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Practicality of Legal Cannabis

Discussion of The Practicality of Legal Cannabis in the U.S.


Tyreik Riggs
Montgomery College

Abstract

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

This paper evaluates the benefits of proposing the legalization of cannabis for
recreational and medical purposes in the United States of America. The primary objective of this
paper is to rationalize the proposal of the sale and distribution of legal cannabis. The articles used
discuss the medical value of cannabis, the effect of marijuana being a schedule 1 drug in the
U.S., the potential for economic benefit with medical and recreational legalization of cannabis
and misconceptions pertaining to cannabis and its effects. Upon review of the evidence used it
becomes clear that the prohibition of cannabis has been counterproductive.

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

The American people for numerous years have staunchly debated whether the
legalization of cannabis would have a positive or negative effect on the country. Cannabis or
Marijuana is a substance derived from a female hemp plant. The hemp leaves are dried to be
used to create other substances such as oils and is smoked in flower form. Currently in 2016
there is a sufficient amount of statistics, examples, and studies to effectively help in deciding
whether it is reasonable for Marijuana to be sold in the U.S. Upon reviewing evidence about
cannabis such as economic effects, medical value, criminal effect, and misconceptions
surrounding the negative effects of cannabis, it becomes clear that the best course of action for
America is to end the prohibition of cannabis.
The prohibition of cannabis has lead to misconceptions, missed economic and medical
benefits, and corruption of America's justice system. The war on drugs has lead the American
public to view cannabis as an extremely negative use effect drug largely to be blamed by the fact
that cannabis is classified with other drug such as heroin, LSD, and MDMA as a schedule one
substance. By making cannabis illegal, America is choosing to miss out on the numerous new
business avenues. Cannabis is illegal on federal level and in more than half of the states in
America; as a result this makes it significantly harder for those who could benefit from cannabis
to actually get treatment. The prohibition of cannabis has essentially been all around
counterproductive, especially when convictions for cannabis typically have worse benefits than
cannabis itself.
The economic benefits of marijuana are often overlooked when discussing the
legalization of cannabis. If America continues with its prohibition of cannabis, the U.S. will
continue to bypass the many economic benefits from cannabis sales. In recent years, Colorado
has legalized cannabis and is now experiencing to gain a multitude of economic profits from

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

legalization. The legalization of cannabis has also positively affected job creation and not even
necessarily jobs directly in the pot industry. CNN interviewed an agent for Berkshire Hathaway
home services who stated that The industry has created jobs beyond growers and dispensaries.
Legal marijuana has also been a boom for existing businesses like security and HVAC companies
who service the new green businesses. Electricians have grown from mom and pops to bigtime electric companies, (Vasel, 2016 p.1-2). America should expect similar economic benefits
seen in Colorado due to an increase in demand for outside laborers. Secondly, there has also been
a significant hike in demand for housing in Colorado. A CNN interview with real estate agent
Kelly Moye with Re/Max reports that inventory of houses typically was twenty-four thousand
listings, but after legalization their listings have dropped down to four thousand in Denver
(Vasel, 2016 p.1-2). This number shows that homes are being purchased at a dramatic rate,
leaving many fewer homes listed without being sold. This drastic increase in buyers can only be
as a result of legalization of cannabis in Colorado and the increase of available jobs due to
cannabis industry. These positive economic effects could be applied on a national scale if
America finally decides to go through with the end of prohibition and reap the economic
benefits.
The medicinal value of cannabis is more than enough to justify the legalization of
cannabis due to its versatility treating a variety of conditions. Doctors Lisa M Baldini, Kat
Belendiuk, and Marcel O. Bonn-Miller (2015) wrote a narrative to discuss the good and bad
effects of medical marijuana and the variety of conditions that most states agree qualify for
medical marijuana use. Their list of conditions that can be treated with Cannabis include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cachexia/wasting
syndrome, cancer, Alzheimers disease (AD), Crohns disease (CD), epilepsy and seizures,

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

glaucoma, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired


immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (Belendiuk,Baldini & Bonn-Miller,2015 p. 2) .The
diseases listed above do not just affect a small population, but affect millions of Americans. It
would be nearly inhumane to deny suffers of these diseases the chance to better their lives
through medicinal marijuana. Focusing primarily on the indication cancer, the narrative also
states that when it comes to marijuana as a primary form of treatment, there is insufficient
evidence to support the claim that cannabis can cure cancer, but the secondary uses of cannabis
for treatment of cancer such as loss of appetite, nausea, and pain from chemotherapy are
beneficial to those who suffer from those side effects. The American Cancer society states that
when undergoing chemotherapy it is important to get plenty of rest and to eat healthy foods
(American Cancer society 2013) but when chemotherapy patients experience the side effects of
nausea and loss of appetite, it can be difficult to achieve these health goals and it is widely
accepted in some states that marijuana could help mitigate these effects. In 2009, the Huffington
post estimated that globally 12.9 million people discovered that they have cancer and a large
number of those people had to endure the negative side effects of chemotherapy (Ulman &
Sturchio, 2011 p.1). America could surely have benefited the lives of many of those cancer
patients by removing prohibition of cannabis.
The need for medical cannabis is real and there are a staggering number of people who
are suffering without medical cannabis due to America's prohibition. Hugh Hempel recently
teamed up with the show Ted Talk to discuss his struggle with his twin daughters case of
Childhood Alzheimers. In Hugh Hempels speech, he states that as a result of the
neurodegeneration of his daughter's disease, his daughters suffer from seizures daily and
consequently they had to be medicated (Hugh Hempel, 2015).The side effects of these seizure

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

medications often left the consumers like zombies and to avoid these effects, Hugh decided to
pursue finding alternatives to the harsh medications like CBD oil derived from cannabis. In
Hugh Hempel's search, he soon discovered that there was no place in Nevada for him to purchase
oil for his daughters. With nowhere to turn, Hugh Hempel only choice was to get physician
approval and become a licensed caregivers in the state of Nevada to give his daughters CBD
oil(Hugh Hempel, 2015). Luckily for Hugh, the state of Nevada allows this, but had he been a
resident of a state which does not allow medical marijuana, Hughs daughters may have had to
continue to suffer taking only medications that has many adverse events. Hughs family, like
many other families, might have been forced to relocate his family to a state where medical
marijuana was legal. There are people like Hugh Hempel across the nation all trying to better
their lives through medical cannabis but America insists on inhibiting its citizens of the medical
marvel that cannabis is.
For many decades now the American people have been misled and even lied to about the
negative effects of Marijuana, but with the removal of cannabis prohibition, Americans will be
able to become better informed and can gather facts instead of relying on opinions not based on
research . One common misconception is that if cannabis was legalized for recreational use it
would mean disaster for America's roads due to an increase in impaired drivers. Anderson and
Rees knew of this misconception and discussed the likely hood of the legalization of marijuana
having a negative effect on the roads in Colorado and Washington State who had in recent years
passed a bill allowing the sale and use of cannabis. The article How Like is the Worst case
Scenario by Anderson and Rees stated there is evidence that drivers under the influence of
THC compensate for these impairments. For instance, they tend to drive slower and take fewer
risks (Robbe & OHanlon, 1993; Sewell, Poling, & Sofuoglu, 2009). In contrast, drivers under

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

the influence of alcohol trend to drive faster and take more risks (Burian, Liguori, & Robinson,
2002; Marczinski, Harrison, & Fillmore, 2008; Ronen et al., 2008).(Anderson & Rees p.8). The
evidence presented by Anderson and Rees contains examples how cannabis poses a significantly
lesser threat to the roads when compared to alcohol.
One of the biggest topics that Americans are still given misleading information about is
the idea that cannabis is a gateway drug. Time and time again scientists continue to bring doubt
to this theory. In the book Marijuana and Medicine the authors discuss a variety of conclusions
of different studies pertaining to the effects of marijuana one of them being There is no
conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent
abuse of other illicit drugs.(Joy, Watson, & Benson 1999 p.6). This misunderstanding has
become a common belief for many Americans and the misconception is not actually based on
facts or statistics to support the belief.
Making marijuana illegal has additionally leaded to many downfalls on a criminal level
including racial disparities and the increased incarceration of minorities. Harry Levine a
Professor of sociology at Queens College wrote an article named Prohibition of Marijuana
Unnecessarily Criminalizes Young Minorities in which he provides statistics on the downfall of
America's decision to make cannabis illegal. In this article Harry Levine states Since 1997, New
York City alone has arrested and jailed more than 600,000 people for possessing marijuana;
about 87 percent of the arrests are of blacks and Latinos. For years, police in New York and
Chicago have arrested more young blacks and Latinos for simple marijuana possession than for
any other criminal offense whatsoever.(Levine, 2013 p.1) the staggering eighty seven percent
gets worse when Harry states that young whites 18-25 have been observed to used marijuana
more than young blacks and even the government has conducted investigations which showed

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

the rate of cannabis use between Caucasians and African Americans are nearly equal. Harry
Levine goes on to explain that the racial disparities in marijuana arrests has become a systematic
problem with America's justice system arguing that police departments focus their forces in
particular neighborhoods, primarily impoverished areas where minorities are the highest
population. In these neighborhoods, Harry Levine states that it is routine for the police to stop
and search vehicles and residents with the purpose of finding contraband such as cannabis. In
middle and upper middle class neighborhoods it is very uncommon for police officers to search
the vehicles and belongings of white people. As a result of the disproportion of police searches,
America observes an imbalance in the amount of arrests of minorities such as African Americans
and Latinos, even though the incidence of use of cannabis between black and whites is similar.
Ultimately the most logical solution for the economic, criminal, medical, and misconception
problems revolving around cannabis is to completely end the federal prohibition of cannabis in America.
Through legalization America will now be able to reap the financial benefits of legalization. The arrest
disparities will also see a decrease with the removal of prohibition due to decrease in poverty stricken
neighborhoods. If prohibition of cannabis is ended America will be able to rectify the misconceptions
held by citizens towards cannabis. Lastly America needs to ensure that all citizens are capable of
pursuing treatment of their conditions through medical cannabis.
The best economic course of action for America is to allow cannabis to be sold across the
nation for recreation and medical use. If America allows the sale of cannabis we can expect a
huge variety of businesses to open up or improve including some that do not involve distributing
the drug itself. If America decides to remove prohibition of cannabis, States will also be able to
set up taxes for cannabis sales to better fund the government. It would also be economically

Practicality of Legal Cannabis

beneficial if we released those who were incarcerated for minor marijuana charge in the past
years due to the expense of keeping people in prison.
Medical cannabis should be made accessible across the country to benefit all of those
who could be aided through medical marijuana. The age required for a medical cannabis card
should be 18 but with physician approval and parental approval it should be possible for some
special case minors to be able to get cannabis cards. Once medical and recreational use is
allowed, we should also allow for more studies to be conducted on the drug to better understand
its effects and additional medical applications. Conditions that can be benefited through medical
cannabis are real and by making cannabis illegal America is making some people choose
between breaking the law and managing their own health.
The end of cannabis prohibition will also solve some of the problems caused by
America's war on cannabis. One problem that would likely be greatly improved is the racial
disparities of marijuana arrests. If we can stop the systematic oppression being seen in low
income neighborhoods, America could also begin to see improvements in financial standings of
these neighborhoods because these petty marijuana charges often inhibit a person's chance of
getting a job. After viewing all of the downsides of the war on cannabis, it is clear that the war on
marijuana has ruined more lives than marijuana has and needs to come to a halt.
Those who believed that the sale of cannabis will have little to no economic benefit
overlook the recent events in Colorado and Washington. While it is very possible that the boom
in Colorado's real estate will likely not apply to the whole world, there are still plenty of
potential economic benefits. There is a very high chance of booms in businesses numerous
outside businesses including security, HVAC, growers, sale of raw land, and electricians.

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The opposing side will also attempt to claim that marijuana is addictive, but compared to
other drugs that are legal in America such as nicotine and alcohol the addictiveness of marijuana
comes off at minor at best. An article published by the National Institute of Medicine in 1999
stated that of those who used marijuana only 9% became dependant of the drug, nicotine had a
32% chance of dependence and alcohol came in at 15% (Boffey, 2014). The likelihood of
dependency for marijuana users comes nowhere close to being significant enough to justify the
criminalization of cannabis. The author Jonathan Caulkins for National Affairs attempts to make
a case for the continuation of cannabis prohibition by stating It turns out that 137 million people
self-report current alcohol use, and 17.3 million describe enough problems to meet the criteria
for alcohol abuse or dependence, equivalent to one instance of alcohol abuse or dependence per
7.9 current users, or 13% of current userssignificantly lower than the corresponding ratio for
marijuana.(Caulkins 2015 p.1-3). Caulkins compares the ratios of dependence between cannabis
and alcohol rather than pure numbers he earlier states that an estimated 4.2 million have a
dependence to marijuana this is a prime example of the opposing side skewing numbers from
studies to push their agenda.
In conclusion, the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis has the potential to
benefit medical, economic and criminal conditions in the U.S. The medical value of marijuana
has been observed to improve numerous different medical conditions one of them being cancer
which affects millions in America. The act of making cannabis a schedule 1 drug has lead to
racial disparities in America's arrests records and is currently doing more harm to offenders than
the actual drug by placing a drug arrest on offenders records. The legalization of cannabis will
be able to rectify the disparities caused by the prohibition of cannabis and potentially clear the
records of some offenders. The sale of cannabis is generally an untapped business and if properly

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implemented America could see improvements in job availability, sales tax revenue, and money
saved from decreased prison populations.

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