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Legalization of marijuana continues to be hot political topic

The legalization of marijuana has medical and economic benefits that can outweigh the cons. Cartoon by Hannah Onder

Do you like fewer jobs, less medical options, and overcrowded jails?

The legalization of marijuana, which was described by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s as “possibly the most dangerous drug in America,” can create more jobs, provide more treatment options, and lower the number of people in overcrowded jails.

Legalization remains a hot-button political topic. After all, Canada just legalized in June; in America, medical marijuana is legal in 30 states and recreational pot legal in nine, according to

Marijuana is often grouped with heroin, cocaine, meth, and other illegal drugs, yet it doesn’t really deserve the kind of reputation it gets from that grouping.

What is marijuana?

According to PBS, marijuana is the dried, shredded leaves of the hemp plant. American farmers began growing hemp in the 17th century for the creation of rope, sails, and clothing and continued to do so until the Civil War, when the other materials started becoming more popular.

According to CBS News, the reason marijuana got branded as such as dangerous drug in the 1920s and 1930s is because Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, needed something to fuel the department with Prohibition being repealed and only a small minority of people using heroin and cocaine. Between Anslinger and a few media outlets sensationalizing cases of marijuana use being linked to violence, murder, and insanity, the Marijuana Tax of Act of 1937 outlawed the use and procession of marijuana.

The issue was that there wasn’t a substantial amount of medical evidence to support these claims. A CBS News article reports that at the time, 29 of 30 doctors claimed marijuana wasn’t a dangerous drug.

According to PBS, the government discussed decriminalizing marijuana, but in 1986, Reagan passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which raised the penalties for possession of marijuana, making it equivalent to the penalties of possessing heroin. The act was later changed to create a three-strike policy that led to life sentences and the death penalty for drug kingpins.

So, we currently have a policy that locks people up for life for being caught with marijuana three times. This is a problem for all us.

According to the, the United States has seen a 500 percent increase of people in jail in the last four decades. This is due to the harsher laws put in place during the War on Drugs Era beginning in 1982, not an increase in crime rates. Statics show that in 1980, 40,900 people were jailed for drug offenses; this has jumped dramatically, to 450,345 people in 2016.

According to the New York Times, arrests for possessing a small amount of marijuana outnumbered all violent crimes in 2015.

Legalizing marijuana would probably greatly reduce the number of people in prison and help with the overcrowding and understaffing issues, since it’s the most used illegal drug.

Prison is a place for people who are a danger to society, not drug addicts. Just look at Demi Lovato’s drug overdose in July. You don’t see people throwing her in prison or punishing her; rather, people praise her for getting help. Addiction is a problem that needs treated and not just hidden away in jails because of outdated laws.

How dangerous is marijuana?

While marijuana is the most used illegal drug in the U.S. and worldwide, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, addictions to such painkillers as Vicodin, Oxycontin and codeine kill more people.

Marijuana can impair short-term memory and learning, the ability to focus, and coordination, as well as cause increased heart rate, lung issues, and a risk for psychosis, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

However, marijuana is actually a safer drug when compared to legal drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol.

According to an interview with Dr. Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine done by CBS News, marijuana is safer than alcohol.

Unlike alcohol, marijuana is associated with less violent crimes and more with illegal distribution crimes. Alcohol use causes more deaths and injuries among college students; was linked to dangerous driving and relationship issues among high school students; and is more addictive than marijuana.

I’d be more concerned about drugs creating violent reactions or lung cancer risks, rather than marijuana, which actually relaxes people.

Marijuana actually has medical benefits.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, medical marijuana has been used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy, appetite loss caused by AIDS, and severe epilepsy in children.

The legalization of marijuana has created job growth.

For example, in 2015 the marijuana industry created more than 18,000 new jobs in Colorado, according to the Washington Post.

According to The Marijuana Policy Group, the growth in the market is coming from people who originally bought from the black market rather than untapped demand.

Legalizing marijuana means the government could regulate the market and profit from it.

Therefore, the United States should legalize marijuana because the benefits far outweigh the cons. The government could regulate use and take away business from the black market, gain profits and job growth from the industry, explore more medical uses, and lower the overcrowding in prisons.

With a 2017 Gallup poll showing more than half of Americans support legalization, the real question is, with all these benefits, why is marijuana still illegal?

The legalization of marijuana has medical and economic benefits that can outweigh the cons.
Cartoon by Hannah Onder
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Legalization of marijuana continues to be hot political topic