Tox Tuesday: Pros and cons of legalizing marijuana

In 2012, the world of recreational drugs took one small step for weed, one giant step for legalization as U.S. states Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use and sale of marijuana. It was the first step of many in the United States, with several states following suit by proposing similar laws.

Some states, such as California and Oregon, have previously voted on measures to decriminalize the drug with no success. Even more states, including the nation’s capitol, are expected to vote on similar measures in the upcoming 2014 voting cycle, or are preparing bills for voting cycles at a later time. Even the mainstream media has gotten on board with legalization: The New York Times’ editorial board has recently endorsed the decriminalization of the drug, saying that the ban is “inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.”

This, of course, does not include the states who do currently allow medical marijuana, legalizing the patient’s right to have it.

In other parts of the world, other countries are edging closer to decriminalization as well. Many countries have taken note of Colorado and Washington’s choice of legalizing the product, and are keeping an eye on what the U.S. is doing and debating the “health issue.”

The fight for legalization has pros and cons for both sides of the issue to debate. Some suggest that the banning of drugs may prompt users to try harder, more addictive things (such as heroin). If both are illegal, why not?

On the other hand, legalizing drugs could also create addicts. Kevin Sabet, a U.S. academic and opponent of drug legalization, has said “legal regulation has been a disaster for drugs like alcohol and tobacco. Both of those drugs are now sold by highly commercialized industries who thrive off addiction for profit.”

Another pro argument is to just “go with the flow.” The former United Kingdom ambassador to Afghanistan has recently said that it was impossible to stop the farming of drugs, and instead of strictly banning a practice that’s going on in the shadows, to instead create a legally-regulated market of drugs.

One of the more obvious plus sides to legalizing drugs, marijuana included, is that it is simply good for business. Amsterdam has always been a hot-spot travel hub for its “coffee shops” that sell marijuana. These shops remain despite 2012 legislation changes in other parts of the Netherlands. Other countries, such as Jamaica, hope to profit off of the sale of marijuana to those states in the U.S. that have allowed its use for medicinal purposes.

Some are suggesting that the legalization could change nothing, other than that there are more places to buy marijuana. In an article from New Statesman, it says “legislation could, paradoxically, lead to an increase in the involvement of criminal drug dealers. [Local police officers believe] the normalization of weed-smoking will increase overall demand and that users will soon turn to cheaper black-market suppliers.”

The system is already tightly regulated to help prevent unlicensed marijuana from entering the market, according to an article from the New York Times. Each marijuana plant is assigned its own tracking number, and retailers must scan that produce into a state-wide tracking system.

At least in the U.S., the demand is high enough where the legalization issue won’t go away anytime soon. According to The Week, Colorado officials recently released results of a study which found that “demand for marijuana was much larger than previously estimated.”

Although the debate is guaranteed to continue, ultimately it is through the voting system that the public will decide if legalization will spread further across the U.S. and other parts of the world.

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