when children and adolescents are likely to be exposed to the advertisements, is restricted. Other restrictions could also be put in place while still legalizing the drug.

These could include such things as having a minimum age for use e.

Legalisation of cannabis 'only solution to crime and addiction problems'

Many such restrictions are placed on the sale of alcohol, for example. It the legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems be remembered however, that just because there are laws in place to limit potential public health and safety harms the legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems an uptick in use, it does not mean necessarily that such laws will be adequately enforced once a drug is legalized. This allows free reign for industry to brand and advertise as much as they want and for it to be sold with few, if any, restrictions.

Industry goes to great expense to attractively shape, tint, color, and even emboss the glass, create gilt-edged high-color labels, gold foil wrappings, and launch multi-million-dollar professional advertising campaigns in an attempt to create an image that attracts, seduces, and increases sales and profits.

Legalization without commercialization may be a sweet spot. On the other hand, unrestricted commercialization, while eliminating the criminal activity and increasing associated industry jobs and tax revenues, is likely to substantially increase drug sales and consumption, as well as public health and safety harms in the population as more people use it.

Thus, any potential tax revenue gains from sales can be offset by economic losses related to lowered workforce productivity e. It should also be noted that despite being the legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems, economic costs due to law enforcement and criminal justice could still also contribute to economic burden due to violations of the laws accompanying legalization e. This is because there are issues of personal freedom, public health, racial equality, public safety, costs, and large financial profits at stake.

There are many vested interests and pressures on policy makers. Ultimately in a civilized society, good policy preserves individual freedoms, while respecting the rights of others likely to be affected.

In the case of psychoactive drugs, such as marijuana, there is an added layer because while people make a free choice to use a drug initially, a proportion of users suffer from a radically impaired ability to continue to make that rational choice- they become addicted, and may suffer from additional illnesses, such as depressioncaused by the drug.

Addiction dramatically impairs quality of life, and with some drugs such as alcohol and opioids the legalization of marijuana as a solution to its problems, can foreshorten the human lifespan by decades. It is far more complex and obstinate than that. Now, go and impress your friends with this nuanced drug policy information… and while you are at it, maybe educate them too.