Several states have legalized marijuana in recent years, either for medicinal use, recreational use or both. But possession, sale or use of the drug still is considered a crime at the federal level and most states.
Regardless of one's position on the explanations for marijuana prohibition, there are two sides to the debate. These are the arguments in favor of legalization.01of 08
Shaky Legal Ground
There are always reasons why laws exist. While some advocates for the status quo claim that marijuana laws prevent people from harming themselves, the most common rationale is that they prevent people from harming themselves and from causing harm to the larger culture.
But laws against self-harm always stand on shaky ground-predicated, as they are, on the idea that the government knows what's good for you better than you do, and no good ever comes from making governments the guardians of culture.02of 08
The burden of proof for marijuana prohibition advocates would be high enough if marijuana laws were enforced in a racially neutral manner, but-this should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with our country's long history of racial profiling-they are most definitely not.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates, yet blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for a pot-related crime.03of 08
Enforcement is Prohibitively Expensive
In 2005, Milton Friedman and a group of over 500 other economists advocated for marijuana legalization on the basis that prohibition directly costs more than $7.7 billion per year.04of 08
Enforcement is Unnecessarily Cruel
You don't have to look very hard to find examples of lives needlessly destroyed by marijuana prohibition laws. The government arrests about 700,000 Americans-more than the population of Wyoming-for marijuana possession every year. These new "convicts" are driven from their jobs and families and pushed into a prison system that turns first-time offenders into hardened criminals.
Impedes Criminal Justice Goals
Just as alcohol prohibition essentially created the American Mafia, marijuana prohibition has created an underground economy where crimes unrelated to marijuana, but connected to people who sell and use it, go unreported. End result: Real crimes become harder to solve.06of 08
Cannot Be Consistently Enforced
Every year, an estimated 2.4 million people use marijuana for the first time. Most will never be arrested for it. A small percentage, usually low-income people of color, arbitrarily will.
If the objective of marijuana prohibition laws is to actually prevent marijuana use rather than driving it underground, then the policy is, despite its astronomical cost, an utter failure from a pure law enforcement point of view.07of 08
Taxing It Can Be Profitable
A 2010 Fraser Institute study found that legalizing and taxing marijuana could produce considerable revenue for British Columbia. Economist Stephen T. Easton estimated the annual amount at $2 billion.08of 08
Alcohol and Tobacco Are Far More Harmful
The case for tobacco prohibition is actually much stronger than the case for marijuana prohibition since tobacco has provably harmful effects and no benefits.
Alcohol prohibition has, of course, already been tried. And, judging by the history of the war on drugs, legislators have apparently learned nothing from this failed experiment.
Further, it is impossible to overdose on marijuana since a pot smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC in a single joint to produce a lethal dose.
Marijuana is also far less addictive than other drugs. According to CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the numbers for adult dependence are:
- marijuana: 9-10 percent
- cocaine: 20 percent:
- heroin: 25 percent
- tobacco: 30 percent