In the United States of America, the debate about whether recreational drugs should be legalized or not has been going on for decades. This debate is certainly no small matter, since it often sparks conflict between so many parties. As of September 2017, states in the western gulf such as California, Oregon, and Washington have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, making six states in total fully supportive of the use of marijuana, sixteen states only legalizing for medical use, and the rest of the US still hasn’t had a clear law regarding the use of marijuana (State marijuana laws in 2017 map, 2017). This paper will emphasize the support of legalizing marijuana as a recreational drug. The use of marijuana as a recreational drug should be legalized because of three important reasons. The first reason why the use of marijuana as a recreational drug should be legalized is because marijuana use does not have a dangerous side effect compared to other substance such as tobacco and alcohol. Secondly, the criminalization of marijuana as a recreational drug is criticized as ineffective, not to mention the racially biased criminal justice system. The third and last point is that the decriminalization of marijuana will be beneficial to their country’s economy from taxation and other revenues.
Marijuana Against Other Substances
First of all, many believe that marijuana is a harmful substance, much more harmful than tobacco and alcohol. As much as it sounds like it is true, this claim has been proven to be untrue. Scientific Reports (2015) did a research on “Comparative risk assessment of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other illicit drugs using the margin of exposure approach”. As quoted from the research, which was conducted by Lachemeier and Rehm (2015), claimed that “for individual exposure the four substances alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and heroin fall into the ‘high risk’ category with MOE < 10. The toxicological MOE approach validates epidemiological and social science-based drug ranking approaches especially in regard to the positions of alcohol and tobacco (high risk) and cannabis (low risk)." The research shown previously supports the point that regardless of what people believe, marijuana is not more dangerous than tobacco and alcohol yet the government still decides to legalize other substances but refuse to legalize marijuana. Apart from the 'Margin of Exposure' research, we can see that the use of marijuana is safer than alcohol from the rates of accident caused by driving under influence. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2015), driving under the influence of alcohol raises the odds of having an accident up to 600%. Another research conducted by French scholars also has similar claim. A 2017 research done by Martin, Gadegbeku, Wu, Viallon, and Laumon claimed that drivers who are under the influence of alcohol are 17.8 times more likely to cause a fatal accident meanwhile drivers who are under the influence of cannabis are 1.65 more likely to be responsible for a fatal accident. That being said, marijuana still causes impaired cognitive function and deteriorates the drive's driving ability (Hartman and Huestis 2013). Marijuana is safer than alcohol when it comes to driving under the influence but drivers are still urged to not have any substance whilst driving. Ineffective Criminal Justice System and Racism Second point as to why legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug is because the decriminalization has done nothing but chaos for the United States of America. Criticism of marijuana prohibition is widespread, and there is broad consensus among critics that it has failed and why it has failed. Criminalization of marijuana has been deemed ineffective due to the inability of the criminal justice system to effectively manage or control various aspects of drug trade or illegal drug use (Stevenson, 2011). The drug epidemic in the U.S has continued for what seems like eons and the United States government chooses to combat this epidemic through its strict criminal justice system. The war on drugs, a tactic applied by the government, should aim only for criminal groups but between 1999 and 2007 Human Rights Watch discovered that 80% of the arrests were simply from possession, not sales or extortion (Lopez, 2016). The rate of drug arrests in the United States have tripled in the last quarter century, simply for possession of low-level drugs and almost fifty percent of the arrests were for marijuana offenses (Stevenson, 2011). The U.S has been deemed to fail the "war on drugs", seeing how the government is trapped in a "no-win" pattern of costly over-incarceration, which actually exacerbates the drug epidemic, both in addiction rates and in social ramifications, especially for vulnerable population (Whitelaw, 2017). The criminal justice system is also seen as biased and prefer one race over another. Thornhill (2011) claimed that despite the reports of all racial and ethnic background are being seen as fairly, African American communities are extremely affected. African Americans are now responsible for approximately one-third of overall marijuana arrests. As a result, large and highly unreasonable numbers of African Americans are being arrested for possession of a substance that many Americans consider benign and believe should be legal to possess. African American citizens generally think about politics, resulting whether their policies are good or bad for African Americans. As referred by Michael Dawson in 1994, the use of group loyalties to formulate policy is placed as 'racial utility heuristic'. Due to the attachment to their race, African American figures that the world operates racially and more unjustly for citizens of color than whites do (Tate, 2014). This brings to the point where heuristics are increasingly crucial to demand justice for African Americans, some African American leaders support the use of recreational marijuana in hopes to reduce the alarmingly high incarceration rate of African American for drug possession (Tate, 2014). These researches support the fact that the strict criminal justice system is not only ineffective to tackled the drug epidemic but the law is also targeting certain races, which is not aligned with America's democracy vision. Legalization for Economy The third and final argument on this paper is that legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug can be good through economy. The first part is decriminalization and budget allocations. According to CASA (2010) in 2005, governments spent $74 billion on incarceration, court, and probation for drug abusers but only less than 1% of that to rehabilitation causing some errors in 2010 where out of 2.3 Million inmates, 1.5 million inmates are imprisoned for drug abuse, but only 11% of them receive treatment during incarceration. That error is a very unfortunate shame because if every inmate who is convicted of drug abuse receive treatment, the United States will gain profit if just 10% of those treated stay crime free and employed which will also gain the United States a benefit of approximately $90,000 per inmate. Other than that, taxation of marijuana in states that have legalized recreational drugs such as Washington and Colorado have exceeded initial estimates. If marijuana is taxed as much as tobacco, $500 million can be produced to federal taxes per year (Ekins & Henchman, 2016). In Colorado alone, a very high increase as high as 57.2% in marijuana taxes from 2015 to 2017 fiscal year. As of January, Colorado has successfully collected $119 million in taxes, much higher than the tax collected from alcohol which only produced $38 million. Among these marijuana tax revenue, the state has been able to put $16 million for the Affordable Housing Grants and Loans (Borchardt, 2017). If only the government focuses on the budget allocations and taxation, the nation would gain more economic benefit than they already have rather than spending billions for a criminal justice system which has shown little to no good. Summary Criminalization of marijuana brings more catastrophe than good. People are arrested more day by day simply for possession of marijuana meanwhile some states have allowed their citizens to use recreational drugs freely. Despite what other people believe, using marijuana is not worse than using alcohol or tobacco. Not only that, criminalization of marijuana is not shown to be sufficient to manage or control illegal drug use and trades due to the ineffective system. Other than being inefficient, criminalization of marijuana brings up incarceration rates which drastically impacts low-incomed citizens and mass incarcerations, which are often racially biased with people of color as victims. Lastly, decriminalization on marijuana will benefit the country's economy due to it being taxed once it is legal and cutting the cost from criminalization. In conclusion, marijuana should be legalized as a recreational drug regardless of the false claims of it being more dangerous than other substance and also taking in mind that the legalization of marijuana will benefit the country's economy.