Marijuana has been regarded as a harmful plant that can endanger lives and is thought to be nothing more than an extra problem to be dealt with in today’s society. However, based on its economic value and medical benefits, the cannabis has proven to outweigh its negatives with numerous other positives.
The connotations that the word carries with itself branch out to drug abuse, an out of control lifestyle, and a gateway to increasingly harmful drugs. Although, a debate upon the foundation of this stereotype has been intensely raging on for about forty years, and has been nearing conclusions that debunk individual reasons as to why marijuana usage was ever considered to be taboo and even worthy of imprisonment.
The origin of the stigma that surrounds use of marijuana, or cannabis, is inherently problematic therefore weakens further arguments against it. Cannabis was commonly used for medical purposes in the United States, back in the early 1800’s. It wasn’t until the 1900’s when Mexican immigrants arrived in the US with their word for cannabis, “marijuana”, and introduced its recreational usage. The term was associated in the minds of racist white people, with violence, black people and Mexicans. Therefore, psychologically forming the plant’s image as a vicious drug that leads to disorder in an otherwise peaceful society (Pagano).
Not only does the stigma have its roots in racist propaganda, it is also buried in propaganda linked to corporate greed. Around 1938, Harry J. Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst plotted together to keep cannabis off market in order to eradicate barriers to entry for their own interests, nylon and timber respectively. Nylon was a new invention by The DuPont Company that needed to avoid large competition which hemp, i.e. cannabis, was proving to be, because of its production of traditional fiber, cloth and rope. As a result, cannabis was portrayed as the monster that it is still believed to be to this date.
A number of people argue that legalizing marijuana for the economic benefit would overshadow its medical disadvantages and “citing revenue gain as reason to legalize the drug emphasizes money over health” (CNBC). Although, cannabis has long been recognized as an instrument for medical relief, dating back to as far as the 1800’s. Not only that, a recent study displayed results of cannabis use causing only 0.2% of the diseases tackled in Australia, a country that is reported for one of the highest cannabis usage rates (“Marijuana”). This overthrows the theory of the advantages being overshadowed by the apparent disadvantages, which have proven to be non-hazardous and to an extent, even helpful.
Economic benefits is not the only advantage that overshadows disadvantages of marijuana, researches draw a parallel against the health benefits of it in the same manner as well. Marijuana meets the FDI criteria as a substance whose benefits outweigh the dangers in the form of medicine. Meeting this requirement usually cuts out a substance’s approval for legalization (Adam).
In addition to that, marijuana has proven to be helpful to certain extents in cases regarding arthritis, cancer, asthma, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The symptoms for all of these diseases are significantly eased by the use of marijuana as opposed to traditional prescribed medicines. (Christensen)
An opposite line of reasoning stands for the perceived fact that marijuana is addictive and stands as a gateway drug for other substances far more harmful such as heroin or cocaine. What remains to stand as a query is the legalization of other addictive substances and non-substances that prove to be harmful in the long run. Such products include alcohol, coffee and tobacco; all of which are perfectly legal and void of being encircled by negative stigma or taboo to the degree that marijuana faces. It becomes evident that it is not a matter of addiction but a matter of the substance and its reputation. Its reputation suffers a blow when it is termed as a ‘gateway drug’, being labelled the root of problems such as drug abuse and violence. Although, the coining of this term is linked to the previously mentioned origination of marijuana laws and the propaganda highlighted under the war on drugs. In reality, “Research shows that marijuana could more accurately be described as a “terminus” drug because the vast majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other illicit drugs” (Debunking the “Gateway” Myth).
On the other side of the coin, the legalization of marijuana would result in an immense increase in the country’s revenue considering regulation taxation, and removal of budget spent of prohibition enforcement. A report estimates that as a a result of drug legalization, the United States government would save around $41.3 billion per year on prohibition enforcement (Economics of Drug Policy).
The tax collected from cannabis regulation could be put forward for medical research and the building of better hospitals in the United States which would balance the scale of disadvantages through diseases in the country.
This is not a debate about whether marijuana is a healthy thing to be allowed in the environment, this is a debate about whether its legalization would help more people than it would harm, and if the harm can be controlled or not. And the idea that cannabis, or the more threatening ‘marijuana’, should be illegal has been coherently argued against by various researches and studies.
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