The arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana use are well-known by now. Marijuana is so easy to grow, prepare, transport and sell that it is here to stay. The unsuccessful alcohol prohibition experience hints that we should learn from the past and allow a substance that is widely used and uncontrollable to be legalized. Marijuana has many medical benefits and people are spending more time in jail for possession and sale than are drunk drivers who go out to violate the law again and again.
Illegal marijuana has led to criminal enterprises that have become a major threat to society. These criminal enterprises have created an underground economy and illicit “government” that takes from the treasury and economy, but contributes nothing in state, local and federal taxes.
The costs of incarcerating one prisoner, placing families on welfare as the breadwinner is in jail, murder, gang and cartel warfare and related law enforcement actions is astronomical. Legal marijuana would allow legitimate businesses to contribute to a more stable society and economy.
Marijuana is the source of much of the profits that private prison industries, which have their own shady history of influencing elected officials in ways that send them more prisoners for longer times, and thus put more profit in their pockets. Nothing says “pay for play” politics like criminalized drugs, political contributions from the private prison industry, and laws that lead to more arrests and longer sentences.
When we add in hemp, which is also criminalized for some bizarre reason, the hundreds of uses for hemp ensure that we are cheating ourselves of an easy to produce and immensely valuable textile and substance.
The arguments against legalizing marijuana include its role as an alleged “gateway” drug. Little is said about the preexisting propensity for addictive personalities to find whatever they can to alter their mood, but the idea of identifying marijuana as a cheap mood-altering precursor to worse drugs is a strong argument that applies to many people.
Fears of outright warfare in the urban markets and rural growing areas are legitimate. The marijuana industry is dominated by highly organized and powerful cartels, gangs and other groups that might be capable of destabilizing large segments of the nation and society if their profit margins, markets, personnel and distribution networks are affected in any way. In that sense, it is best to use the criminalization of marijuana and law enforcement approaches to wipe out the illicit and violent organizations and to incarcerate their personnel.
In summary, there are self-interested and powerful segments of society who want to continue the criminalization of marijuana for their own financial, political, social, medical and personal motives. There are those who want the substance for medical reasons. There are those who want recreational use, as with alcohol. There are those who are predisposed to become addicted to whatever it is that will alter their mood.
Rarely, if ever, will all of these disparate groups come to any agreement that would lead to effective, controlled, economically sound, safe and responsible use of marijuana.