I support the legalization of marijuana. The following summarizes why:
The criminalization of marijuana has resulted in vastly unequal treatment between the white community and communities of color. The “crime” of marijuana possession has resulted in far too many people being involved in the criminal justice system, which has a long-term detrimental effect on person’s quality of life. The impact of involvement with the criminal justice system and the unequal treatment between privileged groups vs non privileged groups, is the primary motivator for my support.
As a clinical social worker, I’m especially infuriated by the medical community’s apparent concern about the impact of marijuana on the brain. Where was their concern when they were over-prescribing opiates to youth and adults of all ages over the past several decades? With opiates, there is ample research regarding their addictive quality and the risk of death when overdosed and yet, this was downplayed during the explosion of oxycontin prescriptions. The cynical side of me wonders what the medical community would be saying if the pharmaceutical companies were involved with marijuana and prescribers would stand to benefit as they do when prescribing controlled substances.
The “gateway drug” argument is often used against legalization. Alcohol is typically the first substance tried by youth, not marijuana. The impact of alcohol is well-documented and we also know what happened when we tried to ban the sale of this substance as well as the outcome of the repeal. When a person buys marijuana in the shadow market, they have no way of knowing what they’re getting (no quality control or regulation) and the dealer of this substance is typically also selling other, more powerful substances, as well. Regulation and sale within the established market substantially reduces, if not ends this risk.
Marijuana has been consumed by humans for eons. The opposition to marijuana strikes me as hypocritical when nicotine and alcohol is freely available in our society. Yes, I acknowledge the negative health impact of both of these substances, but the fact is, people are going to consume them. The same is true for marijuana. Criminalizing this behavior serves no purpose. Regulate it, tax it and utilize the assessment tools that already exist in regard to operating under the influence (field sobriety tests).
The next step is to then release those who are currently incarcerated for marijuana possession and then expunge the criminal records of those who have been convicted. It’s time to stop these ill-conceived measures of behavior control and focus on more pressing issues.