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Running head: Legalization 1

Marijuana Legalization

Brett Strahan

Lamar University

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In this policy paper we will cover the extremely polarizing topic of the legalization of marijuana

in the United States. This topic has been a hotly debated issue for years now and for the last

decade has only gained momentum into becoming one of the most pressing campaign points in

any politician’s platform. According to the Last Prisoner Project around thirty-two thousand

people have been arrested cannabis related charges since 2019, so no matter what side of the

issue one stands on, it is clear that something must be done one way or the other. Marijuana has

now been legalized in thirty-nine states, twenty-one of them recreationally, yet there has been

several state hold outs; each with there own reasons. The reason for this is because there has not

been a federal law that has legalized it nationally. Until that is passed it will completely but up to

state legislations to decide whether or not weed should be legal in any way. Whether this is a

good thing or not depends on your views, on one hand it gives a certain amount of power to

states rights which the nation was founded on, on the other, it creates some confusing laws and

regulations that one must follow while in any given state. This paper will serve to break down

both why the federal government should legalize marijuana nationally, and why it should not.
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Affirmative Narrative/Background

According to the American Public Health Association, Colorado broke new ground in the

United States by becoming the first state to sell recreational marijuana. Since then as stated

earlier twenty other states have followed suit in selling recreational weed, and thirty-nine total

have legalized it in some capacity. These states have seen a boom in economic growth, around

twenty percent on average according to an article by the SSR. Most of the money from this

industry goes right back into the community with things like fixing roads, the general up-keeping

of public facilities, and the creation of public housing. By legalizing marijuana, these states have

not only helped themselves but created an entire new industry that the community can thrive

under as they so choose. With these great achievements from the legalization experiment in over

half of the United States, it may be shocking to hear that there are still many people being

charged criminally for possession of cannibals related material in the states that have held out.

As stated earlier around thirty- two thousand have served jail time for possession of something

that is legal in the majority of the country. Not only has this “war on weed” wasted millions of

taxpayers dollars, it has also largely targeted an already vulnerable people in our country,

minorities. In the article “The war on marijuana in black and white” arrest data showed that

despite having equal usage rates, black people are 3.75 times more likely to be arrested for

simply possessing marijuana. How can it be fair that over half the country is thriving from the

legalization of marijuana while a select few people are still being punished for it? In short it is

not. This is why marijuana must be legalized on the federal level in the United States to keep

these disparities from happening and to be fait to the entire country. It does not only benefit the
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states as a whole but it protects the rights of citizens within them. To accomplish this there are a

couple of options to look at. The first and best for all parties involved is to legalize recreational

marijuana use as a whole. As I have already discussed many states have already done this with

overwhelming success and minimal problems. It should not be to far out there to do it on a

federal level at this point. The second option is decriminalization of marijuana. As discussed

prior, many people are falling victim to this unfair system, so a decriminalization of weed, while

not making it buyable and sellable on the open market, would still have a great benefit of

keeping the citizens who do use it safe from unfair repercussions.


The main objective is legalization on a federal level. This will create not just a safer

environment for recreational users, but for the entire population. There has been multiple studies

that have proven that the legalization of marijuana has a positive impact on the states crime rate.

For instance, this article from the EBPSOSIETY stated, “In the Colorado region, from 2003-

2012 (pre legalization), the average number of property crimes per 100,000 residents was 2,364.

Following legalization, from 2012 to 2016, property crimes decreased to an average of 2,034 per

100,000 residents. In the counties directly bordering the state of Colorado (i.e., counties located

in Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming), a larger decrease in

property crimes occurred. Specifically, property crime cases located in bordering counties

numbered 2,371 per 100,000 during pre-legalization and 1,723 per 100,000 during post

legalization, an average decrease of 648 cases. In non-bordering counties, the decrease was

smaller, declining from 2,363 cases per 100,000 during pre-legalization to 2,059 per 100,000

during post-legalization experiencing an average drop of 304 cases.” Here we can see the large

effect it had with just property crime, but the applications are endless. This is accomplished by
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moving the marijuana industry from the black market to primarily the open market. This

effectively runs dangerous dealers, who usually push other drugs as well, out of business.

Legalization also has the added benefit of making the product itself safer. Being in a more

heavily scrutinized environment helps stop things like lacing the weed with drugs that are

harmful. With a staunch 21 and up law as well, it also keeps children and teenagers from getting

their hands on it. In essence, legalization creates a more regulated space for marijuana like that of

the alcohol and tobacco industry and creates a safer environment for all communities.


If complete decriminalization on a federal level is not ready to be rolled out yet a

completely viable option is that of decriminalization. Decriminalization of marijuana does not

legalize it to sell or buy, however what it does do is keep people out of jail with violent criminals

as well as keep taxpayers from having to pay out of their pockets for the prisons to house these

non-violent offenders. In an article from The National Bureau of Economic Research “The Effect

of Prison Populations Size on Crime.” It is reported that “The incarceration rate in the United

States has more than tripled leading to massive overcrowding, and the US government spending

roughly forty billion per year on prison housing and upkeep.” Through decriminalization these

numbers can be drastically reduced. It also prevents minorities being disproportionally targeted

and people having their lives ruined by something as minor as marijuana possession. As stated

before most states are already legalized, so the least that can be done is for the United states as a

whole to be decriminalized.


It is my recommendation that recreational marijuana is legalized nationally. We have

seen it help states on a financial level, supplying revenue from taxes as well as creating more
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jobs to help industry flourish. We have seen it cut down on crime rates in multiple aspects, and it

helps the common citizen out as well by protecting their rights and keeping them away from

unjust and overly harsh prison sentences.

Negative Narrative/Background.

As many advocates for weed legalization, and more and more states become legal for

recreational use, we see our country reaching a point of moral crisis. We are all familiar with the

term slippery slope but what does that mean with weed? Well, the first way we can look at it is

from the legalization standpoint, would this mass legalization stop with weed? Most likely not,

there are several pro-marijuana candidates who wish to decriminalize other drugs as well. For

instance, according to The Verge a group of United States representatives led by Cori Bush has

pushed forward legislation to decriminalize all drugs, not just weed. In a nation that is currently

being devasted by an opioid crisis, it is not ideal to take away any penalties for people who are

caught with them. This brings us to the next point of slippery slope with weed itself. It is a

gateway drug and can lead to harder drug use. Based on a study by the National Institute of Drug

Abuse, shows that marijuana use is likely to precede the use of other illicit substances as well as

the development of addiction. The article goes on to talk about how based on animal

experiments, the chemical makeup of marijuana is more likely to trigger addictive behavior in

adolescents. We see here that the legalization of marijuana truly is a slippery slope for our

society to venture down and the bad outweighs the good, that is why it should not be nationally



The objective here is to keep marijuana from being outright legalized on a federal level.

The decision to legalize marijuana should be left up to the states. The reason I say this is because
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this nation was founded on states rights. The founding fathers did not want the United States to

function as in a way that the federal government can simply induce laws for every to follow with

a simple wave of the pen. It is why our country is set with all these checks and balances, and

right now they are serving their purpose. In each states the elected officials are in place because a

majority of people put them there to serve their interests. In this way, the majority of people in

states where marijuana is not legal continue to vote to keep it illegal. How can we call it fair then

to simply override this process and allow the federal level to make this decision for the people?

Yes the amount of people that want legalized marijuana has grown over the years but still

roughly half of the country is against it. In this way they should be able to vote on the state level

to keep it from being legalized. We cannot simply just disregard half a populations wishes and

call it “progressive”. It is not right, and more so it is not constitutional. That is why the current

system should stay in place. It gives power to the people of this country to chose what they want.


The main option is to keep the system as is, it as served its purpose for years now and it

has allowed the people to vote for what they want. Many will ague that marijuana is basically

harmless so the fact that it has been completely made illegal in some places is too harsh, but that

simply is not true. We are beginning to see increased health risks from marijuana use. As a

matter of fact according to The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association, there is

evidence showing a correlation between weed use and a decline in cognitive ability. It also

highlights many medical problems that have arisen based on heavy marijuana use such as

increased risk of lung cancer as well as reduced pulmonary function. This is not even to mention

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome which has sprung up more in states that have legalized

marijuana which causes bouts of sever vomiting and can even lead to death in severe cases. With
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this being said, is this really something that we want to make completely legal across the

country, especially when it already has proven health risks?


It is my recommendation that weed is not legalized on a federal level. As I have stated it

is a slippery slope, both socially and for the people who indulge in it, It also poses many health

risks that put the public in harms way. The decision to legalize marijuana should be left in the

hands of the states and its people.

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Bhue, G. (2018, November 03). Government certification, financial access, and growth:

Evidence from the US Marijuana Industry. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

Is marijuana a gateway drug? (2021, May 24). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

Lyons, K. (2021, June 15). Democrats in Congress introduce decriminalization Bill for all drugs,

not just weed. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from


Nwoko, S. (n.d.). Crime rates after legalization of weed: Marijuana & crime. Retrieved
November 28, 2022, from

National Bureau of Economic Research. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

Staff, A. (2018, October 22). The war on marijuana in black and white. Retrieved November 28,

2022, from


The public health framework of legalized marijuana in Colorado. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28,

2022, from

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Wilkinson, S. (2013). Medical and recreational marijuana: Commentary and review of the
literature. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from

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