Federal Government: Weighing Pros & Cons of Marijuana Legalisation Based on Research

Bridget Mulroy

Find out how the United States decides whether or not to legalise marijuana.(24K-Production/iStock)

Marijuana is a plant that has slipped in and out of the pharmaceutical world and the underground drug world. It was once “widely used throughout many ancient cultures for its potent therapeutic powers.” Only over the last nearly sixty years have scientists been able to rediscover the medicinal potential of the Cannabis plant. Studies have shown indisputable signs of Marijuana being able to “entirely alleviate,” and in some cases “accelerate the healing process” of very complex, beleaguering diseases.

However, many people in the United States feel that Marijuana is a hallucinogenic evil capable of corrupting children, breaking up families, harming the body, and for some, the deciding factor between being a productive, independent person, and being a delinquent.

The most controversial aspect of the issue is that there are different degrees of Marijuana usage condoned across the United States. This creates more uncertainty of what is right and what is wrong when it comes down to Americans deciding whether or not Marijuana will impact their life.

The laws exercised today are "the same ones established in the 1930s.” Only recently have state levels of government begun to defy the Federal in allowing medicinal usage. The research conducted proves Marijuana, medicinal and recreational alike, is in no way harmful, in some ways beneficial, and no longer deserves an illegal categorization by the United States government. (Update: Medical Marijuana) (6) 

Many ancient civilizations across the world were once able to distinguish and utilize the medicinal characteristics belonging to the Cannabis plant. With varying methods in extracting the plant’s medicine and achieving the healed state of being, the efficiency of the Marijuana plant has been the same amongst early cultures; to heal.

Cannabis' use has always been an aid in healing amongst wholistic medicinal approaches.(Su Herman/iStock)

Today, Marijuana is still as proficient as ever, but only select individuals acknowledge this. Just the word "Marijuana" is one that immediately implies something controversial in today’s world. It’s difficult to understand how something once known for helping people has been awarded the reputation of something destructive.

The public attitude on this issue is what determines it socially acceptable or not. “Marijuana was once marketed to people as a poison” and laws during that same era deterred people from using the plant. (How Did Marijuana Become Illegal) These same laws still actively exercised today are fueling the Mexican Drug Wars, stripping medical professionals of their licenses, and creating more pain and suffering for cancer patients and the terminally ill.

Only recently have scientists been able to explore deeper into the psychotropic effects of marijuana. “Discoveries have been made disproving some of the marketing propaganda used to discourage its usage” and proving some of its primal uses. (Update: Medical Marijuana)

Studies prove the plant does indeed have medicinal qualities. The time has come to clarify what exactly this plant is and what it is capable of in order to establish its true place amongst pharmaceuticals and illegal substances available today. If people better-understood the ability this plant has, it would create numerous possibilities for medicinal advances as well as economic productivity. “Federal law still considers Marijuana a harmful illegal drug with no distinguishable medical value;” and this should be thoroughly reevaluated due to the fact it has been disproven. (Update: Medical Marijuana & How Did Marijuana Become Illegal?) (6 & 8) 

The use of Marijuana has been considered illegal in the United States since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The reasoning behind its criminalisation included: “its addictive properties and association with more harmful substances.” Because of this, people were inclined to associate it with a more questionable lifestyle. At the time, these were all acceptable reasons to consider it dangerous and illegal. Today, almost ninety years later, regardless of research done and developments made showing the less­ harmful side of the plant, it is “still considered federally illegal” in most of the country. (How Did Marijuana Become Illegal?) (8) 

About half of the country has accepted the idea of Marijuana not being as dangerous as it once was perceived. The other half has yet to decriminalize the plant. This other half of the country represents a large, and really the only, bone of contention among lobbyists for Marijuana’s legalization. (Frosch) (2) 

Make it make sense.(Oleksandr Astakhov/iStock)

Despite the research that has been done to disprove the original theories behind Cannabis being illegal, (stipulating some parts of the country to have begun exercising laws regulating the plant’s usage,) some Americans still feel that the plant should remain illegal. Since it “became illegal in 1937,” it has been advertised to the public as “dangerous, purposeless, and creating an increased potential to try more dangerous substances,” [it was coined The Gateway Drug]; which successfully deterred Americans from using Marijuana. Other claims against the plant declared it “the cause of rape and murder,” and this continues to deter half of the nation today. (8) 

Some states now make money by regulating the sales and profits from Cannabis. “The plant is actually the United States’ number one cash crop, raking in $36 billion a year.” (History Of Weed) On the other hand, the amount of “Marijuana-­related legal offences in some states are what stimulate a large percentage of legal revenue.” (Update: Medical Marijuana) (6)

Parts of the country uphold an outdated law made under the pretenses that Marijuana was a dangerous hallucinogenic, going against this would defy lifetimes of being taught that Marijuana is a bad thing. Legalizing the herb would disrupt and violate the minds of millions who believe the plant is nothing but a gateway to truly more destructive things. (History Of Weed & Update: Medical Marijuana) (9 & 6) 

Because only about half of the country is beginning to legalise Marijuana, the other half can’t entirely conform in the event the agenda doesn’t work. The half of the nation not partaking in the legalisation of the plant is waiting to see the outcome of the other half’s decision. If nothing productive comes of legalising it, what will the country have to fall back on if every state chooses to jump the gun and legalise it?

When modern science allows us to carefully reanalyse, the truth is exposed. “The medicinal advantages once widely known about the Cannabis plant are rediscovered through prevailing developments in the scientific world.” This creates controversy throughout the country. Contradictory statements are spewed and it's creating a country of confused Americans. (Frosch) (2) 

Despite a shift in modern society, the most important reason Marijuana was made illegal was to “keep it out of the hands of children.” If Marijuana is indeed made federally legal, lawmakers argue “young people will have free range in using the plant.” Regardless of laws requiring people to be over 21 years of age to purchase it, it’s been proposed that marijuana could become just as easy for children to access as a pack of cigarettes or case of beer. Conversely, if they're questioning that, shouldn't they be questioning the laws on alcohol and cigarettes instead? (How Did Marijuana Become Illegal?) (8) 

As of now, the nation is straddling a very fine line right through the middle of the country, figuratively separating the people who believe it is an unnecessary evil, and the people who believe it doesn't even deserve to be called a drug. 

A country divided.(Siberian Art/iStock)

There are Americans who believe the plant is low on the totem pole of controlled dangerous substances and they see its metaphorical ranking as being core cause of the modern-day War On Drugs. The focus of the "War" is evenly distributed amongst narcotics and opiates (Heroin, Cocaine and Meth) as well as opioids/amphetamines. Marijuana is still on the taboo list however depressants like alcohol and stimulants like caffeine and nicotine are regulated legally today. Nicotine was never campaigned against until research was done and the injunctions during the prohibition against alcohol were eventually challenged. The time for Marijuana has come.

The "War" was initiated during Ronald Reagan's presidency in the 1980s and “twenty million Americans have been incarcerated since the ‘War’ has been in effect.” (History Of Weed) While some substances represent the quintessence of danger, ones like Cannabis are far less potent. “Continuing to classify Marijuana as illegal only exacerbates the difference between right versus wrong in the United States.” Clarifying this would prevent thousands, if not millions of incarcerations. (Would Legalizing Marijuana Prolong or End Mexico's Drug Wars?) (7)

Americans that do smoke Marijuana will continue to do so for whatever reason they can justify their usage and people who can righteously justify their usage is only another factor in rationalising its legalisation. These Americans will carry on, legal or not. If Marijuana was legalised, the "War" would surely simmer, if not subdue entirely.

The ambiguity clouding which substances are dangerous and which ones are not is still adding on to the death toll at the border. Reclassifying the plant would significantly alter border-traffic between the United States and Mexico. It would also better focus the resources available so it helps the individuals who have developed addictions to the other controlled dangerous substances. Showing compassion to people with addiction has actually proven to help curb this crisis completely. Investing into addiction recovery is the best method in combatting the issue simply because it helps save lives. People who turn to substances are already looking for help, giving a person hope prevents them turning to substances again in the future. (Would Legalising Marijuana Prolong or End Mexico's Drug Wars? & History Of Weed) (7 & 9) 

The reform should begin with the reeducation of the American public. Almost a hundred years have gone by where Americans have been only told about the negative effects of Marijuana. The stigma that's been generated about the plant has been fuelled by the mixed messages and false propaganda. People will entirely disown any potential the plant has because they have lived their entire lives being lied to. These Americans may be harder to educate on the true effects of Marijuana because their opinions are already so swayed.

The stubborn individuals need to really consider the Americans they are locking up and can not generalise this group of people with "thugs" and "villains." Instead, think of young kids who haven't yet graduated college, or think of people who conventional medications haven't been able to help; amongst other groups of normal, hard-working people. Of the twenty million Americans incarcerated for Marijuana, “31% are drug-related.” Of this 31%, nearly “60% are Marijuana related.” Marijuana­-related arrests account for “more than half of the drug­-related arrests made in the United States.” In 2010, “a Marijuana-­related arrest was made every 41 seconds. Between 2001 and 2010, of the 8.2 million arrests made in America, 88% of them were for Marijuana possession.” (McCormack) (3)

People helping people.(BRO Vector/iStock)

In Europe, those found guilty of violating Marijuana laws are rarely ever incarcerated. This factor is one of many shrouding why Europe is so confused by the United States and its policies. Part of our country’s ploy in persuading the nation that Cannabis is unacceptable are these examples made by Cannabis users by their incarceration. Yet the offenses are no more than petty distribution or possession. (McCormack) (3) 

As of now, “the United States locks up a million Americans a year for Cannabis-­related offence.” It is upon their incarceration for these small possession offences that these Americans evolve into more hardened criminals (in the jailhouse environment.) Let it be known that there is still no direct link made between Marijuana usage and people dying from it. (McCormack) As the American government believes that weed smokers are drug addicts that belong in jail, “the government will pay for Methadone for Heroin addicts;” surely this act of kindness keeps society in check… (McCormack & ‘Free’ Ride Program To Methadone Clinics May Change) (3 & 5) 

As for the nation’s youth, educating them doesn’t mean passing them a lit joint, but rather telling them of the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while high. Teach them about the actually dangerous substances and the dangers of the substances that are deemed legal. America’s teenagers need to understand that just as any medicine, Marijuana should not be abused.

The youth should also understand that the act of smoking Cannabis is nothing to hide since hiding such a behaviour instigates other contemptible behaviours. Not hiding it also helps peel away the stigma; people shouldn't feel afraid to be honest about using it. If more people understood this, less of an association would be made between smoking weed and other more serious behaviours. Naturally, this would decrease the usage of more dangerous substances since people will better understand why they're dangerous. The objective should be to remove Marijuana from the realm of illicit drugs. 

If Marijuana was federally legalized, it would be disassociated with other more harmful substances. Today alcohol is legal for Americans twenty-one years of age and over, yet teenagers still can get their hands on a six-pack if they are so inclined. They’re also capable of tracking town Cocaine and perscription pills, as well as far more dangerous illegal substances. Obviously, we don’t want the country’s teenagers to be urged to partake in any illegal activity, but wouldn’t we rather that they’d drink a beer before choosing to shoot up heroin? Would a parent rather their child smoke a joint than do a line of Cocaine?

Teaching people the truth about Cannabis.(Romanovskyy/iStock)

Alcohol has been legalised since Prohibition was repealed in 1933 (ironically the same decade Marijuana was officially criminalised,) because we know “alcohol is much less severe than Heroin.” We also know “Marijuana is much less severe than Cocaine.” The idea is that these "less severe" substances deserve no categorisation amongst the harder, truly addictive drugs. Alcohol is proven to be “more addictive than Cannabis,” yet it is legal and Marijuana is not. (Update: Medical Marijuana) (6)

Cannabis would no longer be viewed as “the gateway drug” because it will become as common as smoking cigarettes, which are also legal, yet scientifically proven to be “more harmful.” Widening the gap between the “types of people” who use Marijuana and alcohol and the “types of people” who use MDMA and Heroin is imperative. (6) 

  • Marijuana is known for its “ability to cure anxiety, depression, nausea, appetite loss, and pain.”
  • Among other things, the plant “eases the symptoms of AIDS, Cancer, and Glaucoma.” (Astaiza)
  • The active ingredient in Cannabis is “THC, which has been shown to as a bronchodilator and reverses bronchoconstriction in asthma. (Szalavitz) ”
  • In arthritis, “the THC in Marijuana acts as an immunomodulator in addition to controlling the pain associated with arthritis.”
  • In Multiple Sclerosis “Marijuana relieves the pain as well as the erratic functioning of the muscles caused by the disease.”
  • Paraplegic and Quadriplegics “also use Cannabis to suppresses their muscle spasms.”
  • Epileptics use marijuana to “prevent seizures from happening.”
  • Doctors have recommended ingesting Marijuana because “it holds back the brain’s release of serotonin, the chemical responsible for causing headaches and severe migraines.”
  • THC “temporarily numbs the body’s pain receptors in women with painful menstrual cramps.”
  • Cannabis has proven to be “more effective in insomnia patients than other sleep aids.”
  • It is also a more efficient “topical medication than cortisone or antihistamine” in people affected by Pruritic problems. (Astaiza)

All of this information has been scientifically established and practiced by doctors in over half the county, and now the nation straddles a middle ground between stigmatising something seemingly insignificant because of an outdated law, and abolishing the law because it is outdated and causing the other issues we face today. (Szalavitz & Astaiza) (4 & 1)

The Mexican Drug War, for example. “Mexican drug cartels now dominate the illicit drug market in the United States. The Mexican government attempts to break down the drug cartels while the American government fights the actual imports of these cartels.” (7)

In the United States, many Americans believe it is wrong when innocent Mexicans to have to risk their lives every day crossing Marijuana, as well as other illegal drugs, over the border. Hundreds of Mexican cartel members (willing members and not willing members,) die daily while smuggling the cash crop, and everything else into the country.

We know that “Marijuana does constitute a large percentage of the drugs imported into the United States,” and this is where the controversy lies. When the legalization of Marijuana is proposed, we think of an immediate burden lifted from the shoulders of border patrol, the Mexican government, our own government, and the people risking their lives getting Cannabis into the country. (7)

Cartel tensions would be cut in half. Yet, contrary to popular belief, “the Mexican government isn’t in favor of total legalization.” They believe if the plant was legalized, it could easily “promote cartel sales, as well as other illicit activity.” (7)

United States border patrol confiscates narcotics and guns from Mexican cartel trying to travel over the Mexican-American border.(mofles/iStock)

People assume The Mexican Drug War is a modernised version of the War On Drugs when really, The War On Drugs is what has fuelled the fire behind the Mexican Drug War. In a nutshell, The United States makes a legal effort to keep illicit drugs out of the country, while Mexican cartels [attempting to gain control of the Mexican government,] defy the American government by importing illegal drugs into The United States.

The Mexican Drug War really escalated in the 1960s when recreational usage of Marijuana started to make a comeback. Regardless of Federal laws in effect, Americans began to no longer fear the law. “The isolation of the Mexican­-American border began when direct links were made between Mexico and the alarmingly rising rates of Americans using narcotics.” (7)

The ironic aspect of this timeline is that attempts were made to decriminalise Marijuana under the NORML Act of 1970. “The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws began to legally recognise Marijuana’s medicinal potency, and decriminalise the plant under these pretenses.” Then in 1971, President Richard Nixon publicly declared the War On Drugs, labelling drugs as “public enemy number one.” During Nixon’s presidency, the “majority of funding went toward rehabilitation” instead of law enforcement. War was re­declared by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and the approach changed from a sympathetic one to a more tactical "no-tolerance" approach carried out by law enforcement. (7)

Marijuana has continued to be trafficked because the demand and clientele hasn’t changed too much over the years. It was actually “Cocaine that caused the Mexican­-American drug scene to explode in the 1980s.” The crack­down began when a secret passageway in Florida was discovered. “Florida was used for years in the trafficking of harder illicit drugs,” until the American government began to catch on. Cocaine was a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of Marijuana making its way into the country. The movement then shifted toward the border, developing into the controversies and ethical issues we face today. (7)

The Federal government has made great strides in eradicating the more dangerous drugs, numerous DEA busts have occurred over the last nearly fifty years, thus creating a shift in cartel leadership (from Escobar to Quintero, to Treviño, and so on.) While the DEA’s main objective is to abolish any and all drugs from American streets to protect children and families, their interest in Marijuana-­related offenses on the homefront is something to be called into question.

One of these things is not like the others.(GillTeeShots/iStock)

Some states are technically in defiance against the Federal Government and the laws in effect that categorise Cannabis as a “Schedule 1 drug.” These state governments are in revolt because, thanks to modern science, they understand the reasoning as well as the idiocy behind the plant still being criminalised. In obvious objection to the revolt, The Federal Government has authorised “raids and drug busts on medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the country because of these states' disregard for Federal law.” As long as Marijuana is categorised as illegal, this will not end. (7)

There is mandatory urgency in the immediate legalisation of Marijuana. In regard to the War On Drugs, as well as The Mexican Drug Wars, such a large portion of the illicit imports account for the Cannabis plant. Decriminalising the plant would shift the Federal Government’s focus toward the truly destructive substances plaguing the streets of the United States.

The association made with these harder drugs is only stimulated by its current position as a dangerous substance. Being removed from the realm of illegal, it would be treated no differently than alcohol and cigarettes.

New dangerous substances are being designed in basements and labs as you read this. Every day people are finding newer and weirder ways of achieving a high. That is what the Federal Government should be worried about, not an ancient plant with a proven medicinal value.

For the sake of the economy, if Cannabis were to be legalised, this would create a golden opportunity for the government to regulate the trade of the plant and instilling the plant’s “cash crop” potential. The money stimulated would then more efficiently fund the same programs as before and marijuana-­related criminal charges would disappear. The mass of consumers, once considered criminals, will be paying for the programs that are bettering the community.

These measures can only be considered if Marijuana’s illegal classification were obliterated by the standards of the United States' Federal Government. The regulation of Cannabis would fund universal healthcare plans that have been shrugged off because of the burden of cost. This would also induce drop in alcohol usage and cigarette smoking when Americans are educated on how Marijuana is less dangerous.

A new law as eccentric as decriminalising Cannabis is really the change our country needs. Aside from the economic prosperity it is sure to guarantee, this shift in economic policy would set a precedent for the rest of the world to follow. Modernising the law will allow future tranquility among the world’s nations by serving as a building block toward future exorbitance; and maybe even world peace.

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1. Astaiza, Randy; “All The Reasons Pot Is Good For You” 

The Business Insider 


2. Frosch, Dan; “Measures To Legalize Marijuana Are Passed” 

New York Times 


3. McCormack, Simon; “Life Sentence for Marijuana: A Look At People Serving Harsh Sentences For Pot Crimes” 

Huffington Post


4. Szalavitz, Maia; “Study: Smoking Marijuana Not Linked With Lung Damage” 

Time Magazine Health and Family, Drugs


5. No Author Listed; “‘Free’ Ride Program To Methadone Clinics May Change” 

CBS Local 


6. No Author Listed; "Update: Medical MarijuanaIssues & Controversies


7. No Author Listed; "Would Legalizing Marijuana Prolong or End Mexico's Drug Wars?" Issues & Controversies


8. The History Channel; “How Did Marijuana Become Illegal?” 


9. Showtime; “History Of Weed” 


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Hi, I’m Bridget, I’m very good at making people think. You’ve encountered my work if you have read/watched News12. NewsBreak has awarded me on publications supported by you, so THANK YOU!

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