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Laura McGovern

3 November 2014
Paradigm Shift: The Legalization of Marijuana In The United States
Humanity frequently labels our modern society as "progressive", which proves to
be true when looking from past to present. Values, attitudes, and products are constantly
changing and evolving away from the conservative and reserved lifestyle American's
used to live. With American's becoming increasingly accepting and open, numerous
shifts have occurred, including the shift from the disapproval to the acceptance of
marijuana and its legalization. After Nixon's declaration of the "war on drugs, a study
(commissioned by Nixon himself) was published by The National Commission on
Marijuana and Drug Abuse which reported that marijuana has no relation to the causation
of crime. Despite Nixon disregarding these findings, the release of this report still
remains one of the first major events to kick off the start of the fight for the legalization
of marijuana. Today, the fight still continues; however, with 20 states (in addition to the
district of Washington, D.C.) having already legalized medicinal marijuana and 2 of those
states having legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, it is clear that a lot
has changed since Nixon first declared this "war". A shift has manifested in American
society--a shift in values. In previous decades, conforming to societal norms and
beliefs--especially ones held by the US government--were of much value. Now, this value
of conformity is no longer prevalent, instead society has shifted to valuing individual
values. Without American's altering their values, state-level government would not be as
inclined to reform their laws on marijuana and this shift toward acceptance of the
substance would not be as prominent.

Todays reality is that marijuana is used, and used a lot. It has been reported that
nearly 100 million Americans have used cannabis before, 25 million have smoked the
drug in the past year, and it is estimated that more than 14 million use marijuana regularly
(About Marijuana, NORLM). Those 100 million Americans who have used marijuana at
one point in their life all have first-hand experience with the substance and can prove the
little to no negative impact it has had on their well-being. On top of this, a majority of
those who hold positions in the government today are from the baby boomer generation;
therefore, they have been exposed to and even have had first-hand experience with the
substance. Former president Bill Clinton is just one of the many US politicians who
admitted to using marijuana, along with President Barack Obama and Former Vice
President Al Gore. With numerous politicians admitting to their personal usage of
marijuana everyone can clearly see that it has not negatively impacted them considering
the great success they have still had in their lives. Having either personal experience with
or seeing the effects on others who have had the personal experience with marijuana
further proves its non-harmful effects and gives Americans all the more reason to accept
the drug and push for its legalization.
Unlike the studies done on cigarettes and other legal products, studies done on
marijuana have gone from from negative--reporting that it causes increased crime and
health issues--to positive--reporting that it does not increase crime and actually has health
benefits--as time has gone on and science has advanced. With studies, facts, and statistics
about marijuana benefits now being more well known by society, Americans have started
to push for the legalization of cannabis, despite the national governments continued
disapproval. Just a few of the many benefits of the use of medicinal marijuana include

treating glaucoma, helping to reverse the carcinogen effects of tobacco and improve lung
health, aiding in controlling epileptic seizures, stopping the spread of cancer, decreasing
anxiety, slowing the progression of Alzheimers disease, easing the pain of those
suffering from multiple sclerosis, relieving arthritis discomfort, helping in maintaining a
healthy metabolism, soothing of tremors for those with Parkinson's, and helping to
protect the brain from damage that may occur after a stroke (Welsh). Findings such as
these, which prove marijuanas countless medicinal benefits, only give citizens all the
more reason to want to legalize the substance. Practically every citizen is either directly
or indirectly affected by one or more of the diseases that medical marijuana can help
better, and if it can help their loved ones then they see no reason to keep this medication
from the hands of those in need.
With the combination of the positive findings from marijuana research and the
personal experience that even our countries politicians have had with the substance,
support for its legalization has increased. Individual values are being put first which is
the main reason why the legalization is occurring now and not in previous years. This
increase of support has caught the attention of state governments and has given them
more of an incentive to legalize marijuana on top of other factors. Since 2012, when the
recreational useon top of the medicinal useof marijuana was legalized, Colorados
crime rate decreased by 14.6% (Sarich). In the same time frame, in Pennsylvania, where
marijuana is still criminalized, the total number of arrests increased by .7% (UCR: Crime
in Pennsylvania). Data such as this has become more well known by the United States
population, inevitably leading to the push for the legalization of marijuana. Statistics
such as these not only refute the belief of the federal government, but also give another

reason for why marijuana should be legalized. Not only would it make peoples
hometowns safer and overall a better place to live, it would also save them money. It has
been said that states could gain over $3 billion in tax revenue from legalized cannabis
sales (Raghavan). With this change in state economics, the money earned and saved from
the legalization of marijuana can then be used towards other, more important, state issues,
overall bettering its communities and residential lifestyle as a whole. For state
governments, it just makes sense to reform their laws on marijuana not only to address
the needs and beliefs of their citizens but also to enhance their state as a whole.
After Nixons declaration of the war on drugs in 1972 the government
continued to increase sanctions on the rather harmless drug. In 1973 the US Drug
Enforcement Agency (DEA) was created, in 1986 President Reagan signed the Anti-Drug
Abuse Actincreasing federal penalties for the possession and dealing of marijuana in
conjunction with the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984--and then in 1989
President George Bush declared yet another war on drugs (PBS Frontline Report). The
strong disapproval of marijuana, which led to the occurrence of these events, was caused
by the US federal government relentlessly believing that marijuana leads to an increase in
crime, poverty, and other societal issues, despite the numerous reportssuch as the La
Guardia Report issued by the New York Academy of Medicine and other various reports
prompted by President Kennedy and President Johnsonwhich found that marijuana did
not cause violence or directly act as a gateway drug. Arguments against the legalization
include cannabis causing increased crime rates, having negative health effects on an
individual mentally and physically, and the legalization possibly leading to increased use
of the substance (Marijuana Not Legalized). Despite all of these arguments being proven

false by numerous reports and studies, they are still being used as ammunition against the
legalization of marijuana in the US today. But still, Americans are disregarding these
arguments and voting for the legalization. According to Gallup a record breaking 58% of
Americans think that cannabis should be legalized, whereas their first poll of this
question in 1969 only showed a 12% approval of legalization (Swift).
As the decades have gone by, the debate over whether marijuana should be legal
or not persists. However, a lot has evolved since Nixon first declared the war on drugs
in 1972 and it is now clear that Americans are starting to accept and fight for the
legalization of marijuana. This cultural shift can be mainly attributed to the shift society
has experienced in values. No longer are the views and ideas of the federal government
number one; Now, citizens are beginning to place more importance on their personal
values and advocate for what is actually better for them as an individual. Even with the
federal government still resisting this shift for the legalization of marijuana, there is an
obvious change in state-level government views. Since marijuana has been proven
provide countless medicinal benefits and personal evidence has been given by the 100
million Americans who have used marijuana before citizens have started to advocate for
its legalization. With this push from the citizens, state governments have more incentive
to legalize the drug with the justifications that its legalization would save them money
and increase communities overall status. Today, the fight for full legalization of
marijuana has not yet been won; albeit, with the rate the US has been progressing it
seems that in the near future marijuana will no longer be seen as a drug, rather as an
everyday item that has the ability to save money and lives.

Work Cited:

"NORML.org - Working to Reform Marijuana Laws." About Marijuana.


NORLM Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
"Marijuana Should Not Be Legalized." Gale Group. Gale Cenage Learning,
2011. Web. 2014.
Swift, Art. "For First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana." For First
Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana. Gallup, 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 02
Nov. 2014.
"PBS: Frontline Report." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
Raghavan, Divya. "Cannabis Cash: How Much Money Could Your State Make
From Marijuana Legalization? - NerdWallet Credit Card Blog." NerdWallet
Credit Card Blog. Nerdwallet, 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
Loria, Jennifer Welsh and Kevin. "23 Health Benefits Of Marijuana." Business
Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 20 Apr. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
"NORML.org - Working to Reform Marijuana Laws." Part 2. NORLM
Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
"Clinton Tried Marijuana As a Student." Nytimes.com. The New York Times,
30 Mar. 1992. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.