Marijuana Legalization Debate Creates Sharp Divide

    August 9, 2014
    Chris Tepedino
    Comments are off for this post.

“The Times They Are a-Changin’” sang Bob Dylan in the title track of his 1964 album by the same name. And very few issues underscore how much they’re changing in modern day America than the movement to legalize marijuana.

Although marijuana has been regulated as a drug by every state since the mid-1930s, it was first listed as a Schedule I drug during the enacting of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Schedule I drugs are defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

In 2014, the movement to legalize marijuana on a state and federal level has gained incredible momentum, with marijuana becoming legal in Colorado and Washington for recreational use and even the New York Times publicly supporting legalization.

Here is a look at both sides of the divide, starting with the proponents of marijuana legalization.

Proponents of Marijuana Legalization

Who They Are: Many coalition groups formed to support legalizing marijuana, including the National Cannabis Industry Association; many publications, including the New York Times; and 58 percent of Americans, according to a 2013 Gallup poll.

What They’re Saying: Arguments range from bombastic rhetoric to well thought-out and defined logical arguments about why marijuana should be legalized. The gist is that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, two drugs legal and widely consumed. Marijuana also has medicinal purposes in treating serious illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple sclerosis. And there is also a social justice issue at play, as African Americans and Latinos, especially young men within those subsets, are disproportionately arrested for marijuana use, as shown in this study from California.

Opponents of Marijuana Legalization

Who They Are: Many coalition groups formed to oppose legalizing marijuana, including Smart Approaches to Marijuana; the American Medical Association, from a 2013 article; and 39 percent of America, according to the same 2013 Gallup poll.

What They’re Saying: Arguments on this side of the divide can be equally bombastic but well thought-out and defined logical arguments pervade as well. The gist here is that marijuana can be psychologically addictive, can damage the development of the brains of people under the age of 18, and can lead to more road accidents when people smoke and drive. While the tide has certainly turned in the favor of legalizing marijuana in the court of public opinion, these staunch opponents of marijuana legalization still have their say, as when dueling advertisements were run in the New York Times, one for marijuana legalization and one against.

It remains to be seen if marijuana will be legalized at the federal level, removed from the list of Schedule I drugs, and promoted for recreational use nationwide by companies that are now part of the booming marijuana industry. But in the end, both sides will have their say.

The times, yes, they are a-changin.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • Mj

    Opponents of legalization have well thought-out and logical arguments?

    None of their arguments hold up to more than 20 seconds of using your brain. Sure some of their arguments sound legitimate in a bulleted point, but it doesn’t take much to blow down their straw house. Teenagers’ brains have no fight in the case. Every study shows that states with legalized marijuana actually seen teen use drop -whereas the rate has actually been going up in states where it is illegal. And so have car wrecks, and fatalities.

    The “well thought out and defined” ideas of the prohibition side are nothing but scare tactics that appeal to uninformed voters and scared parents. The issue is not a liberal one or conservative. It’s about preserving American values and personal freedom – while actually reducing the VAST HARMS of prohibition like cartels, corrupt officials, and gang violence.

  • Brian Kelly

    Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please all you prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all you prohibitionists get when you look into that nice, big and shiny, crystal ball of yours, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest you return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money you shelled out for it, since it is obviously defective.

    The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

    • jontomas

      If it were just the bigots, we could deal with that. It’s the greed-head, prohibition profiteers that are most responsible for the continued vicious, fraudulent war on millions of good Americans who prefer near harmless marijuana over addictive, very harmful alcohol.

      Their point man is Kevin Sabet and his phony org.

      • http://freedomscorner.org/dusty/ Dusty Relic

        I find it very suspicious that this misnamed organization of his has so many addiction treatment professionals associated with it and takes such a fierce pro-rehab stance. (For those of you who don’t know, they basically want mandatory rehab for every first-time offender, with tough prison sentences for anyone who fails to complete rehab.)

        Why would they possibly want such a draconian system? Well perhaps they are financed by the drug rehabilitation industry. (Currently about half of patients seeking rehab for marijuana addiction are there as part of a sentencing deal, while only about 14% were self-referrals. Of the remaining, a large percentage are people who were forced into rehab by employers after failing a drug test.) I also find it interesting that some of these drug rehab clinics are owned and operated by the same people operating for-profit prisons. For these folks cannabis prohibition is a gravy train with biscuit wheels and they will do anything to keep their trains running and packed with helpless passengers.

  • Stel-1776

    Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    Why legalize and regulate cannabis?

    For this prohibition to continue, it needs to be established that:

    1) Cannabis is significantly harmful (at least more than alcohol)
    2) The prohibition will significantly reduce usage
    3) The direct and indirect costs of prohibition to an American society are less than any gains from 1 and 2 (don’t underestimate the value we place on freedom and liberty)

    None of these 3 requirements have ever been established. This is a prohibition built on lies, half-truths, prejudice, and greed. It is very costly (in many more ways than just money), harmful, unfounded, unjust, and more importantly, un-American. Cannabis prohibition needs to end now.

    I’ve noticed that many people greatly underestimate the detrimental effects of cannabis prohibition, if they believe there are any at all. Some of these effects are:

    •Increased deaths of countless people involved on all sides of the “war”, including law enforcement and bystanders
    •The spending of 100’s of billions of our dollars seeking out, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating otherwise law-abiding citizens
    •The loss of billions in tax revenue from production, distribution, and sales
    •The redirection of valuable police time from solving and preventing true crime
    •The filling of our jails with non-violent offenders, exposing them to true criminals and forcing the release of dangerous criminals early
    •The empowerment and expansion of underground markets as a very popular substance is placed within them
    •Increased crime as dealers and buyers have no legal recourse to resolve disputes
    •Increased exposure to hard drugs as some cannabis consumers buy from suppliers who have and push them
    •The prevention of adults from choosing a recreational substance safer than alcohol
    •Increased likelihood of contamination with anything from pesticides and molds to other drugs.
    •Increased corruption within the legal system
    •The invasion of our civil liberties, which in America we hold in especially high regard
    •The prevention of people from receiving effective medicine
    •The prevention of people from receiving decent employment, scholarship money, and student aid due to their “criminal” record, which affects not just them but their family as well
    •Increased support of tremendous multinational criminal networks
    •Increased public mistrust, disrespect, and disdain for our legal system, police, and government, which is devastating to our country

    Considering these great costs, it is unreasonable to continue this policy against a substance objectively safer than alcohol. Why are we forcing police to deal with something that is, if anything, a minor public health issue? Why are we criminalizing people for something that is safely enjoyed by millions of Americans, something that 58% of Americans believe should be legal?

    After decades of research, the relative safety and medical efficacy of cannabis has been established well enough to conclude that it is significantly safer and more useful than alcohol. The vast majority of harms related to cannabis are a result of the very laws that are supposed to “protect us” from it.

    Cannabis prohibition is a travesty of justice based on irrational fears and paranoia from an archaic era. Cannabis must be legalized and regulated similar to alcohol. Prohibition policies do not work for popular things that are safely enjoyed by many…especially not in a country that values liberty, justice, and freedom.

    Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” -Abraham Lincoln

    Urge your legislators to implement a cannabis policy similar to that of alcohol. Please consider what the following cannabis legalization organizations have to say. Help end this harmful, unjust, unfounded, and more importantly, un-American prohibition by joining their mailing lists, signing their petitions and writing your legislators when they call for it.

    MPP – The Marijuana Policy Projecthttp://www.mpp.org/
    DPA – Drug Policy Alliancehttp://www.drugpolicy.org/
    NORML – National Organization to Reform Marijuana Lawshttp://norml.org/
    LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibitionhttp://www.leap.cc/

  • Brian Kelly

    There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

    The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority of Americans.. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

    Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

    Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

    With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

    Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

  • http://barkgrowlbite.blogspot.com/ Howie Katzz

    It’s up to pro pot lobbyists to prove that prohibition’s costs outweigh legalization’s harms. So far the math doesn’t add up. Here’s the deal; the average American doesn’t give a flying f*ck about law enforcement budgets. They are far more concerned about stoned drivers, lost productivity in the workforce, healthcare costs, access to kids, and increased use.

    • jontomas

      Nonsense. It’s up to those who declare an activity “criminal” to prove that behavior harms others before they presume to “punish” people for it.

      America now knows marijuana consumption is not a significant cause of auto accidents, that the “amotivational syndrome” is a myth, there are no significant harms (or healthcare costs), that it is the counter-productive, fraudulent prohibition that PUTS marijuana into children’s hands – in their schools, parks and playgrounds (legal, licensed vendors won’t sell to minors) and that countries that have eliminated penalties for marijuana have less use than the U.S. (The Netherlands has HALF the rate of consumption as we do. Forbidden fruit is a STRONG attraction).

      There’s no excuse for the continued, monstrous, un-American war on millions of people.

    • Youssef Ismail

      So far you can’t add. Over 58% of the public agrees, prohibition has been a costly disaster. If you think we are OK with the police wasting hundreds of billions of dollars, fighting a weed, you’re an idiot. I don’t want my kids to have easy access to marijuana, which is precisely why I support full legalization. Drug dealers don’t ID. This absurd notion that an unregulated black market will some how magically keep drugs away from our kids is laughable.

    • MHedke

      You have the burden of proof ALL backwards. But hey — since you set them up, I’ll knock them down anyways. Pfft. This is going to be too easy.

      1. Stoned Drivers: Colorado highway fatalities are at a near-historic low: http://www.medicaldaily.com/did-marijuana-legalization-lower-car-accident-deaths-colorado-state-sees-historic-lows-296886

      2. Lost productivity in the workforce: Tell that to Carl Sagan, Michael
      Phelps, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, Phil Jackson, Gary Johnson, Paul
      McCartney, Rick Steves, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp (I’m not a fan,
      but you have to admit that he’s one of the *hardest working* actors out
      there and very, very successful), etc., etc., etc…

      Oh wait, did you just assume everyone would start showing up stoned to work? Right, because alcohol ruined workforce productivity once prohibition ended — Nobody could help themselves and now everybody’s drunk at work. (sarcasm)

      3: Healthcare costs: If anything, we’ll probably see a reduction. Cannabis is a medicine for many varied serious illnesses, and can obtained as cheaply as being grown in one’s own home, for almost nothing. Of course, a lot of that reduction in costs for the public is at the expense of the giant pharmaceutical industry, and we wouldn’t want that now, would we? That’s why the pharmaceutical industry is working so hard to keep cannabis illegal and trying (and failing) to synthesize and sell an actual “drug” instead. Even they know medical cannabis works, but they just won’t let it happen unless they can charge patients and reap all the profits. As far as negatives (for adults), cannabis is roughly as harmful as caffeine if you smoke it, and even less than that if you vaporize or eat it.

      4: Access to kids: Come on. What’s easier for a kid to get: Weed from a dealer who doesn’t care about your age, only if you have the money? Or alcohol from a licensed and regulated store that *insists* you have a valid photo I.D?

      5: Increased Use: I don’t know why people continue to ignore the statistics that say cannabis use is actually down in places that have had it legalized (or de-facto legalized) for a relatively long time, like the Netherlands. People just assume when you legalize weed that everyone is going to start doing it, and no amount of facts will change their mind. Besides, even if it does go up, it is a much less harmful alternative to alcohol so what’s bad about it? The only reason I have a couple drinks once in a great while is because my job hair-tests for weed like crazy. When I quit this job and become self-employed, I’ll likely never touch alcohol again. In fact, many people have used it to help overcome alcohol or hard drug addiction — hey, there’s another reduction in healthcare costs.

    • Stel-1776

      In America I believe the burden of proof is on those who wish to take away our freedoms. Cannabis prohibition was achieved under false pretense and temporally placed in Schedule I. Prove that cannabis prohibition is worth violating some of our most cherished values.

  • http://freedomscorner.org/dusty/ Dusty Relic

    Decriminalize it. Deschedulize it. Legalize it.

  • Stel-1776

    Violent crime has decreased in Denver with recreational legalization:

    Compared with the same time period in 2013, in the first six months of 2014 violent crime is down overall by 3%, with murder down by 38%, sexual assault down by 20% and robbery down by 5.3%. Property crime (including burglary, larceny, auto theft, theft from motor vehicle and arson) dropped by 5%.

    Medical cannabis has been easy to get in Colorado for years. It did not result in “skyrocketing DUI fatalities” as many feared:

    From 2006 to 2011, traffic fatalities decreased in Colorado 16 percent
    The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. Rocky Mountain HIDTA. 2013.

    Early reports show a possible decrease in fatal accidents after legalization:

    The number of fatal crashes also dropped 25.5% from 2013 to 2014 during the first quarter
    The Great Colorado Weed Experiment. New York Times. Aug 2, 2014.

    Colorado has had very lenient laws regarding cannabis for years.

    “Marijuana Usage Down Among Colorado Teens, Up Nationally: Study Shows”
    The CDC report shows:
    •Youth marijuana use in Colorado went down 2.8 percent from 2009 (24.8 percent) to 2011 (22 percent).
    •Youth marijuana use nationally went up 2.3 percent from 2009 (20.8 percent) to 2011 (23.1 percent).
    •In 2011, youth marijuana usage in Colorado fell below the national average — 22 percent in Colorado, 23.1 percent in the U.S.
    •Availability of drugs on school grounds in Colorado went down 5 percent from 2009 (22.7 percent) to 2011 (17.2 percent).
    •Nationally, illegal drugs offered, sold or given on school property was up 3.1 percent from 2009 (22.7 percent) to 2011 (25.6 percent).
    •Availability of illegal drugs on school grounds in Colorado is below the national average by 8.4 percent — 17.2 percent in Colorado, 25.6 percent in the U.S.

    Past Month Colorado High School Pot Use
    2009: 25%
    2011: 22%
    2013: 20%

    Past Month National High School Pot Use
    2009: 20.8%
    2011: 23.1%
    2013: 23.4%

    -“Pot Use Among Colorado Teens Appears to Drop After Legalization”, usnews . Com, Aug 7, 2014

    The majority in Colorado say legal cannabis was a good move:

    52% of voters say legalizing marijuana was a good move, with 38% saying it was bad for Colorado.
    Majority in Colorado say legal marijuana good. CNN, April, 2014.

    After six months of legal marijuana use, Colorado voters support the measure 54 – 43 percent, identical to the findings of an April 28 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University
    Quinnipiac University, July 21, 2014.

    Add to this (in time if not immediately):

    • Less deaths of people involved on all sides of the “war”, including law enforcement and bystanders
    • Millions saved on law enforcement (arrest, prosecution, incarceration)
    • Millions additional made through taxes
    • More time for cops to solve real crime
    • More room in the jails for actual criminals
    • Less exposure to hard drugs for cannabis consumers
    • Less crime due a smaller illicit drug market and its associated crime
    • A legal alternative to the objectively more harmful drug alcohol
    • The reinstatement of some of our unjustly taken freedoms
    • More respect for our legal system, police, and government

    Urge your legislators to implement a cannabis policy similar to that of alcohol. Please consider what the following cannabis legalization organizations have to say. Help end this unjust, unfounded, harmful prohibition by joining their mailing lists, signing their petitions and writing your legislators when they call for it.

    MPP – The Marijuana Policy Projecthttp://www.mpp.org/
    DPA – Drug Policy Alliancehttp://www.drugpolicy.org/
    NORML – National Organization to Reform Marijuana Lawshttp://norml.org/
    LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibitionhttp://www.leap.cc/

  • Stel-1776

    According to a report published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal yearly health costs: tobacco-related are over $800 per user, alcohol-related are $165 per user, and cannabis-related are $20 per user.

  • Lqqkout

    I don’t want to see marijuana legalized because the entire US will be people stoned everywhere, making foolish decisions, never taking anything in life seriously, driving cars and just flaunting pot everywhere as legal, yahoooo…..I don’t care if people smoke pot, but if made legal, these fools will think whatever they do or say is just fine and dandy. I rarely smoke pot, smoked more when I was younger, but many who do smoke will push the envelope if it is legalized. I have a friend who owns a Medical marijuana store and he told me 98% of those with a license just want to get stoned. So, if you think living in a world of stoned out of their gourd is good for a struggling America so be it. I don’t.