I’m asking this question in hopes that we can generate an interesting discussion, and because I really don’t have a solid position on this controversial issue. Traditionally, I have leaned toward “No” – after all, marijuana is seen as a “gateway drug” that leads people into playing with much greater fires. Also, there’s the question of whether we want to make such a vice more prevalent in society.
The prohibition of Marijuana, which is arguably less destructive than alcohol, has created a huge black-market economy with all of the shady characters that go with it, and it is rampant in our schools and on our streets. If and when a teen decides to try it out, there is no telling what is in it or where it came from. On the positive side I can think of several things that legalization – which does not necessarily mean an endorsement – would immediately do:
1. It would allow for the regulation of the production and sale of marijuana, making it safer and cleaner.
2. It would reduce the load (and cost) on our law enforcement, court system and detention facilities.
3. It would make the $11 billion per year marijuana industry (by most estimates) a taxable commodity
4. It would take profits out of the hands of criminals, and allow law-abiding entrepreneurs to start businesses, create jobs, etc.
If regulated, the most dangerous aspect of marijuana use that I can foresee is that the drug’s effects are much more immediate than that of alcohol, and more debilitating than tobacco. Whereas most people need several drinks to induce intoxication, marijuana can do the trick in minutes. This could lead to a dramatic increase in fatal accidents and sexual misconduct, among other things. On the other hand, the effects of marijuana are very different from alcohol. How often do you hear of some guy beating up his wife because he smoked a joint? Perhaps making marijuana a legal option would curb alcohol use. Then, maybe not.
One of the benefits of a federal system in the U.S. is what political scientists call the “laboratory of democracy,” which means that states can try things out and see how they work before trying them on a national scale. While I could see this argument being made for experimenting with legalization I think that doing so in only a few states would drive crime into those areas and add another dimension to the black market. I think in order for legalization to have any positive outcome it would have to be nationwide.
Disclaimer: This post should not be taken as an endorsement of marijuana use, nor does it address moral values. I am simply raising questions for the sake of discussion.