The issue of marijuana legalization has been weighing on policymakers and the general public lately with increasing news of the drug’s medical benefits as well as its legalization in states such as Colorado and Washington State. Now, more than ever, opinions are flooding the Internet on whether marijuana should be allowed regulated consumption by the public or continue to be prohibited across most of the United States.
On July 27, 2014, The New York Times Editorial Board published an open letter titled, “Repeal Prohibition, Again,” which discussed their stand on marijuana legalization. In it, members of the board urged the Federal government to “allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level,” saying that marijuana is less dangerous than two other legal substances that have caused more deaths and diseases, namely, alcohol and tobacco.
They urge states to legalize medicinal uses of marijuana, reduce penalties or simply allow all use, restricting it to those above the age of 21 in order not to produce harmful effects in the adolescent brain. Members of the board believe that creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale, and marketing of marijuana will be a long and arduous process but ultimately one that will produce medical breakthroughs and reduce the number of people put in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.
Many dissenting and assenting reactions surfaced with the publication of The New York Times editorial, echoing the debates sparked across the country by this issue. Some opponents to marijuana legalization cited the effects of poor regulation of alcohol and tobacco as evidence that legalizing a harmful substance would not deter younger members of society from using it.
An ad taken out by Project SAM in reaction to the editorial posits that corporations that stand to make money from marijuana legalization will crop up and base their revenue on a “highly habit-forming product,” implying that the market system might not be ready for such a glut. Project SAM is against legalization but in favor of dropping minimum sentences and removing the criminal records of low-level users of marijuana, while pushing for better access to treatment and education.
Meanwhile, many are hopeful that the legalization of marijuana will allow advanced research into its medical benefits and find treatment for a number of complex diseases. Many voices are also urging the government to wait and see until Colorado and Washington State have implemented legalization of marijuana successfully, especially in the area of underage restriction, before taking the legalization plunge.
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